Canning, preserving and drying

Wextra: Not so long ago, our grandmothers spent summer canning fruits and veggies so they'd have good stuff to eat in the winter. The value of those skills aren't all lost on us today.

A century ago, fresh strawberries would have been unheard of in the depths of winter. Instead, each fall our grandmothers worked for hours on end over hot stoves, sterilizing Mason jars and canning, drying and pickling to preserve their harvest and ensure their families had food on their plates when farm fields were white with snow.

Sadly, our grandmothers’ practices have not always been passed on. Coupled with the year-long availability of imported foods, the practice of preserving produce has largely fallen out of use. But for those interested in food safety, self-sufficiency or supporting local harvesters, preserving is still a great way to ensure produce does not go to waste, and that our pantries are full all year round. Preserving locally grown food means that fruits and vegetables can be plucked at the peak of their ripeness, rather than while they’re still green on a vine thousands of miles away. Canning and bottling organic produce also reduces the need for toxic preservatives.

In order to make sure your food is safely preserved for the long term, and to avoid bacterial contamination or spoilage, it is essential that it be done right. For starters, try the Bernardin Guide to Home Preserving or the Bernardin website (homecanning.com).

A number of local producers offer workshops, such as Doménic Paula of Moon Fire Farm, who will be offering workshops on blanching, freezing, fermentation and canning this year (domenicpadula@gmail.com, 902-757-1912). Beverly McClare of Tangled Garden in Grand Pré can offer tours of her kitchen and gardens to take prospective canners through the process (www.tangledgarden.ns.ca).

It’s worth a visit to the Anchor Archive Zine Library (5684 Roberts, 446-1788), which has zines about canning and preserving, plus lots of cookzines with vegan, vegetarian, and other types of recipes.

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