We’re off to a fine start to spring – 12 recipes crossing 7 local ingredients; some foraged, some purchased and all planned (the lamb is complete). A co-worker and fellow preserver smiled at me as we crossed paths today and happily declared the “start of another jamming season.”
It’s a special time of year. Foraging (something I wish I had far more skill with and am determined to learn more about) will start us out of the gate before the greens of spring and then summer led way to an explosion of crayola colors that will only fade to the cautionary colors of the fall. If a year passed in the blink of an eye I’m sure that the Norther Hemisphere would look like a most amazing firework exploding before dissolving into the darkness of winter (though we preserve then as well).
I can’t emphasize the following enough:
- Learning the fundamentals of preserving amazing food takes no longer than a few hours. Use trusted sources – The National Center for Home Food Preservation has a website that, to me, sets the bar.
- If you doubt the above, rest assured that I had passively participated in family food traditions through most of my life (other than when I was a teenager when I participated under duress and protest). Preserving became a hobby in the last 5 years, an obsession in the last 3. Dana and I moved to our apartment 5 years ago – if you had told us that we’d have a shelf with 400+ jars (and more stored elsewhere for a total of around 700 at peak season), we’d have laughed. If you told me we’d redecorate to accommodate them, I would have laughed harder.
- Preserving cheats time. I can pair the heat of a dehydrated local pepper with the freshness of spring fiddleheads and cheat the seasons by mixing a fresh ingredient with a preserved one. Jars are time machines for the kitchen.
All of that said, there’s a bigger picture; at least for us. We’re preserving far more than food. Each jar is a memory; the day we made it or the person who grew it or traded a jar with us or of other jars we ate from the set.
I’m going to make a difficult comparison for many people to accept in the following two paragraphs.
I hunt sustainable food. It’s something I’ve struggled with for most of my life (an introduction to that is here and if you search for ‘Moose Hunt’ you’ll find a non-graphic account of our 9 days moose hunting this year). The first time I ate an animal which I saw culled changed my relationship with food forever. I used to throw out uneaten chicken with barely a thought. I’m not trying to convert you – just suggesting that the reality of what is on the plate becomes a different kind of ‘real’ – at least for me.
Preserving does the same. We haven’t mastered zero waste in our house yet but we’re very conscious when we forget a carrot in the crisper or when a bread fails. I haven’t mastered my occasional binge on fast food or on pop. But my relationship with what I eat has – and continues – to change rapidly.
Preserving to me, is about making a conscious choice, as to what I consume. A simple dinner of rice and peas is intimately connected to 14 other dinners this year – all with the same batch of preserved peas from a farm just north of Markham made on a Sunday night after a great drive in the country and a wonderful visit with my parents.
We hope you’ve enjoyed some of the articles in this series and are inspired to try something from them – or something different altogether. We’d love to hear from you and we really will get a swap event together later in the year – too many great tastes to simply hoard!
We would love to have any suggestions, requests, ideas or thoughts on what to feature in the summer article that we will be publishing in Edible Toronto. Like this series, we plan to stay a bit off the beaten path of expected techniques or ingredients or at least offer some twists to them…
In the mean time, we’d love if you pulled up a chair and stuck around. We’ll continue writing 7-days-a-week and share some of our spring successes and struggles as we go through them. This year I’m going to remember to eat as much as I put in cans (something I did poorly last year :)).