Sunday, August 22, 2010

Back to Basics: Preserving Local Food

In the world of cooking, there has been a continual push back towards eating like previous generations. I am all for this trend, and am working on limiting the processed food in our house. I am also trying to make more food from scratch, and to pay attention to local and seasonal food. My favorite part of this new way of thinking is canning food, which is a wonderful way to preserve local fruits and vegetables to last through the upcoming colder months. Last summer I tested the water by making a batch of fresh peach jam, and I have now developed a full-blown obsession with canning food.

I've gotten lucky the past two summers, and have gotten to 'work' the canning and preserving class at The Chopping Block. Last summer it inspired the peach jam experiment, which was a delicious success. The season ended to quickly, though, and I didn't get the chance to try any other preserving. This year I was a bit more on top of my game, though, and bought a wonderful canning and preserving book as the summer farmers markets started up around Chicago. The book, Put 'em Up, is an excellent resource. I would highly recommend it not only for canning, but for advice on freezing, drying, and other methods of preserving.

These are the recipes I've made so far. The carrots were picked up at Green City Market, and were pickled with dill, onions, and garlic. I also made dill cucumber pickles with that dill and some small CSA cucumbers. I did some simple beets that were a perfect balance of sweet and tart. And the Italian zucchini spears had fantastic herb flavor that I can't resist! Plus I have some dilly beans that were from this year's Chopping Block class. I've also been carefully freezing some veggies that will be wonderful in soups and stews this fall.

I'm not going to post any canning recipes, but would be happy to share if anyone is interested. Just let me know! Mostly, I don't feel like typing them out if no one is going to use them, since it's Sunday evening and I'm feeling lazy :) I do recommend you try canning-- it's really not hard! And the reward is cans of local produce, preserved and ready to feast on in the colder months. People worry that it can be dangerous to can your own food, but as long as you use fresh produce and follow recipes and directions, you'll be fine. You can't play with these recipes as much as with regular cooking, because you need a proper ph level in order to keep the food safe. Every book on canning starts with some sort of primer on how to do it safely, and as long as you heed their advice there shouldn't be a problem. I already can't wait to try more preserving! It's going to be such a treat as the weather turns cooler here in Chicago... something I'm starting to look forward to.

Check out this pantry!


Proud Italian Cook said...

Good for you Erin,everything looks great! I've always been a little scared to can, but you're making me change my mind!

TKW said...

I'm impressed! Your efforts sure beat the crazy chow chow I put up last year!