Posts Tagged Preserving
A thought I posted on Facebook, yesterday, sparked more thoughts to flood through my mind throughout the day. This is what I posted on Facebook, as some of you may recall.
Technology plays tricks on us, my Friends. It shortens processes, liberating us to partake of other activities. There is nothing wrong with this, but do we not at some level miss out on beautiful, real, hands and minds-on experience? If everything happens at the touch of a button, then isn’t our creative involvement limited, even thwarted?
The answer, thankfully, is no.
Of course this depends on personal interests and lifestyle. A busy executive who absolutely loves spending long hours totally immersed in her work may favor as much automation as possible in other areas of life. This is a person who will select a healthy apple sauce or tomato sauce from the shelves of a grocery store instead of making her own. She still values wholesome nutrition while finding ways to allow time and room for her creativity to unfold where it is meant to do so.
And this is it. It is not a matter of being willing to make things from scratch; it is a matter of allowing proper expression to our creativity. For homesteaders, gardeners and farmers, creativity strives on the land and in the kitchen. Architects blossom at the drafting table. This is how we complement each other. This is how we design the world we share.
Gardening, cooking, canning, preserving, making cider and making tomato sauce from scratch takes time. The question that comes to mind for those whose energies are focused in other areas might be, “Why would I go through so much trouble?” The fact is, it is no trouble at all. When gardening, cooking, canning, preserving, making cider or making tomato sauce, we are like an artist.
The artist takes the time to pack up easel, paints and a good lunch, drive around in search of an inspiring vista, set up all equipment, mix the paints, capture the scene brush stroke after brush stroke, hour after hour, clean up, put away all tools and equipment, drive home, unpack everything and start over the next day. In truth, the words “take the time” actually mean “embrace the moment.”
So it is the moment we decide, “I will can some apples tomorrow.” It is a choice, not a chore.
Then, instantly, we look forward not only to the final product, but to the pure well-being that lies in every moment of the process. When canning, one must clean and set up and gather and cut and pay attention to timing. When making sauce, one must assemble the sauce maker, wash the tomatoes, store the sauce evenly in clean jars, dismantle the equipment and clean it carefully. Even the cleaning is not a chore. Instead, it is that part of the process where we realize that a good deed is done and that the last few hours provided nourishment to more than just the body. We are setting up or setting aside an entire process, in each instant realizing how fully alive and fully involved in living this process makes us feel.
Would it be more practical to buy a jar of sauce or preserve at the store? Yes. If your creativity lies in other areas of life. There is the word “practice” in the word “practical.” When we are exercising our creativity, in any area of life, the act of doing is what’s practical.
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Let us define “Hero.”
The first image that comes to mind, for many, is the archetypal leotard-clad, brightly colored, masked, muscular and mysterious man (or woman) who flies, by sheer will, to the rescue of everyday citizens, with large cape dancing in the wind. Have you ever worn a cape on a windy day? This, I believe, is the only flaw with the image of the hero, for such a person should not want to be encumbered by a piece of free-flowing garment. But that is just me… and I digress, somewhat.
Culturally, the hero is someone we look up to; someone who has overcome the fears of the world and who has developed strength and character beyond what we perceive to be our own abilities. The Hero is someone else. In psychology and personal development, however, we are encouraged to see the hero as an integral part of who we are or can become. It is not about saving others. It is about being the master of our own destiny. The image of the hero and his or her attributes, then, become guidelines for personal growth.
Where does canning fit in all of this? I am suggesting that canning is a personal development tool. I am further suggesting that the person who practices food preserving shares strong common traits with the hero archetype. In other words, not only are we what we eat, but we are also our own hero.
The hero is confident. There is no doubt about that. Superman does not weigh the pros and cons when facing a situation; he just runs to the phone booth, changes into his hero attire and dives in. He takes matters into his own hands. Canning is like this. With canning, you take the process of creating food and sustainability into your own hands from start to finish. If you are new to canning, you may have already noticed how “on purpose” you have felt while setting up your equipment, gathering produce and following through every step of the process. Did you not feel like you were the master of that moment? Remember this the next time you doubt your own abilities… and if you tend to doubt your own abilities, start canning so you can prove yourself wrong.
The hero lives by high standards. Cutting corners is not an option (especially when you wear that darn cape and it might get stuck on the corner). When he or she flies into a situation, the hero stays as long as it takes to see things through. His entire focus is on the moment and on the most positive outcome for all involved. Canning is like this. It requires a plan, organization, cleanliness and adherence to basic rules. The laws of physics apply everywhere. For the hero, a rotten attitude will yield rotten results. When canning and preserving, sloppiness leads to rotten results. High standards ensure a smooth path and a perfect outcome. Since you are creating this outcome with your own two hands, you have got a lot of your values invested into it. This is why, you might find, you feel so much love for the process.
The hero sees clearly through difficult times. This is because she knows her values and experience can and will prevail. The hero need not worry about the future, because he has created a track record of success for himself, overcoming one hurdle after another, taking a stance, acting on it and watching solutions unfold, almost of their own volition. Canning is like this. Not only does it ensure sustenance for weeks and months to come, but it reminds you of your talent for building your tomorrows and it reminds you of your innate intelligence about taking care of yourself and loved ones.
The hero is attractive. I am not referring to their hundreds, even thousands of fans, I am referring to the hero’s effortless magnetism. True heroes have humility. What is more humble than food preserving? It is the hero’s confidence and humility that truly connects him with others. The hero is not so much fearless about evil or the world or the power of nature; she is fearless about her connection to fellow humans. This is what allows her to approach any situation. Canning is like this.
Ho! But I am a shy, solitary person, you might suggest. That may be true, but watch what happens when you have made your first batch of raspberry preserves or pickles. You will find yourself standing in the kitchen, admiring the fruit of your labor and feeling connected with the world in a subtle yet undeniable way. Before you know it, you’ll be walking across the street with that jar in your hand, maybe even a couple more, to knock on the neighbor’s door and say, “Here. I just finished canning these and I thought I’d bring you some.” After a brief chat, you will walk away knowing that the world is a fantastic place.
Thus are the adventures of the canning hero… no leotards or cape required, but I suppose you can do as you please in your own kitchen and I don’t need to know… please!
Canning may be one of the most frugal things you can do for your family and your kitchen, but to be truly frugal in the kitchen is not only a matter of using strategies that save time and money, it is also about working smarter.
When we bring home fresh produce from the garden or the farmer’s market, it can be difficult to not feel a sense of eagerness. We imagine all the preserves, recipes and canned treasures we will be eating and want to get right to it. If you are new to canning, diving into a first project without a carefully laid out plan can get overwhelming fast; if you have been canning all your life, there is still a chance you might streamline your method and enjoy it all the more. Here are some basic things to consider for a truly frugal, safe and satisfying canning experience.
1- Even if you learned from your mother or grandmother, take the time to read the entire owner’s manual that came with your water bath canner, steam canner or your pressure canner. Their may be a slight variation in usage and safety rules that did not apply for the equipment they used in their own time.
2- Canning is canning; any method is good, right? Wrong. Make sure you use the correct canning method for the produce you are about to process. High and low acid foods require different canning methods. Make sure you understand which method to select. Better yet, follow a recipe from a good canning or preserving book. Remember, canning is not merely about preserving, it is about destroying micro-organisms in order to preserve.
3- Use fresh produce only. Canning preserves freshness, it does not restore it. This speaks for itself. On to number 4.
4- Avoid the “Glutton Syndrome.” Alright, I just made this up. What I mean is do not let grand plans and the sight of a mouth-watering harvest hinder your focus. Trying to process the entire garden in one day will exhaust you and fatigue leads to mistakes. This can also make canning seem like a chore, not the communion with nourishment that it is. A good trick to keep your project within a reasonable time-frame, so that you remain alert, is to work with only one canning method at a time (right there that singles out what you are going to process) and process no more than two items per day.
5- Have a plan. Before doing anything, read through the entire recipe, twice if you must. Keep it at hand once you begin and read as you go. Position your equipment and ingredients in your work area so that every action flows.
6- Use recipes from reliable sources. Unless they are detailed and leave absolutely no room for guess-work, do not use the scribbled “Best Pickles Ever” recipe from your uncle Denis. Sorry Uncle Denis, but canning requires precision.
Precision and rules do not hinder a process, they make it smoother. Happy and safe canning.