Thursday, March 18, 2010

On the “preciousness” of food preserving

I recently have read rumblings about food preserving as fluff. I’m not going to link to the articles here, but they’re along the lines of calling it sweet, precious, and little hobbies that aren’t tied into producing real food or the local environment or economy, and to not fool yourselves.


I was thinking about those articles this morning as I ate my plain yogurt swirled with no sugar peach jam made last August. And I noted to myself I want to make all of my jam with this Pomona Pectin this year because it requires little to no sugar for preservation. It’s like swirling straight fruit into my yogurt, or cottage cheese in the afternoon, or spreading on my toast in the morning.

And I was thinking about the perceived preciousness of my food preserving hobby while I made dinner last week with a jar of my favorite tomato chili I canned in September. All of the green chilies in it came from our garden, and the tomatoes themselves came direct from a local farmer. It’s a sure-fire staple in our household, as I brown ground turkey and an onion, add the jar of home canned chili sauce, a can of black beans, and whatever vegetables I have in the fridge. This time I had a bunch of sweet mini bell peppers I needed to use up and in about a half hour, we had a big pan of chili, and when topped with cilantro and avocado became dinner, with enough left-over to stretch a few days mixed with green salads. Precious.

All of that precious chutney? It serves as roasted chicken sauce without buying expensive and sky-high sodium-filled sauces. And last night’s grilled cheese sandwiches become more of a dinner when filled with chutney and cheese.

I suppose our gifts of useful jams and canned peaches to friends and family at the holidays and as hostess gifts aren’t as sexy as something from the mall, at least to the writers of those articles poo-pooing we who preserve our own food. But then it’s really just like the diminution, the precious-ifying of “women’s work” that has been lobbed at us for decades. The people who “don’t get it” when those of us actually enjoy the creativity and time in our kitchens are the same ones who believe this traditional women’s role is something to not take seriously or is not valuable.

But the secret? We’re the ones who are able to glory in a moment of picking our own fruit, to remove ourselves just a wee bit from the insane push for more monetary fulfillment and to be thoughtful in our purchases, our money and where we spend it. To perhaps connect with the earth and our mothers and our grandmothers for nourishing ourselves and our families. It’s hard work, it’s creative work, and to me, it’s fulfilling work. If that’s what precious is, so be it.

I’m looking forward to the precious harvest this year when I’ll preciously be picking fruit, preciously harvesting vegetables, and canning and freezing for next winter. Preciously.


MrBrownThumb said...

Oh SNAP! Someone just got told.

I don't do any preserving but I like reading about it and looking at your pretty pictures about it. I can almost imagine that I'm tasting the preserves when you blog about them.

Anonymous said...

Wow. Nice post Lelo. I would love to read these articles and give the writers a piece of my mind. On second thought, I'm glad you didn't post them here.

I too preserve as much as possible from my garden, and am trying to turn this "precious hobby" into a for-real, money making BUSINESS.

I love that buying 100lbs of apples or sunchokes from local producers (I've done both in the past week) have no impact on the local environment or economy. We don't have a factory, we do all of this by hand, old school.

Ha! Take that!

Anonymous said...

Can you PLEASE talk more about canning without white sugar? I would be interested in canning, but the amount of sugar has scared me away. And when you say Ramona's Pectin do you mean Pomona's Universal Pectin, or is there also a Ramona's? If you could even point me to some books that include recipes for low/no sugar canning, that would be great. Thanks!! sarah

LeLo said...

Sarah-My bad: you are correct, it's Pomona Pectin. I've corrected the name in the post and linked it to their website. Yes, that is what I used this last year in making my peach jam and it's a keeper. It allows you to can without using sugar as the main preserving agent. You can also use agar as a gelling and stabilizing agent for fruit spreads, as well as honey if you're looking to stay away from white sugar. The book I link to in my preserving resources post is The Big Book of Preserving the Harvest, and there are directions for the use of agar and honey there. We do a lot of canning of tomato and chili sauces, and those don't use sugar either. Finally, we freeze a lot of the fruit we pick, and use this throughout the winter for use in smoothies, oatmeal, and baking: blueberries keep really well when frozen in zip lock bags. I hope this helps you some, and thank you for the clarification on the pectin name!

Jacquelyn said...

Wonderful! I love it. Canning and food preserving are definitely soul-enriching experiences for me, and much more than just some precious thing I do to be cute. Well put!

Best Wishes, Marie said...

it is nice when you get in touch with something inside that you really love. the key element is the choice. you are choosing to do this, no one is compelling you to do it.

we are an amazing generation. we have and have had the luxury of exploring .... resulting in picking a choosing.

it is an amazing slice of time that we are so fortunate to be alive.

Tom - 7th Street Cottage said...

Great post. First off, canning isn't just "women's" work. I do it to. I do it because of the flavor, and because I enjoy it. Let them worry about the preciousness of it all. I'm going to be the one eating garlic dill green beans in the dead of winter by the roaring fire.

e said...

Thanks for the tip on the pectin. My mom and I used to make the best plum jam in the world but, looking back, it had a boatload of sugar in it. I'd like to try a sugar free variety this year.

Last summer I froze bags and bags of raspberries, blackberries, marion berries and chunks of peaches. These go into our mimosas and are flavorful, beautiful and like little ice cubes. I love pulling out a bag of frozen goodness and popping a few in our drinks.

Precious? Whatever. I call it smart.

Best Wishes, Marie said...

you go tom !!

Chris at Lost Arts Kitchen said...

Hmmm...this wasn't prompted by that annoying article in a certain east coast newspaper about "femivores," was it? I have been annoyed with that one and it's comments about chicks with chicks and the preciousness of caring enough about food to work at it a bit. Ugh.

One thing to note about canning without sugar--your preserves will brown over time. My strawberries jam turned a sad shade of brown after a few months, even though I keep them in a dark pantry. I don't know if honey would help retain color or not. Would be interesting experiment to find out.

I bought a bulk bag of Pomona and would be happy to share if you're interested!

Anonymous said...

LeLo, I was going to text you recently to say I had just opened a jar of your yummy apricot jam. So dee-licious -- thanks again so much. And keep on jammin'!

(P.S. I've got some eggs for you. My chickens are totally into producing real food, locally, but I hope they and their eggs can still qualify as precious. Hmm..the name of my next chicken?)


rodger said...

We precious boys here who love canning as you do often take a moment when canning to praise our mothers and grandmothers. Not only did they preserve food, they also cooked, cleaned, raised the children and did the laundry. A couple generations back they did it all without running water.

Heh...not one of us would be who we are without them and canning gives us the opportunity to praise them for, not only life, but it's bounty.

Malissa said...

Well put! Thanks, very inspiring. :)