the fact that we’d have no kitchen this summer led us to forego planting the garden as well—it was a good choice considering how busy we are and how much added work there is when undergoing a major home renovation. we are very relieved not to be worrying about watering and weeding or where the heck we are going to wash whole baskets of produce.
we still however, crave the sparkling flavors of fresh summer veggies and have been lucky to rely on the kindness of friends and neighbors who are sharing the overflow from their gardens. in particular, our dear friend beckie not only lends her kitchen weekly for me to prepare foods for freezing, but never sends me home without a basket of greens, tomatoes, cucumbers, or even eggs for our table.
throughout the season, we’ve been getting together at her house to bag up berries, peaches, tomatoes—all those fruits that are too sticky to deal with when one doesn’t have a sink big enough to wash them.
in a corner of the porch we are using for our main living space right now, i eked out a little square to lay down a cotton rug for ripening peaches under newspaper. most of these will be for the table, but if they all ripen at once, i may end up freezing some.
yes, it’s that time of summer when the harvest is an unstoppable tide and it’s all we can do to keep up with it. that said, it’s important to make sure you know what you’re doing; preserving food has wonderful benefits but only if you use best practices. as an ever-evolving science, the rules of food preservation change and so should our knowledge about the topic, if for no other reason than that food itself is constantly evolving too.
it never hurts to know more about preserving food safely and efficiently, while retaining the best flavor and texture possible. everyone can use a little help in this regard and a good book on the subject can be a valuable friend.
enter a new release from the culinary institute of america, preserving: putting up the season’s bounty
i’m sure there are many more comprehensive volumes out there on canning and preserving—big thick books that cover every eventuality. but this book has something those books don’t—it’s small size, weight, and attractive layout make it so easy to digest that i’m actually reading and using it.
why, i can pop this baby in my tote bag and take it along to beckie’s house to read to her if i want—i like that.
inside, it’s filled with all sorts of useful information that we want to know. but what i like is that it gets you thinking about the endgame before you even start gardening or buying produce.
very smart advice since the end result is only as good as the quality of the produce you have to work with.
the preparatory chapters also discuss the concept of the pantry, how much you really need to put by, and how to store preserved goods properly. all good advice for laying a good foundation.
because let’s face it—putting up food is a labor intensive job, often hot and messy and somewhat pricey; maybe even more costly than average store-bought brands. the big payoff is a healthier, better tasting product of known origin; important enough for many of us to pursue despite the cost. the least we can do to pay ourselves back by treating the final results like the treasured goods they are.
the middle chapters of the book focus on various preservation methods, each having its own pages in the spotlight. for each, the authors discuss tools and terminology, introducing basic methodology and defining the terms you need to know.
this is where, as a beginner or someone who has limited space to work, you can choose the tools and strategies that will work best for you. for instance, one of the reasons i have yet to pursue canning, is that for so many years i lived in city apartments with no space to store big pots and boxes of jars that i would use but one month per year—or to store rows of finished canned goods either. i took to freezing because it was quick and easy after a long day of work and ziploc bags took up much less space when not in use.
however, freezing is not the best method for every food and it does require quite a bit of freezer space. i know i should explore canning for certain types of food and one of these summers, i will. i’ll probably get beckie to walk me through canning at some point; just not right now.
still, i love to read about it and doing so may spur me to try it on some level, sooner rather than later.
of course there is a chapter on pickling, along with drying, smoking, and freezing.
you’ll probably find it amusing that even though we don’t cook meat here, i still think it would be awesome to make my own bacon if i did include that in my diet.
i mean, it’s GOTTA be a far cry from what you’d buy in the cooler at the supermarket, right?
even as we work away at freezing fruits and vegetables, beckie and i come up with questions we need answered. it’s always nice to read more about a method i use all the time—why not? one thing i do know is that i don’t know everything about anything.
safe food storage is a topic that totally deserves to be revisited on a regular basis—scientists are finding out new information all the time and updating old, long-held beliefs about the “right way” to handle food.
finally, the book ends with a chapter on homemade pantry staples such as ketchup and other condiments, with advice on filling up that pantry you prepared at the start of the season. it’s nice that they circled back to the beginning i think; it makes me feel that it’s in keeping with the growing cycle of the garden.
here the authors discuss how to clean and assess your jars and equipment as you empty and put them away during the winter—when to get rid of pieces that won’t be useful in the future, how to keep an eye on the shelf life of preserved goods, and how to keep the pantry clean and free of pests. a lot of information for such a small volume.
doesn’t that sound like a terrific little book? wouldn’t you like to own one? well as luck would have it, our friend nathalie who is the director of publications at CIA (and an awesome knitter), has very generously offered us two giveaway copies of preserving!
here’s how it’s going to work: we’re going to give away one copy here on the blog and one copy on our knitspot facebook page. erica will mastermind how the FB giveaway will work and announce it there. the cool thing is that you can throw your name in the hat in both places for two chances to win (though we will award only ONE book per winner).
to be included in the blog giveaway, leave a comment at the end of this post by 9 pm ESDT on sunday august 24th, telling us what favorite summer food you are preserving (or wish you could). we’ll pick a winner and announce it early next week.
a big thank you to nathalie for giving us an advance peek inside the preserving book and providing giveaway copies for a late summer treat.