Tuesday January 18th 2011, 6:25 pm

yogurt for dessert with pear butter and squashed Blaisdon plums

2010 was the year I learnt about canning, or bottling, or hot water processing stuff in jars, whatever you want to call it. Following the year through ingredients, working with the seasons and the produce that was close to hand, has given me a real feeling of connection to the food that I eat and has changed my life and my approach to preserving. Not only that, I’ve got a cupboard full of food in jars, a sort of mini pantry, as my house is too small to include a special room or larder. Granted, most people don’t have shelves of bottled comestibles in their sitting room or lined up on the sideboard! See my friend Tigress’s recent post about her pantry ( the Domestic Goddess is sooo last century, now chatelaine in the buzz word!) and Dana and Joel’s great wall of preserves, in their city apartment. So you see it isn’t necessarily about having a special room in your house or living in the country.

*From now on I am going to refer to the bottling and preservation of ingredients using a hot water bath process as ‘canning’. You’ve been told. I know that in the UK this causes some confusion as the assumption is that this infers putting food in tin cans, but I am talking about preserving food in glass jars. OK have we got that straight now?

The biggest surprise for me has been how amazing the flavours of canned food can be. I grew up thinking that only fresh was best and that bottled, tinned and stored foods were second rate and down market. What I have learnt during my first canning year has totally blown that notion out of the water.
Now the year has swung full circle and there is a feeling of beginning again, its time to take store and note the successes – the rhubarb ketchup, black grape chilli jam and lemon fig & lavender marmalade I want to always keep a stock of. But more importantly I want to plan my goals for the year ahead. Plant blueberry bushes on the allotment to produce enough fruit to preserve, thus bypassing those ridiculously expensive and tweeny-weeny cartons you get in the supermarket, and too plant an asparagus bed so that a few years hence I will be able to harvest my own crop.
It is about pacing things, their needs to be a correlation between the amount of food stored and the rate it is consumed. There will always be some experimentation going on, but as well as enjoying the satisfaction of a well stocked cupboard I love the moment the spoon scrapes the bottom of the jar, each empty jar offering the opportunity to be filled anew. In the year ahead I will be using my preserved foods as ingredients for baking and to include as part of other delicious meals.

It's easy to make yogurt at home

As well as jams and chutneys, I’ve got cordials, compotes and fruit purees and pickles stacked on my shelves. Today for lunch I popped open a jar of salted caramel pear butter and another of squashed Blaisdon plums. A dollop of each plus some homemade yogurt (and a tiny sprinkling of hazelnut praline on the top just to be flash) made a really delicious snack. The important thing about these preserves is that they aren’t laden with sugar in the same way that jam usually is. This is why canning makes such sense.
Sorry! This post was supposed to be about making homemade yogurt, but it has changed into something else. I’ll do the yogurt thing later as it seems a strange diversion to go there now and I’ve got other things I need to get on with. Anyone picking this up by Googling will be well annoyed.

Well done with all that preserving – I made marmalade this weekend and intend to try and be more careful about what I eat this year growing more and preserving more – doubt I will be as prolific a cook as you seem to be but it will all help! Look forward to your yoghurt recipe – haven’t done that for years and might give it a go.


Comment by Jane 01.18.11 @ 7:11 pm

Isn’t it funny that not only is there satisfaction in putting up during the growing season but also satisfaction in pulling the empty cases back out to hold the jars you’ve emptied by eating for storage until the round of preserving begins again! In between is the guilt free pleasure of consuming the contents. Or nearly guilt free. I’m always surprised and a little abashed when all of a sudden that pint of peaches in tea syrup is empty in one sitting!

Comment by Rebecca 01.18.11 @ 7:34 pm

I, too, celebrate the victory dance of the Empty Jar. I don’t know quite why that is, but it feels as much of a celebration as filling it in the first place. Maybe because filling the jar is all about promise, like writing a long list of things that you want to do someday. Emptying the jar is fulfilling the promise: crossing something off that list. I do dearly love to cross things off a list. 🙂

Comment by kaela 01.18.11 @ 10:09 pm

Thnks for the link to our wall of preserves 🙂

I am so disappointed that domestic godess is on it’s way out…I was just adjusting to the term myself and not sure my masculinity can handle chatelaine – especially because it is the title of a major woman’s magazine in Canada…

Then again I was also a jazz dancer and figure skater so I’m sure I’ll adjust 🙂 Chatelaine it is…



Comment by Joel 01.19.11 @ 3:07 am

Love the word chatelaine!

Just wondered whether you’ve got, or have thought about getting, a pressure canner? I haven’t seen one here, but they’re used widely in America for canning vegetables, sauces etc., and the whole thing fascinates me.

Very intrigued by rhubarb ketchup!

Comment by Catherine 02.08.11 @ 8:43 am

Hi Catherine
I don’t yet own a pressure canner but plan too in the near future. Being vegetarian, a pressure canner is less useful to me, however there are lots of vegetables to preserve that need to be pressure canned. These canners are hard to find here and aren’t simply a pressure cooker. You can buy one on ebay that is imported from the US and some of those 2nd hand on ebay from the States, shipping costs as much or more than the canner but overall it will still be cheaper than a new one. I’d make sure it was a brand that still has spares available for new seals etc.
See my friends the Turnbulls who can lots of soup. A pantry stocked with jars of soup appeals to me greatly. Haven’t yet been able to justify the cost of the canner to do this…but it is only a matter of time.

Comment by laundryetc 02.08.11 @ 10:02 am

Have been reading through your blog (only discovered it recently) and thought “Oh! someone else with the same yogurt maker as me!”. Mine is about 25 years old and still going strong. I wish they still made them as there don’t seem to be any quite like these on the market.

Good blog by the way!

Comment by Lizzie 10.09.13 @ 6:51 pm