Thursday, March 15, 2012

Kinda Canning

My friend Olivia is from the Amish country of Pennsylvania. She now lives in Baltimore or Balt as we say but her parents still live in her childhood home and across the street is a horse and buggy family. Although Olivia was not raised Amish, they enjoy a lot of the old world charms and simplicities of their neighbors. I have gone out there to visit with her and her family twice now. I love the area because it is like a time warp and reminds me of how simple life can be. One thing that fascinated me about her family is their craftiness: from furniture to homemade clothing and the food they eat. Below is my beautiful friend in the wedding dress her talented mother made!

In PA, I was introduced to the great concept of canning. Some of the family favorites were beets and pickles but meats, fruits and vegetables can all be canned. Luckily most recipes for fruits and vegetables are vegan, which allowed me to chow down and give lots of compliments to Olivia's mother! In their basement, I saw shelves of mason jars filled with colorful cans waiting to be taken upstairs. It is such a simple way to make and preserve food and there are zillions of recipes so I came home telling myself I would give it a try. The last time I was out there was this past October and I'm just now experimenting so it's taken me a while but here I am.

Since the beginning of the year, I started keeping some glass jars from items I'd bought while grocery shopping. Trader Joe's makes marinated Greek style white beans (and they are SO good). The jars are also a great size for food storage and decided to reuse them since I can't buy plastic containers. I decided to use these jars since I don't have any masons but the latter is really recommended. To get the wrapping off, I submerged the jars in water for 15 minutes. Paper labels come off really easily if you use your thumb to push it off. Plastic labels or hard glue may be more difficult to remove but the scrubbing side of a sponge or razor blade should remove it.

After finding several recipes for canning, I realized that most contain a lot of sugar. I try to stay away from sweeteners but it's part of the process. If you don't want to try canning because of the sugar, you can try pickling. The processes are very different and both should be researched before you get started. If not prepped, sealed or stored correctly you can get sick. Visit the National Center for Home Food Preservation to learn more before you start either: Canning & Pickling My first attempt was really pickling, not canning because I decided to work with cucumbers. I'm not going to give you my recipe because I did not do my research before getting started so I don't know if I'll be sick tomorrow....! I looked up several recipes online and found some that I thought I'd enjoy but in the end created my own. There are only a few ingredients:

Thinly sliced cucumbers
Chopped white onion
Rice vinegar

Once in the jars, I let it sit for 4 days in my pantry. The result was somewhere between a really strong Japanese cucumber salad and pickles. I think it came out just as I expected. The process is much simpler than caning because the food does not have to be cooked on a stovetop first. I've decided pickling is like the lazy version of canning! Pickled or canned items could be enjoyed with any meal, added to salads, burgers, and sandwiches, taken camping or passed around a large family dinner. Plus, the ingredients are minimal so there are recipes suitable for vegetarians, vegans, gluten-frees as well as meat eaters. Once I try more recipes, I will give another update. If you find a great recipe, please send it my way!

Since I filled two separate jars, I added crushed red peppers to one!

I just tried some with dinner and they were great!


  1. Sounds yummy. I'll be your guinea pig & risk getting sick with you :)

  2. Yay for canning! You can come visit anytime and we can can all sorts of items!

  3. Try pickled beets lil' pickle. :)

    1. Yum! I'll let you know how the are when I do. :)

    2. Ummm I didn't even know you guys had a blog!! :D