Sunday, July 27, 2008

A Lost Art

I can see why home canning is out of favor in today's world. The process is fairly complicated, you need to be hyper-clean and the best time to can is the worst time of the year. Who wants to spend a July afternoon in a hot kitchen filled with several large pots of heavily boiling water? And most importantly, why bother? You can buy perfectly adequate pickles, jams and canned fruits at your local grocery store for cheaper and easier.

But even against those odds, the siren call of little baskets of bright green cucumbers called out to me at the farmer's market this weekend. I remembered snorting from getting a face full of tangy boiling vinegar and fingertips tingling from boiling hot lids and water. I remembered a kitchen so hot with billowing steam that I canned in a bikini top and shorts. I remembered being able to serve my own pickles as relish with every meal and knowing exactly what was in them. I bought the cucumbers.

And yesterday I turned out six lovely pints of deep yellow-green bread and butter pickles. Air conditioning and a strong husband helped with the heat and the lifting. It's enough to get me barely exited for winter with hearty bowls of soup and sourdough, soft cheese and pickles. (Yes, Chris and I understand and accept fully that we are hobbits).

There is no doubt that canning is as laborious and useless a kitchen task as there currently is. But seriously, there are fewer culinary tasks more satisfying than seeing rows of your own (tastier) pickles lined up in the pantry. And of course, the knowledge that the carbon footprint on these pickles is much smaller than the ones at the store is a pretty nice side benefit too.

Hooray for canning!

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