Sunday, December 6, 2009
It's been over 8 years since Mason and I last canned anything. In 2001, we found that the fence of our college rent house in Norman was covered in the tiniest wild grapes. They were unbelievably sour, so we harvested a huge basket of them and toted them all the way out to my grandmother's house. She was a canning expert with a storm cellar lined by jars of delicious garden produce. Honestly, we didn't do much other than get in the way, but we came home with a dozen or so quilted jars full of wild grape jelly to give out as gifts that Christmas.
I've been thinking more and more about canning over the past few years. As I've visited the farmer's market, read books like Animal, Vegetable, Miracle and blogs like Little Homestead in the City, and joined the Flickr groups homesteading and A Slow Year, my interest has grown to an almost unhealthy obsession. Whenever a favorite fruit or vegetable is perfectly ripe and delicious, Mason and I will talk at length about all of the ways we could be canning it to prolong the season. But, despite good intentions, it has always been just talk. Last year, Mason's awesome mom and nanny gave me a water bath canning kit for my birthday. We were so excited! I checked out several canning books from the library and we made lists of all of the things that we wanted to preserve...and that's about as far as we got. Perpetual procrastination and outright laziness got the best of us again and the canner was never even unboxed.
After our move, I was determined to use all of this newfound kitchen (and garden) space to get serious about canning. Mason was preparing his apple program at work, and we decided that canning applesauce would be the perfect project to get us back into canning. And we tried, we really did. I searched for hours online, sending him the phone numbers of local orchards, most of which were defunct. We managed to find one local apple source, but they weren't selling by the bushel. By the time we had decided to break down and buy the most local apples at the grocery store, the season was pretty much over and all of the good apples were gone.
Neither of us could stand to go another year with nothing canned, so we decided that our best option would be to buy American grown citrus from an independent grocery and use it as "canning practice" to prepare us for when we are (hopefully!) drowning in home grown produce next season. So, marmalade it is. And we'd forgotten--or maybe never known--how fun canning can be. We spent last night listening to Christmas music while we zested, peeled, sliced, cooked and canned oranges. I wanted to take photos of the process, but we'll need to get some better kitchen lighting first. This is the excellent step by step tutorial we used. It was such a good time that we've decided to make it a Christmas tradition to can as much citrus as possible each December. Texas grown Rio Star grapefruits, my absolute favorites, are next on the list. After a bit of cleaning, I'm going to spend the day collecting recipes for marmalades, chutneys and whatever else I can find. Suggestions are welcome!
Oh, and I forgot to mention, our cost came out to $1.58 per jar. I'm going to try to keep track of our expenditures here so that we can figure out how much we've saved by canning over the year.
Posted by megan/mason at 7:01 AM