Savoring the seasons all year long
My friend who has seen my shelves of canned goods gave me a T-shirt that says: “I eat locally because I can.” Below this quote is a picture of three Ball canning jars.
I grew up in a very rural area, what today we call a food desert. The nearest supermarket was 25 miles away over four mountains. So we had a big garden. We canned and froze lots of fruits and vegetables. These preserved foods along with the fruits and vegetables stored in the root cellar were what we ate in the winter. We bought very few fresh fruits and vegetables in the winter.
Canning and freezing were whole family activities. In Simply in Season, (10th anniversary edition, p. 108) I shared this:
Summer days as a child often found me sitting on the back porch with Mom and siblings shelling peas, peeling apples, or doing what we called BORING jobs. We would try to liven up the time by holding contests: who could shell the most peas in a minute or who could cut an apple into exact quarters. We tried anything to break the monotony of the job. Now I crave times like those. I love to sit on the porch and do “mindless” tasks. It is as I sit shelling peas or stand picking blueberries that my soul makes the long journey from my head to my heart and I come home to myself.
Today, I continue to can and freeze, not out of necessity but out of desire and health. Canning and freezing allows me to eat locally year round, to live in tune with the seasons, and to savor my garden long after it is dormant.
Simply in Season has some of my favorite recipes for canned goods. The three jars pictured on page 201 show zucchini relish, tomato sauce and canned salsa. An interesting note is that these recipes are from either myself or my sister, Sarah Myers. We continue the canning tradition of our Mennonite childhood.
The zucchini relish, I use in my sandwich spreads, potato salad, and anytime I want a pickle type relish.
1 large red sweet pepper, chopped
1 large green pepper, chopped
10–12 cups / 2.5–3 L zucchini, chopped
2–4 cups / 500 ml–1 L onions, chopped
5 tablespoons salt
Combine and let stand overnight. Drain. Rinse twice.
2¼ cups / 560 ml vinegar
4 cups / 1 L sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 tablespoon ground nutmeg
1 tablespoon dry mustard
1 tablespoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon celery salt or 2 tablespoons celery seed (optional)
½ teaspoon pepper (optional)
Combine in a soup pot. Add drained vegetables and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer 10–15 minutes, stirring frequently. Ladle into hot sterilized pint jars to within ½ inch / 1 cm of top, seal with sterilized lids, and process full jars in boiling water bath for 10 minutes.
Yields 7 pints / 3.3 L (Vegetarian and Gluten Free)
Basic Tomato Sauce
The tomato sauce is my go-to marinara sauce.
“I use this for spaghetti sauce, pizza sauce, or any time I need a marinara-type sauce,” says contributor Mary Beth Lind. “I really like the added nutrition of the carrot.”
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
Sauté until soft in 2 tablespoons olive oil.
2 carrots, shredded
½ green pepper, chopped
2 bay leaves
¼ cup / 60 ml fresh parsley, chopped
2 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped; or 2 teaspoons dried
1 tablespoon fresh oregano, chopped; or 1 teaspoon dried
1 tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped; or 1 teaspoon dried
Add. Stir well.
6 cups / 1.5 L plum tomatoes, peeled and chopped
6 ounces / 175 g tomato paste
1 tablespoon honey (optional)
salt and pepper to taste
Add and season to taste. Simmer 15 minutes. Remove bay leaf and serve or freeze. To can, ladle into hot sterilized pint jars to within ½ inch / 1 cm of top, add 1 tablespoon lemon juice or vinegar per pint to assure acidity, seal with sterilized lids, and process full jars in boiling water bath for 35 minutes.
Squash variation: Add 1 cup / 250 ml cooked, puréed winter squash. Do not can this variety.
Yields 3 pints / 1.5 L (Vegetarian and Gluten Free)
Favorite Canned Salsa
The canned salsa is a wonderful way to continue having salsa year round.
“Making salsa was becoming an annual summer family event until my bout with cancer changed that. We all anticipate it returning as a family event,” writes contributor Sarah Myers. “One year we made 104 pints in one day. Those pints are long gone but the memory of that fun day and the taste of the salsa is still fresh!”
14 cups / 3.5 L tomatoes, peeled, chopped, and drained
3 cups / 750 ml onion, chopped
½ cup / 125 ml chili peppers, chopped; more for increased spice
1–3 cups / 250–750 ml green, yellow, and red sweet peppers, chopped
8–10 cloves garlic, minced
Combine and set aside.
1 cup / 250 ml tomato sauce
1 cup / 250 ml ketchup
¾ cup / 175 ml vinegar
10 tablespoons cornstarch or Thermflo
2½ tablespoons salt
1 tablespoon chili powder
1½ teaspoon ground cumin
Combine. Cook until thick and a clear dark color.
2–3 cups / 500–750 ml corn (optional)
2–3 cups / 500–750 ml cooked black beans (optional)
Add sauce to drained vegetables and optional ingredients if using. Ladle into hot sterilized pint jars to within ½ inch / 1 cm of top, seal with sterilized lids, and process full jars in boiling water bath for 35 minutes. If you use the optional corn and/or black beans, due to the lower acidity of this variation, do not can in a boiling water bath; only pressure canning is recommended.
Yields 9–11 pints / 4–5 L (Vegetarian and Gluten Free)
If you are new to canning and freezing check out the notes on page 403 of Simply in Season. And for more details consider Saving the Seasons. Remember you can eat locally year-around!
Enter to win a copy of Simply in Season below!
Mary Beth Lind is a dietitian and nutritional consultant. She and her husband are market gardeners in West Virginia. They are also the founders of Mountain Retreat, a Christian retreat center, and members of a local Mennonite church.
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