Summers were always the best time of year for me when I was growing up, except for Saturdays, when my mother would raise the dead with her “Wake-up” voice and we would all have to go out to the garden in the early morning, before the dew was off the grass, and pull weeds. We would all work for a few hours and then she would let us off the chain gang for some summer family fun.
What I hated worse then the early morning wakeup calls on summer Saturdays, were the Fall after-school and weekends when canning took over our lives. The house would fill with the smells of Jams or Jellies, Pickles, Pears, Peaches, Grape Juice, Tomatoes, Apple Sauce, Apple Pie Filling, Green Beans and Corn.
For weeks, when I got home from school and could smell the humidity in the air from the canner or the pressure cooker, I would try desperately to sneak out the back door and enjoy some freedom with the horses, but my mother always seemed to find me, like a heat-seeking missal launched out of spite, and I would be escorted back into the canning kitchen to help with our winter food storage.
I will have to say, that when winter came, our table was always set with the best of preserved food. I have never tasted food like that from a grocery store shelf, natural and with a taste I just can't describe. After all these years, and all my complaining, I am grateful that my mother “forced” me to learn the secrets of gardening, canning and cooking. Pickling and curing are ancient forms of preserving foods with Mesopotamians pickling vegetables 4,500 years ago.
The modern canning process was pioneered by a Frenchman named Nicholas Appert at the turn of the 19th century to win an award being offered by the French Navy. Appert began experimenting with preserving meats and vegetables by heating and sealing them in bottles.
Every year, I plant a garden, full of vegetables, and I water and mulch my trees in hopes that the end of the summer will be filled with long days of smelling a humid house filled with Jams and Jellies, Green Beans and Corn, Tomatoes and Onions, Salsa and Apple Butter, Apple Sauce, Apple Pie Filling and other treasures from my garden. My husband may bring home meat from a hunt or the butcher, and the house will smell of Special Jerkies that will last through the kids Snowboard trips, sledding and my husbands long nights in his wood-shop making my Christmas present, or a present for one of the kids. If it's not preserves or jerky, the house smells of herbs drying for cooking those fabulous winter meals you invite your best friends over for. My house often smells of Peppermint Tea, picked young and fresh from my herb garden, dried and sealed for my girls Tea Parties at 4:00 with their best friends after a cold winter school day. My husband and son like the special teas made from my herb garden too!
In a society where everything is made from a box, or a store or a restaurant, the homemade or gourmet touch is pretty unique.
It use to be that the “Gourmet” label belonged exclusively to the European market. Americans have always presumed that European-made specialty items where put together much better then ours and in 1982, the American Specialty Foods market was much smaller than it is today.
Today hundreds of small American companies have flooded the market with gourmet fruit and vegetable products. The National Association for the Specialty Food Trade's two annual Fancy Food Shows are packed every year with exhibitors from all 50 states. Handwritten labels, country brochures and quaint catalogs are everywhere.
For those who crave the comfort of homemade taste, but can't imagine growing a garden, sterilizing their own jars, or dealing with all the steam and the huge pots, there is a special appeal in the phrases “slow-cooked, " “old-fashioned" and “locally grown. "
I recommend growing your own garden, either in your back-yard or in containers on your terrace. No Insecticides, No Pesticides, No Herbicides to hurt the environment, the produce just tastes better. Even in preserving your own food, the nutritional benefits are outstanding compared to the grocery store.
If you would like to try your hand at canning your own food, I recommend the following information:
USDA Complete Guide to Home Canning
D. S. Epperson is the top formulator for Home Blend Gourmet / South Pacific Health, a leader in the functional food industry in the U. S. . With 20 years of experience in Nutritional Biochemistry, she has written reference books on botanicals and manufacturing of medicines from botanicals, and published articles on health, fitness and foods. She has formulated over 240 formulas and inventions for health, the environment and agricultural uses, and continues to research and study microbial advantages in nutraceuticals and functional foods. For more information or to view the articles that she has written: http://www.sugarblend.com