|Top shelf: heirloom tomato sauce, apple butter, strawberry jam, and a hint of peaches. Bottom shelf: Pickled beets, dill beans, pickled heirloom red peppers, and good old classic dill pickles.|
Last summer was a busy time growing nearly everything we ate, and canning everything else. At times we felt like we were going overboard, but now, seeing our modest wire shelving unit lined with jars full of fruit and vegetables is an amazing feeling. We had hopes and plans for building an authentic root cellar, but the summer, a new baby, and a change of career made for some priority shuffling.
Some things we simply canned, like the peaches, pears, grapes and strawberries, but other jars have a deeper connection. We not only canned the pickles, but grew the cucumbers, dill and garlic. The tomato sauce isn't just tomato sauce. Each jar tastes of the different varieties inside, and I can almost tell you the square foot of land that any given jar was canned from.
The deep freezer is very important to preserving. At first, the romantic image of a mason jar sitting on a pantry shelf is the ultimate symbol of preservation, but we're capturing food's freshness better by immediately putting more and more into the freezer.
The thought of a freezer sucking electricity to preserve food initially seemed a little unsustainable, but then I thought of all the up-front energy consumed canning. Hours of boiling over gas and propane doesn't seem too sustainable either. Our freezer is very energy efficient and sits in our cool basement, so it's a small concern.
Which brings me to my new favourite way to preserve–fermentation. By making nature take care of the preservation, we can save all that gas and electricity. The three-gallon crock is aging jalapeño mash that has by now fermented. The smell coming out of it is incredible. Strong, yet sweet, I can't wait to give it a try. The hard cider is beginning to age and desperately needs to be racked, or put in a new jug to get it off of the sediment that has settled, as you can see, to the bottom.
The final way we're preserving things is by not preserving at all. Some of our potatoes are modestly hidden at the bottom in cardboard boxes to keep as much light out as possible, while still letting them breath. Beside the potatoes sit the garlic, organized by variety and covered with a loose cardboard lid. I black out the nearby window to make sure the light doesn't hurt anything. The rest of the potatoes and carrots are in a cool barn at the farm.
We've already gone through quite a few jars of tomatoes. Each jar is infused with our own basil, which has an otherworldly flavour when it's picked fresh, minutes before it's canned with the tomatoes. After we use a jar, it's run through the dishwasher and put right back on the shelf, upside down, in the box the jar came in, giving us a nice, clean start to next year's canning.
|Our hickory nuts are stored in a small bag made recycled from a coffee bag we picked up at Detour. It feels good to use old pop bottles for something much more wholesome–our grape juice.|
Trips to the basement are so much better than trips to the supermarket. And to know that it's mostly food that we grew ourselves is even more amazing. Knowledge of the soil, complete confidence in how the food was grown, no BPA lined cans, and control over added sugar and salt are variables we're happy to get rid of.