Living sustainably is all about making the most of what you have at the time without waste. Learning to preserve food supplies is one way your family can eat well and save money.
There are two main concepts to preserving food: 1) Buy, prepare, and preserve fresh food when in season. 2) Eat it when it sounds like a good idea. Everytime I think about canning, I remember the commercial for Blue Bell ice cream - "Eat all we can and sell the rest". I think they
forgot to say they refrigerate some for later too.
For many years I have grown, harvested, and dried my own cooking herbs. Some herbs grow year round, like rosemary, so I harvest when I need it for cooking. I only dry rosemary when I prune the plant and have way more than I can use. Other herb plants, like basil, only grow in summer, so if I want basil in my spaghetti sauce in January I either have to harvest my plants and dry it in the oven or I buy a jar of dried basil from the grocery store.
This summer, we experimented with a different kind of preserving - canning. The term "canning" refers to preserving food in a closed container, usually a glass jar, so that the food is kept without refrigeration for one or more seasons. While this may seem antiquated to busy modernists, the simplicity in it astounds me. Why am I paying for electricity to keep food that could be kept just as well without energy? Why I am paying for out of season vegetables frozen and packaged in plastic bags when I could can my own vegetables in glass jars that can be used again and again? I didnt have an answer for these questions, so I tried it out.
Over the summer, we invested in the basic tools: a pressure cooker, jars and lids, funnels, and a book. (see below for more information.)
I will be doing more preserving in the future and that's for sure!
This book is fantastic. We followed many of the recipes with great success.
I'll also note here that I prefer the newer wide mouth jars because it is easier to funnel items into the jar. The only exception is pickles. The trick is to use regular mouth jars so that the inverted lip will hold the cucumbers below the water level. I also liked the 4 ounce wide mouth jars because they are the perfect size for jams, relishes, and onion confit.