Archive for category Canning
Writer’s block descended upon me early this morning. It is not so much writer’s block as having too many ideas for too many topics all at once and not being able to decide between them. Then there were several interruptions. It is one of those days when people assume that I can do as I please since I am self-employed. They are right. I can do as I please, and what pleases me is to be doing my work, right here, at this keyboard, to research topics and concoct articles, to read, to learn.
The interruptions today brought me to a pause, much like when we have placed all our skill and energy into preparing a special meal and reach a moment when all that remains is to wait for guests to arrive. We lose ourselves in the process until a change of pace makes us keenly aware of every detail again.
Perhaps everything we do is like that. Yes. Now that I think about it, every single action or process leads to a pause, many in fact, when we look at what we have accomplished so far and cannot help but give in to a few philosophical musings. This mind shift is what turns our daily activities into living poetry. It connects us to everything in a fresh new way. Some call this epiphany. It is at the source of our greatest moments of gratitude. It comes upon us through the senses, triggered by an object, a color, a smell. The poetry goes like this…
After installing a weed mat, kneeling by this year’s new garden plot - There is a place and time for weeds and a place and time for sustenance, just as there is a time for rambunctious humor and a time for serious, down to business living.
Looking back at the garden, after seeding the first rows – Now the wait. We do not want to wait, yet it is in the waiting, as much as in harvesting, that nourishment is found. Waiting grows our sense of awe. It makes it impossible for us to take anything for granted.
While cleaning the pressure canner and putting away the canning accessories and recipe book - There is much reassurance in knowing that a fresh store of wholesome food awaits. There is much reassurance in realizing that, in spite of our technological advancements, we persist in digging our own hands in the ground to give birth to our own nourishment. This, perhaps, is one of the surest signs of our immutable humanity.
As we disassemble the juicer or blender and take great, carefree gulps of the refreshing, living liquid - If only we could drink in each moment with such a sense of renewal. Each moment is renewal; it is only the observer who refuses, or fails, to know this. Maybe we should drink a fresh gulp of juice, or at least water, every time we lose faith in the possibility of renewal. Maybe that is all it takes to shift our thoughts and find hope again.
My writer’s block is gone at the moment. So I’ll pause while I’m ahead!
Canning jars are a cultural icon. They represent more than survival; they represent freshness and wholesomeness. Whatever food is stored within, the sight of a canning jar awakens the senses as well as memories.
They immediately bring to mind the aroma and flavor of their contents. If we are involved in the canning process, they connect us with this experience and everything it entails: Fulfilling time spent in the kitchen transforming the harvest into a display of color and a reserve of nourishment for survival, or for mere enjoyment; memories of mothers and grandmothers spending entire afternoons in the kitchen chatting and cooperating to create sustenance for the family and passing this skill down to newer generations.
With all that the canning jar means to us emotionally and historically, why would we choose to preserve foods in tin cans? It is a matter of choice, circumstances, and purpose. Here is a rule of thumb: Use the canning jars for moderate-term preserving of foods you will consume in the course of the year, little by little. Opt for tin cans for long-term, survival-based preserving. Also, the canning jar is re-usable, with a new lid and seal band. This is convenient for subsequent canning projects throughout the year, for an ongoing and frequently renewed supply. While it is very much recyclable, the tin can is not used repeatedly for canning. Its versatility lends itself to many other uses, however.
Survivalists, then, opt for the tin can. It is ideal for long-term food storage. Besides being non-permeable to gas and vapors (changing atmospheric conditions), and difficult for rodents to break through, unlike glass jars, tin cans are exceptionally well-suited to rough handling and transportation.
Of course, different methods demand different equipment. If you have never used a can sealer (also called can seamer), you may wonder, “How does it do that?”
First of all, if you do any canning, you already know how simple it is. And if you think about it, you have probably been using the same equipment for years, if not decades. That is because this sort of equipment is built to last. I’ve pointed this out in previous articles, but notice the design and style of a can sealer. It seems to come from another era, and it does. It looks solid, and it is. And it works, well, seamlessly! Here’s how:
A can sealer creates a seal by crimping. What this means, in effect, is that it “deforms” the edge of a metal plate that serves as the lid. It does this by compressing it around the mouth of the can while the device turns and presses down on the metal plate.
As with canning jars, once filled and sealed the tin cans are processed with heat. A pressure canner is used in this case. Processing temperature, time and specifications vary depending on the nature of the foods within the cans and also depending on the pressure canner’s manufacturer’s recommendations. It is that simple.
A final rule of thumb (I am making this one up, but I think you will agree): Choose canning jars for foods you will see daily in your pantry and use on a regular basis throughout the year. Why? Because the visual cues you get from those irresistible jars will make your heart leap with joy every time you catch a glimpse. Choose tin cans for your canning projects that are intended for “rainy days.” There, all your bases covered. Food for the senses and food for a sense of security.
More on Canning
More on Can Sealers
Why fearless? Because we are on a path of creative self-reliance and we overcome floods and adversity of all magnitudes with our heads up, so a mere number is not about to get in the way of personal progress, thank you very much.
Secondly, New Year resolutions often fail not because they are too difficult to keep, but rather because they are boring. Unless I am mistaken, if you are reading this you are already someone who likes a good challenge and someone who is not afraid to put on your boots and gloves and make your own life by your own hands at some level… heck, you don’t even need gloves.
Thus, I am not calling these resolutions; I am calling them goals. Because worker bees like us are on a journey and journeys are made of goals. How we get there is entirely up to individual creativity and inspiration.
Here, then, are 13 very reachable goals for the 12 months ahead. These are intended as a little inspirational nudge, in case your actual resolutions don’t quite capture your interest. Often, resolutions miss the mark, also, because they are not in line with our true nature. Speaking of nature, we begin in the garden.
1 – Get a piggy bank for the garden - Drop money in it every time you receive payment for work or from sales (depending on your source of income) – This little piggy will help you treat yourself to the tools you need once in a while.
2 – Cook once and eat twice, or more – Canning is one way to put food away to use over time. Cooking with a pressure cooker is, in my opinion, one of the most economical ways of cooking. In addition to this, the time spent on preparing a large batch meal for the pressure cooker, using fresh ingredients, cutting everything by hand, perhaps with music in the background, is utterly relaxing and fulfilling. And you get to savor the fruit of your labor many times over, each time being reminded of a true sense of abundance and freedom.
3 – Give something away, randomly and often – Making bread? Bring some to a neighbor. Canning? Bring a jar to a co-worker. Gardening? Bring a basket of fresh produce to your mechanic. There does not have to be a special occasion. In fact, avoid special occasions; go for the no-reason-at-all approach instead.
4 – Start a sprout garden or patio garden – Begin and end each day tending your little corner of nature. If you happen to be less mobile than you used to be, a small square-foot garden can be raised so you do not have to bend and reach down so far. I am certain someone in your surroundings will be glad to help set this up; a neighbor’s young, strong teen perhaps. This could be the beginning of a mutually beneficial friendship. It’s amazing how much a little piece of garden can change lives.
5 – Get a rain barrel - Start collecting rain to water your plants. If you live in a community where you pay for water usage, add the money you save to your garden piggy… remember, from #1 above?
6 – Learn food canning and preserving – from a book, from a friend, from a neighbor, from the internet. You may be overwhelmed by notions of hundreds of canning jars lined up in a pantry (although this is quite exciting for some of us). Start small and smart with a water bath or steam canner and 6 jars. Expand your projects when you feel so inspired, or keep it down to small batches. Do not let the fact that you do not presently have access to a personal harvest get in the way. There is no rule that says you cannot can produce acquired from the market.
7 – Meet your neighbors – This is a great way to learn a new skill. Perhaps you could place an add in your local paper (or online forum) inviting a few neighbors who wish to start gardening to a monthly get-together. Inspire each other. Some of you may already have skills and knowledge. Learn from each other.
8 – Start a community garden while you’re at it.
9 – Pool resources – share gardening tools, kitchen appliances, knowledge, trips to the store, errands… This is another opportunity to expand your circle of acquaintances and friends.
10 – Get a piggy bank for the kitchen – You guessed it. It works like the garden piggy. They could live side by side on your kitchen counter, smiling at you every time you walk by. Do not be surprised if, once upon a blue day, these little guys manage to make you smile in spite of your grumps!
11 – Take a free online course to learn about a new skill that can inspire your journey of sustainability. Then take another one.
12 – Find online documentaries about gardening, cooking or about people who are living the lifestyle to which you aspire. Make tea and a tray of cookies or snack of choice. Take one hour to watch and think of nothing else. Do this several times a month.
13 – Cut out ads and pictures – Keep a scrapbook or make a collage of dishes, gardens, recipes, home decor ideas that inspire you. Once in a while, leaf through your collage with no particular goal in mind. Just offer yourself a moment of immersion in the images that speak to you, quietly but surely.
Still not confident that 13 goals is a good number? No problem… add some of your own!