Summertime vegetables and fruit are plentiful right now and most of us are trying to gobble them up at their peak. It's such a shame we can't have this experience all year long. But wait... we can (no pun intended). We can can (not the dance). Canning and freezing are tried and true methods to preserve the bounty of summer throughout the winter months. Here are some quick tips for those of you wanting to preserve your little bit of summer.
1. KNOW THE RULES: Canning is a great way to be environmentally friendly, be economical (by buying produce in season and cheaper) and eat local all year round, but it can also cause certain health risks such as botulism, a toxin associated with improper canning. Using trusted and tested recipes from reputable sources, reading the recipe through to familiarize yourself with the process, obtaining the proper equipment and monitoring the process are all ways to reduce the incidence of this food borne pathogen. Check out EatRight Ontario's webpage on home canning before you start.
2. START WITH WHAT YOU LIKE: Make a list of what you usually eat during the winter months and look for recipes based on these preferences. Scour the internet or cookbooks for recipes such as tomato sauce, vegetable soups, sauces, fruit spreads and chutneys. Look for trusted and tested recipes that produce smaller batches for home canning and those that do not use any added sugar or salt. Assess the amount of space you'll need to store your cans (in a cool dark place).
3. FRESH PRODUCE: Start with fresh produce that you've grown yourself or purchased from the local farmer or supermarket. We are preserving life, not resuscitating it, so starting with produce that is less than fresh will forever be preserved in that state. Imagine the great taste of fresh plum jam with turkey over the holidays or spooned over low fat Greek yogurt for breakfast. Want to know what's in season in Ontario? Check out Foodland's availability guide.
4. DON'T LIKE CANNING? CONSIDER FREEZING OR REFRIGERATOR RECIPES: You can still make great recipes such as sugar free jams, soups, and sauces that are freezable or able to be stored in the refrigerator - like these Refrigerator Dill Pickles with no added salt. What I like to do is use all the leftover odds and ends from my vegetables to make a salt free stock and freeze to use in soups all winter long. Freezing is a great way to keep fresh fruit for use in smoothies, jams, sauces and vinaigrettes or vegetables to add to meals in a flash. For freezing "how to" check out the Canadian Produce and Marketing Associations webpage for tips and guides on freezing vegetables and fruit.
With canning you control what's in the jar. By focusing on fresh local produce and following healthier recipes with no added salt or sugar, you will have healthy alternatives to provide to your family all winter long. Imagine a fresh jar of homemade strawberry jam in the middle of winter. Opening this time capsule is like bringing back a little bit of summer.