"Double, double toil and trouble
Fire burn, and caldron bubble"
|Dilly beans, pickles and tomatoes|
Who knew canning, preserving and pickling would become one of the hippest things to do? ( New York Times article on Canning.) For me, it's always been a homey pastime that evokes warm memories of my grandmother and great grandmother slaving in their kitchen over bushels of fruit and vegetables. Paring knives would be flying madly through the air, slicing and dicing amid billows of hot steam rising from huge vats of jangling bottles. The sight was thrilling to behold.
At Christmas, evidence of their alchemy would be on the table before us. Dishes of cranberry, beet, mustard and icicle pickles. Even then, I knew, they were not only food chemists but mysterious culinary artists who had apprenticed at the skilful elbows of ancestors past.
This training was not handed down to me. The Ball Blue Book of Preserving was my guide. But it is all I needed to begin my food preservation adventure. I started with jams, curds and salsas. The pickles and chutney came later... and my world opened up.
There is something fantastic about preserving your own food. You plant it in good soil, tend it with loving care, shield it from poisons, harvest it with your bare hands, then seal it in time at the peak of its flavor and nutrition. The slow food movement may be back in vogue for all the right reasons -- seizing control of wholesome food quality again -- but for me, canning and preserving is more of an exercise in nostalgia, flavor and frugality.