Canning Vegetables And Jams To Preserve Farmer's Market FlavorsCanning — the source of jams, pickles and relishes that seems tied to the last century — is on the upswing. There is a debate whether the trend stems from the tight economy or the local food movement, but its fans say the results are delicious.
Canning — the source of jams, pickles and relishes that can seem tied to the last century — is on the upswing. There is a debate whether the trend stems from the tight economy or the local food movement, but its fans say the results are delicious.
Cathy Barrow's crushed tomatoes. "I've learned over the years that to take a jar of your own homemade anything to a house as a hostess gift is much more appreciated than even a bottle of wine," she says.
Barrow's fig confiture recipe includes only figs, fresh thyme, lemons and honey. "Confiture" is a French style of jam-making in which the fruit sits very loose in a honey syrup, she says.
Peach salsa (center left) and fig confiture cook while the canner sits nearby, ready for sealing them in jars. Though Barrow uses a pressure canner for her home canning, she teaches her classes using the boiling water bath method.
The sliced figs and lemons make for a colorful pot as they cook down — and they'll also look good in a jar, Barrow says.
A jar of pickled green tomatoes. "A lot of times, I'll just make one jar," Barrow says. Anyone heading out of town, she says, can take a ripe vegetable, "cut it up, put it in a jar, pour some brine over it and put it in the refrigerator."
Barrow uses a jar lifter on a batch of her peach salsa. "People now start putting their orders in for Christmas," Barrow says. "You know, you think, 'Oh, I'll just give people a few jars of jam.' And I hear, 'I really like that salsa!'"
Fig confiture can make a snack into something special. "I think it's wonderful with cheese, it's great stirred into yogurt — and sometimes it's just good on a spoon," Barrow says.
After a full morning of canning, there's plenty of cleaning to be done. "I don't worry too much," Barrow says. "Fortunately, my husband's really good at cleaning the kitchen!"
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Food blogger Cathy Barrow says she cans to enjoy fresh and local food through the winter, and into the next growing season.
"I guess it was four or five years ago, I started going to farmers markets five times a week," Barrow tells Linda Wertheimer. "And I get enamored of the food, I can't help myself. And there are only two of us, but I come home with enough for eight -- so I had to learn to do something with it."
The idea of canning 20 pounds of vegetables may seem like a daunting task, but Barrow insists that it's easy to learn. To spread the gospel, she teaches canning classes and blogs about it on her Web site, Mrs. Wheelbarrow's Kitchen.
"I want to dispel the notion that it's hard and takes a lot of time to can," she says.
It may not take time, but it does take tools -- most of it from the hardware store, and not very expensive: a case of jars, which comes with lids that seal. Barrow boils the lids and rings in a saucepan, and runs the jars through a cycle in the dishwasher to sterilize them.
In addition to cookbooks and recipes, Barrow collects canning equipment. Her favorite tool, she says, is a magnetic lifter, to get lids and rings out of hot water. "It was 99 cents and it stopped me from burning my fingers, so that was a good move," Barrow says.
And then there's the sound that every home canner loves to hear -- the little thunk that tells you the lid is airtight, and a morning of hard work has ended with delicious food safely sealed.