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  • Melissa Porteous

Tis the season to preserve

What a busy season we are in now. And yes, I do that say that about every season, maybe I should just realize that life is busy all the time. But it's a great time to enjoy the fruits of our labor all summer, tending to the gardens, and preserve what we have harvested. I have been canning and preserving for quite a few years and I do a bit more every year, or maybe something new every year. I've learnt from the best kind of teacher, my mother. Now don't get me wrong, we do consult the internet quite a bit and pick out things from different recipes that we want to incorporate into recipes we've used for years. But when it comes to the "I'll show you a little trick" that comes straight from my mom.

Now my mother has been canning for many many years and learnt from her mother in a time when "The Internet" didn't exist. That is some awesome generational knowledge being passed down and I'm glad and proud to be continuing the chain. Although with 3 boys, I'm a bit concerned it might end with me. And also with the way that society is, it's no longer the norm to preserve your own foods. Although no one can deny there has been a noticeable shift in society and self sufficiency which is exciting to see.

So let's start off with the basic and staple thing my mom does, and that is canning diced tomatoes. She can whip up a batch of those in no time and it's easy to do when you only have a few ripe tomatoes. A lot of other recipes - salsa, pizza sauce, tomato soup, pasta sauce - they require a mass quantity of ripe tomatoes to do one batch. So, when there isn't too many ready, but you need to do something with the tomatoes, good old diced tomatoes is the go-to. Also something my oldest sister has done, but I have never done it, is freezing tomatoes. She froze them whole, and then used them in cooking and sauces once thawed. And when I say my sister, I mean it was her husbands trial and error, and I think he was happy with the results. However, you'd have to have ample freezer space for boxes and boxes of tomatoes and more time later on to cook the sauces when you need them. I'm more of a get the work done now and not the day you want to make spaghetti for supper but have to remember to thaw the tomatoes then cook a sauce - that sounds like way to much prep work then I have time for. But of course, to each their own.

Generally my mom and my sisters and I do some of the canning together and split the jars afterwards. It definitely helps things go faster, it's great visiting time and we are all learning valuable skills that will help us on our self sustaining journey.

Here are just a few of them

I've mentioned some recipes using tomatoes but we also preserve many other veggies. Every year we do canned beans and carrots, some separate and some mixed for stews and soups in the winter. I'll break down in a list for you, although I'm sure I'll forget something.

- hot dog relish (not sure what makes it "hot dog" but that's what we call it)

- beans

- carrots

- tomatoes

- salsa

- pizza sauce

- pasta sauce

- tomato soup

- tomato juice

On top of the above list, I also make some hot sauces using jalapenos and also habaneros. This is at the request of my husband. I'm not really a hot sauce eating kind of person but he puts it on almost every meal. I also made jalapeno jelly for him, and that I can actually eat as well, and it's pretty delicious on top of crackers and cheese. This year for the first time I tried fermenting peppers to make a fermented pepper hot sauce. They are currently still on my countertop so I can't comment on how it turns out. I will update this post once I've finished the sauce.

Now for things I freeze, well I generally make apple pies and freeze them, however this year I just couldn't find the time. So I just make the apples in sauce and froze them that way. I'm lucky that my middle sister has a great apple tree which gives more then enough apples for our families to share. We've made apple sauce and apple juice and all sorts of apple desserts. My mom and dad have a great strawberry patch, so luckily I am able to freeze strawberries to enjoy all winter long. I also freeze peas and corn. The corn is one thing I but from a local veggie farmer. They have the absolute best tasting corn and for the amount I get in a box, it's hard to say no to that. And honestly, I don't have the room in my garden for corn so for the time being, this is the way I will do it.

This year for the first time, I made multiple batches of butternut squash soup and froze it. I'm not a huge fan of the soup myself, but my parents grew so many squash that I had to utilize them. My husband and kids like the soup and I will also eat it sparingly. We are very lucky that my parents have a massive garden, massive to me that is. Luckily for me they have tons of space to grow these plants that require room to spread.

I ask myself a lot of questions while I am doing all this preserving. First of all, I often think, how much money is this really saving me? I mean it doesn't cost much to buy a jar of pasta sauce or relish. I know, I know, the health benefits are better then buying a mass produce item. But just looking at the cost of it. I often wonder how much it is actually saving me. I'm sure it must be more cost efficient to do all that canning, but often we do have to buy an item or two for our recipes. Next, I ask myself how many vitamins and nutrients are still in these foods once they get processed (in the water bath). I haven't had too much time to read into which method is better, canning or freezing, but what I have seen is conflicting. And to be honest, I'm not the best at researching stuff and knowing what information comes from a credible source. Hence the joy in learning directly from my mom instead of the internet. The questions about the nutrients in the food is more pressing to me because this is one of the major reasons I partake in preserving foods. I know where most of the food used in the recipes comes from, my garden or my parents garden. It is clean food that has not been sprayed with any kind of chemical, therefore I am happy in giving this food to my family. But the whole point is to try and still be able to offer healthy nutritious foods during the winter and spring when fresh fruits and vegetables are not available.

Regardless of the answers to my above questions I know that by putting in the time and energy to preserve these foods, I am able to serve the best, healthiest foods available to me at the time. There is something so satisfying about learning a life skill, being able to become more self sufficient and connecting with this one great Earth.

Till next time - thanks for reading!

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