Can-Can

I’ve been wanting to start canning for several years, but this August was when I finally took the plunge. My recent interest in canning began in 2009, when my friend Julie and I bought a Community-Supported Agriculture (CSA) share at a local farm. Suddenly I was getting all sorts of exciting, fresh fruits and vegetables, and sometimes at a rate faster than I could use them. It was a different experience than shopping at the Arlington Courthouse farmer’s market, where it was easier to make sure to only buy what I would absolutely be using over the next few years.

I was familiar with the idea of canning well before then, mind you. My mother has made and then canned her homemade preserves every year for as long as I can remember, and it’s always a joy to open up a jar and dive into those delicious tastes of summer no matter what it’s like outside. My grandfather on her side of the family was also into canning, using the jars to hold his applesauce, tomato sauce, and green beans.

Butternut Squash ChutneyWhen Charlie and I moved to Takoma, some sort of switch finally flipped in the back of my head, and I took the plunge: I bought a pressure cooker that could be used for canning, as well as some supplies, and checked books out of the library on how to can.

Since then I’ve made quite a few batches of tomato sauce (each batch tasting slightly different than the one before), hot pickles, pickled okra, and most recently—my favorite—butternut squash chutney, which with its cinnamon and cardamom and cumin flavors just screams autumn to me.

I can see why people do it. Not just because of being able to preserve an excess of produce, but because of getting the pride and joy in grabbing a taste and smell of a specific seasonal food and getting to halt it until later, and inevitably share it with someone else. There’s a great article on NPR right now about a woman who decided to make and can blackberry jam for everyone at her upcoming wedding. Reading the article, not only did I understand her happiness in doing so, but it brought back my own memories of picking blackberries for my mom in exchange for both blackberry preserves and pie.

I’m already plotting out my next canning ideas, as well as planning on making some more butternut squash chutney (it’s amazing as a condiment on sandwiches!) quite soon. And if I run out of room in the pantry? Well, half the fun is giving the finished jars to other people. I don’t think that’ll be a problem either.

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