09/03/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Put a Lid On It: Learning to Can

The market season is in full swing, and if you were to drop in on your local farmer's stands this weekend (depending on your location) you may come across barrels of tomatoes, beans, sweet corn, and other fresh produce primed for your dinner table that very night. You probably already do this: buy local to your means -- picking up those ripe, beautiful, fruits and veggies every week to really taste the season as it's happening. But there is no reason to buy to the limitations of your current meals. You can shop local now for great dinners in December. Really.

Listen, we're going to make this stuff last. Attach the cart to the bike, throw a big cardboard box in the back of the car, or grab the extra big canvas bag. Next time you head to market take home as much as you can carry. When you get back to your kitchen get out that big saucepan, because darling, we're canning this weekend.

Canning has such an unfair and antiquated association with it. If the idea of cooking marinara and sealing it in jars stirs feelings of Barefoot Contessa under house arrest (or worse, poisoning your family with Botulism) you can rest easy. There is nothing old-fashioned about eating good food. Starter projects like homemade berry jams and tomato sauce are simple and fear-free. You can safely can these at home without much experience. Their acid levels are safe enough for a newbie to pull off without a pressure canner. Most recipes of this ilk can be done with a stove-top water bath canner and some mason jars, and if you're worried about supplies and directions there are entire starter kits available online. Foolproof.

For the price of a dinner for two at a restaurant you can pick up a home canning kit. Have the guts to visit some local farm stands and buy all the strawberries, cherries, or tomatoes the farmers will sell you. In just a few minutes of online research you can download some recipes and learn to make something you can put aside. A bulging grocery bag of Romas can be turned into a simmering pot of sauce without much hassle -- and when you go to the cupboard in January for something to dump over your pasta you'll be damn glad you did. You'll not only smile with the warm nostalgia it delivers; you'll feel content with the added degree of satisfaction it renders. Knowing that even with a backyard full of snow you're still eating from your market helps us all. It helps the organic farmers in the summer and helps you throw together a quick healthy meal on a cold night when fresh veggies are only being shipped from Chile. It's nice to sit down to a home-canned meal, knowing you did it yourself. (With the help of farmers that share your area code, of course.)

If you want to find more recipes, green living tips, homesteading stories, and more -- stop by the farm:Cold Antler Farm