Veggies and fruit are all in canning jars in the basement, all in neat rows, visually enticing the visitor to the pantry to “Eat me!” Since the growing season is now behind us, a good deal of the canning season is behind us also, unless you are canning pears or apples or the like. Canning is hard work, but the dividends are SO worth the effort. Just to be able to reach up and remove a jar of tomato sauce from the shelf, knowing that you are going to make your own pizza or spaghetti and meatballs for supper, is enough to make one’s heart begin to palpitate. But, why go to the trouble of canning your own food? Why not just rely on our modern grocery stores for our fruits and veggies and take advantage of the time-saving food for which we can simply plunk down a reasonable amount of money?
Usually, if someone cans her own food, she also has a garden, which becomes the “pre-“decision to a whirl of activity she decides to be a part of. However, there may be many who go through the process of canning who never garden. One does not depend on the other. Fresh food may be purchased from Farmers Markets in many locales, or one might even arrange with the grocery store to buy in bulk. Also, though, people who can have an innate concern about knowing where the food has come from. There is a certain pride in picking tomatoes in the morning when the dew is still on them, carrying them into the kitchen, and canning them that same day. One cannot eat more “fresh” than that!
In the Organic World of foods, there is an argument that we should buy locally, eat locally. There is a second concern about the number of miles that food travels before it appears on our plates. The next time you are in your grocery store, check the apples you buy. Were they raised in New York State, Washington State or South Africa? Think about the cost per apple to ship in produce from South Africa. I live in New York State and cannot imagine one reason I should ever buy an apple from anywhere but local growers, as New York is one of the largest producers of apples in the world. Regarding cost for the apple, how much gas did it take to get that apple to my plate? In a time when we are becoming highly concerned about “green”, it only makes sense not to subsidize produce that could be purchased locally rather than thousands of miles away.
If you have ever enjoyed the pleasure of taking down a jar of pears that you canned, eating them or cooking a dish with them, then you understand the push to can your own food. This year, my husband and I moved, after living in one spot for 40 years. We are already making plans for a small garden for next summer. All of my canning gear is buried in our basement as a result of our move. Over this winter, it is our plan to unearth it and get it ready for a busy summer next year. In the meantime, all the raspberries and blackberries that were picked this summer are patiently waiting in our freezer and will be gradually removed and made into jams. That should reintroduce me to canning and get my taste buds ready for a more concentrated burst of canning energy next year.
By Joy Healy
*Photo is of Lucille Hastings, one of Joy’s good friends, who canned MUCH produce this summer.