As we are planning our garden for the 2021 growing year, we are also determining how we will process some of our foods. Up until we started growing a large garden, we hadn’t spent any time canning food. Our little garden in our rental gave us enough food to enjoy while it grew, but wasn’t worth canning. After we bought our house and started our adventure in landscaping the quarter acre property, we have been steadily increasing our growing area. This has required us to find ways to preserve much of the delicious food that we grow. We do give some away to family, and some of it is frozen, however a good portion of it is canned for winter use.
It is interesting talking with others in our generation and finding out who utilizes canning and who do not. It definitely goes hand in hand with those that have large gardens, as it can be too expensive to can items if you are buying the produce from the store and then canning it. Farmers markets, however, do make great opportunities for those without gardens to purchase larger quantities of specific items for canning. I also feel that those that do a lot of canning grew up in families that also did canning. Although my parents didn’t do a lot, we did have fruit trees for a while, so my mom canned the peaches for the winter. Canned peaches and pears are still one of my favourite winter treat. Poured over ice cream or cereal, or just eaten right out of the jar. I also had friends and other family members that did some canning, so I was used to it and the delicious food that you can preserve with the canning method.
It seems that as more and more people are choosing to grow their own food, there is a resurgence of people who are canning their food. The amount of people I know who are now canning food is definitely increasing, and I don’t think that is just because we are all getting older. I do believe that people are wanting to know more about where their food comes from and how it is processed. I am still quite happy to pickup canned goods from the grocery store, but if I can grow my own tomatoes and have enough for all my sauces and soups all winter, why not enjoy the fruits of my labour? (pun intended). When I run out, I am quite content to purchase canned tomatoes from the store as needed.
There is usually one or more items that is new to me each year. Whether it is a new vegetable that I am learning to can, or a new recipe, it is a constant evolution of recipes and items in our pantry. There are a few key staples that we have every year which is tomatoes, pickles and jams. In the 2020 season, we canned a plethora of jams/jellies, 2 types of pickles, spicy pickled carrots, pickled golden and candy-cane beets, pickled hot peppers, peaches and pears. Going into this year, I have some additional plans other than just pickling or canning the vegetable.
Kurt and I took a mini-vacation this last weekend out to a lake about an hour and a half from where we live. We explored the little communities around the lake and enjoyed stopping in at little markets, breweries and wineries. The markets were inspiration for some new recipes to try out. Two that stick out are a carrot marmalade, and a beet relish.
We always have an abundance of carrots, and were eating our 2020 carrots up until a week ago. We still have some shredded frozen carrot in the freezer, ready for muffins or loafs. I think a carrot marmalade will be an interesting addition as it can be enjoyed as a spread on toast, or we could potentially use it for savoury dishes. I may play with the recipe and try a few varieties, adding in some herbs to make it a marinade or sauce for on pork or chicken. Based on what I have read, it is a similar flavour profile to apricot jam, which also works well with both sweet and savoury applications.
The beet relish also sounds amazing. I love beets, so it seems like beet relish would be an easy condiment to fall in love with. The earthiness of beets goes so well with so many dishes that I feel that the relish will likely be used for much more than just burgers. I plan on growing both golden and red beets so I will have two different types of beet relish to enjoy with slightly different flavours. I prefer golden beets in a simple pickled mixture on salads, whereas I enjoy red beets pickled with lots of spices for a tangy and aromatic flavour.
Speaking of relish, I have also been looking at chow chow relish for years. We always have an abundance of green tomatoes in the fall and I have made pickled green cherry tomatoes in the past. They were delicious but not my favourite texture. This year we are planting red and green cabbage in our garden, so it may be the right year to try out some traditional Maritime chow chow relish. Some of the cabbage will be made into rotkohl, and perhaps some sauerkraut, but I can certainly save a head for some chow chow relish. I have to do the Maritime version for a couple reasons. We loved the maritimes when we visited in 2019, and being from Canada ourselves, it feels like we need to try out the Canadian version. I may also make a southern style chow chow relish that utilizes leftover items from the garden. A variety of chow chow doesn’t sound like a bad thing!
I am hoping to get some fruit trees into the ground this year as well. I won’t have any fruit this year, but the local farmers market supplies me what I have needed so far for my jams, jellies and canned fruit. We plan on having apples, pears, peaches, apricots and cherries. Last year I experimented a bit with some of my jams, making a cardamom pear jam and a thyme peach jam. Both are decadent and difficult not to just eat by the spoonful. The interesting thing about both is that they can be used not only in desserts but also savoury dishes as well. I hope to continue to diversifying my jams so that we can enjoy them in many different ways.
I expect our pantry will be overflowing this year as our garden will be much larger and provide a lot more variety than in past years. My sister also bought be a de-hydrator for Christmas so I am looking forward to preserving some of our harvest with that as well. There may be a post next winter about the importance of dehydrating food!