Wednesday, May 2, 2012


It's time for canning! This is one of my favorite parts of spring and summer. Canning reminds me of my great-grandma, Isabelle (who I called "Granny"), who would "put up" green beans and tomatoes every year and freeze lots of other things. I remember the shelves of the outdoor utility closet stocked full of jars of vegetables and going out there to grab a can for her while she was cooking supper. It doesn't seem that anyone has ever been able to top Granny's green beans, but nothing ever tastes as good as it does in sweet memory. 

Granny and Papa and Aileen (my grandmother, who lived with them) never had a garden while I was growing up, but we did live out in the country where bushels of fresh vegetables were easy to come by. They'd always buy enough corn and beans each summer to fill several huge aluminum tubs, and we'd all sit around in the front room of their house shucking and snapping for an entire day.

Today, Paul and I grow what we can in our little spot of sun by our front porch. Our green thumb is still growing and hopefully by the time we have more sunlit space, we'll be more knowledgeable gardeners. But in the meantime, we do what Granny, Papa, and Aileen did. We go to our local farmers and get lots of things while they're in season and can and freeze and preserve away. Our favorite is to actually go and pick the things ourselves, and we do that every year for every type of fruit we can get our hands on. The rest we buy by the bushel from farms and farmers' markets when it's at the peak of the season. 

It's so satisfying to "put up" the summer's harvest just like Granny used to do, to use every last bit of what the season has to offer us and to be able to keep enjoying it even after its time has passed. The kind of canning that we do at home is a little different than what my Granny did, though. We do can tomatoes just like she used to, but we like to get creative with flavors a little more than she did. I'd love to make her a slice of toast with our Strawberry Provence Preserves, made with fresh-picked berries from Lineberger's Maple Springs Farm and herbs de Provence. Wonder what'd she think of that?

The recipe we used for our Strawberry Provence Preserves was adapted from Canning for a New Generation, a canning recipe book that I'd highly recommend for its modern twists on the classics. We used the recipe for Strawberry and Lavender Jam, substituting the herbs. If you're new to canning, I'd recommend starting with freezer jam, which is how we first began. It's a great way to familiarize yourself just a bit with canning before committing to it. You make the jam but instead of canning it traditionally, you place it in jars (even reused ones will do), and pop it in the freezer!

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