It was only a few decades ago that summertime didn’t mean leisurely days by the lake. For many families, summer meant work -- a time to harvest and process fruit and vegetables for the winter to come. Commercially canned products were simply too expensive.
Judging by the crowd at our program on Aug. 19, there’s a renewed interest in food preserving. The enthusiasm could be due to the economic downtown, an increased concern for food safety or a desire to eat more locally grown foods.
At our program on Aug. 19, we heard about the basics of canning and freezing from Diana Fair of the St. Joseph County Extension office. Diana brought in a cart laden with canning tools, from funnels to pressure canners, and told us how to use them. One important thing I learned is that with water bath canning, acidity is your friend. Acidity prevents the formation of harmful bacteria. That's why it's critical to add a bit of lemon juice to each jar of tomatoes.
We also learned about Kalamazoo’s Community Kitchen project from Lucy Bland of Fair Food Matters. Right now there’s a mobile, licensed kitchen out at the Kalamazoo County Fairgrounds that can be rented to prepare foods for sale at festivals or other public events. It also can be used as an incubator for food-based businesses. Perhaps someone has a delicious idea for preserving zucchini?
Indeed, opening a jar of home-canned tomatoes in the middle of a January freeze is a special kind of pleasure. For recipe ideas and canning guidelines, check out KPL’s books on canning and preserving, most of which can be found under Dewey 641.4.