February 23, 2011- Anxious to start Canning or Preserving? Looking to gain some preserving skills before the height of the fruit and veggie season hits? Thinking that there is no hope while you gaze out the window at a snow covered driveway…I mean, if you’re in the northern part of anywhere right now odds are there is nothing local or fresh about the fruit and veggies at the store. Here are a few ideas for getting in the groove of preserving and filling your pantry with new delights (even before the snow melts):
1) Give mustard a try. There are many condiments that don’t require fresh ingredients, but are rather made out of simple items found year round at the grocery or bulk food store. I made my first batch of mustard in December and all it took was vinegar, mustard powder, mustard seeds, sugar and some frozen cranberries. I stumbled on the site for the Saskatchewan Mustard Development Commission and found recipes for cooking with mustard, making your own whole grain mustard…along with info on the health benefits of mustard. Seriously, there is a development commission for mustard..who knew!
2) Even in the winter months there are still some good sources of fruit that haven’t travelled too far. Any fruit or vegetable that stores well in a cold room can generally be found from a local or nearby source throughout the winter months. It’s not likely that you’ll want to pickle potatoes (you could can them…but why?). Apples can be used in a variety of ways to make jams, jellies, chutneys, barbecue sauces, etc. Rule of thumb: stay clear of anything that is not going to taste as fresh or as good as it would in peak season. So ignore the imported strawberries or blueberries that are on sale. They’ve travelled really far, have been sprayed with a lot of unmentionables and are known to really absorb chemicals. How about canned apple pie filling or apple preserves.
3) And well, if you do find a tasty orange or pear that has travelled from away but is too delicious to be resisted..go ahead and take a stab at making an orange marmalade or a pear jam. I found not too long ago a bunch of pears on the reduced rack (but not overripe…because you should never make any preserve with fruit that is too ripe) and made a delicious cinnamon pear jam that was tested in less than 48 hours…I can confirm, it tastes amazing on pancakes.
4) Back to the roots. Dilled carrot pickles…need I say more!
For more tips and tricks check out the National Center for Home Food Preservation. This site is full of useful information for everything from making jams and jellies, canning, freezing, drying, smoking, curing, pickling and fermenting. They’ve also got some additional tips and guidelines for seasonal selections.