Nine practical solutions for the consumption of home canned food

Nov 27, 2007
Posted by: Small Farm Central

When I go to see my grandma I gain a lot of weight
With her dear hands she gives me plate after plate.
She cans the pickles, sweet & dill
She cans the songs of the whippoorwill
And the morning dew and the evening moon
'N' I really got to go see her pretty soon
'Cause these canned goods I buy at the store
Ain't got the summer in them anymore.

-Greg Brown, Canned Goods

There were hot August and September evenings in the kitchen over a hot stove top ‘preserving the harvest’ from the farmer’s market, CSA, and home garden. The gardens are now frozen and farmer’s markets are closed, so I am starting to look at the cupboard (in my case the cupboard is a collection of boxes pushed to a remote corner of the kitchen) with thoughts of how and when to pop open those time capsules - bundles of joy and summer.


The food in those jars is no longer simple sustenance. There is a story in each jar: the place the food was bought or grown, the family or friends who helped, and the weather on that day. It is a splinter of life intersecting with produce in a deeply personal way that food from the grocery store never can never match.


This home food preservation isn’t logical; it doesn’t fit into any mainstream economic theory. I spent seven hours one evening on seven quarts of canned tomato sauce. This was not hard labor throughout the process, but I was mindful of the canning throughout that long summer evening. At any reasonable rate of return on my labor, they were wasted hours that could have been spent creating value in other pursuits. What happened to that core tenant of capitalism: specialization?


This irrationality is one of the reasons that we are still canning at home and more people try it each year. It is seen as old-fashioned, anachronistic. It doesn’t make sense – it is something that you can’t discuss in mixed company or at the office unless you are willing to brave a long explanations and puzzled stares.


“Let me get this straight: you made your own pickles? Out of cucumbers?”


But as you know it is a testament to experimental cooking, the bounty of summer, and your own resourcefulness. It is anti-economic; not necessarily against modern society, but a way of running parallel. It is quiet, messy, and the opposite of fast food. 


Now theory ends – you’ve put in the time over your boiling-water canner and it is time to collect on debts and eat that home canned food. Here are some suggestions on how to eat it all; just don’t be shy. That food is for eatin’, not just for lookin’.


  1. Alone
    Hoard the hard-earned food for just yourself. Tell your friends and family that they should have accepted the invitation to your canning party if they wanted to get in on the end product.
  2. “Meet the foodies”
    Invite neighbors and coworkers over to an “informal” winter dinner. As they walk in the door hand each guest a menu which lists each dish along with the date the food was preserved, from what farm the produce was purchased, and to really elicit the desired effect attach all recipes so your guests know exactly how long you slaved over the stove for each dish.
  3. With closed eyes
    Eat peach butter straight from the jar with a spoon with closed eyes. Imagine the steps from bud growth in the spring to that moment. Be surprised to see snow falling outside when you open your eyes.
  4. Reverently
    Leave each jar on the counter for a few days before a planned usage. Delight in how the winter sun glints on your little piece of summer, then cook and eat the meal with a touch of sadness.
  5. Gift-it
    Preserved food is a perfect antidote to the January Blues, so give the gift of summer this Christmas.
  6. In your sleep
    Who here can say they haven’t ever woken up with an empty jar of bread and butter pickles laying on the bed next to them?
  7. With friends
    A friend of mine loves the pickled okra I have made the last few years, so I always save a few bottles for his enjoyment.
  8. Feverishly
    If you find applesauce running down your shirt or drinking the pickle juice at the end of the container, you may be suffering from eating style #8.
  9. Over-planned
    In August, plan out your meals for the whole winter down to the last jar of tomato sauce. Pick a weeknight as the night of preservation and choose a recipe from the list for each week December to March.

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  • If I had a diet plan, it would be: 1) cook for yourself 2) eat whatever you want at mealtimes, but cut the snacks 3) cut the desserts&sugars
    2 years 18 weeks ago
  • @AmyinOregon oh, neat. Glad you like them.. more coming soon!
    2 years 19 weeks ago