When the apples are in season, I have 'an order' for lots and lots of Apple Butter from our Storyteller, and if we can find some nice pears, Dreamer can't remember what pear butter tastes like and would like some made up to remind her! Of course, when the Florida oranges are nice, I may make some low sugar marmalade for my Dad - but that won't be until December. Oh, and I almost forgot about the cranberry season in mid-October! Dreamer loves cranberry sauce. So as you can see, I'm almost finished with canning season.
As I chop, boil, stir and wash dishes, I have quite a bit of time to think. I am noticing the rapidly diminishing stacks of canning jar boxes and pectin pouches in my favorite stores more this year. Perhaps more families are putting food by this season - more so then in other summers, I think. I'm guessing that the rapidly rising costs of food and fuel are part of the motivation, along with a revival of the home arts in some circles. I know that in the early spring the garden centers were remarking on the increase of vegetable plants that they were selling. Many customers were putting in a garden since they were going to be staying home more this summer due to fuel prices. My favorite greenhouse owner expressed his regret for not planting more veggies this spring as he was continually running out of the plants his customers wanted. Perhaps as these veggies ripen, many are putting up the fruits of their labors by canning and preserving. I hope so.
Still there are many who are not experiencing the joys of canning, for various reasons. I hear many of these reasons as I check out at our various local stores with yet another box of jelly jars or more lids, pickling salt, pectin or freezer bag refills for the vacuum pack machine. The most common comment is 'Wow! You're in for a lot of work!'.
Canning is work, but it is also joy. It isn't as hard as many might think. If you can read and follow directions, you can can. The benefits are obvious. Fresh economical food put up just the way you like it - no mysterious ingredients, dyes, colors or artificial preservatives. You can control the quality of the food you feed your family. The sense of satisfaction is tremendous, and as a side benefit you have quick and greatly appreciated gifts right there in your pantry to bless others with.
While it is time consuming at first, like anything, you get into a rhythm and things do speed up after a while. I highly recommend preserving small batches at first and working up to greater quantities by making multiple batches back to back. Doubling is rarely successful, and not really worth the risk of not properly preparing the food. It is not hard to have two pots going or to do all the cutting for two batches and just clean out the pot in between.
There are some very significant side benefits to canning that I have discovered and have not found noted in any of my canning books. These are so unique and profound, I decided that I really need to share them. I do hope that I am not breaking the secret rule book of experienced canners by doing so, but I am willing to take the risk, if it will inspire others to join in the joy of canning.
Did you know, that you can save countless hours and vast sums of money on your personal beauty routine, when you can? I didn't think so, and thus I have prepared this comprehensive guide for just you:
The Crazy Canner's Guide to Kitchen Cosmetics
1. Are you worried that canning will cut into your manicure time? Worry no longer! I can assure you that after a few days of canning, your nails will be broken and quite short, void of any nail polish. Simply trim them with clippers and your manicure is complete.
2. If you are not satisfied with this simple manicure and seek a bit of color on your nails, simply can or pickle 100 pounds or so of beets for a delightful rosy tone to your nails. If you seek a spicier color, tomatoes leave a really nice orange tint to most fingernails. If yellow is your fashion statement, simply add turmeric to your chow chow recipes and a delightful shade will be achieved. A few dishpans full of hot suds will reduce these colors to less startling intensity, I promise!
3. Are you worried about soft hands? Worry no longer! Remember the alpha hydroxy treatments of the 90's? Why pay for expensive creams and chemical peels when canning peaches will achieve the same results? Are you concerned with age spots? Again, the humble tomato comes to the rescue, removing at least three layers of skin and diminishing those unsightly spots just as effectively as those expensive creams.
4. If your hands are really in a mess and a lovely basic tomato sauce is on the agenda, you are fortunate indeed. Simply use a bit of that olive oil and some of the course salt to scrub away any rough dry skin.
5. If you wonder if canning will detract from the time you generally spend enjoying your daily facial, don't fear! Don't underestimate the value of the sweet sticky juices left on the cutting board when preparing corn for the freezer or your favorite chow chow recipe. Apply liberally to your face and allow to dry - instant non-surgical face lift! To replace you usual chemical peel, prepare peaches and use the juices to soften and revitalize your face.
6. Clogged pores? If you generally spend hours steaming away impurities, canning is the best time saving device ever! You'll spend hours over open kettles of boiling water and simmering fragrant foods! It's like aromatherapy with the side benefits of steam. Be careful not to burn yourself, though!
7. Puffy eyes? Grab a few slices of those millions of cukes you are wondering what to do with, and throw them on your eyes before you put them in the pickle brine! Good-bye puffy eyes!
8. Are your lips tired and colorless? Perk them up with a bit of jalapeño while you cut them up for your wickedly good salsa! Or, for a less spicy solution, try rubbing one of those beet slices over your lips for color! Oh la la!
9. Are you having hair issues like I am this summer? If your hair tends to curl in humidity, just wait until you spend some time canning! Honestly, your friends will ask if you have gotten a perm! If your hair tends to straighten in damp weather, you're blessed - the canning kitchen will take every ounce of body out of your hair and the straight styles of today will be within your grasp - without the $99 steam straightener!
10. If you are having a bad hair day you'll do very well in the canning kitchen - simply pin it up in a bun - you'll keep hair out of the food and feel extra vintage, especially with your work stained apron on!
11. Are you having trouble with product build up in your hair? Canning time is definitely the best time to take care of it! When the whole house smells like the sweet vinegary fragrance of your special chili sauce, salsa, relish or chow chow, no one will notice if you take the time to give your hair a vinegar rinse to get rid of the gunk.
12. It's easy to avoid sun damaged skin in the canning kitchen. Visit the garden or farm market early before the sun is intense, or in the cool of the evening. Don't forget your large floppy hat and sunscreen. You'll look 10 years younger without the inevitable leather like skin that those who are spending their days poolside will eventually endure. You may be a bit pale, but you'll have a well stocked pantry!
Well, I hope this helps to inspire you to put some food by this summer and fall. Since the beauty benefits are so great, you may just find yourself receiving numerous compliments from friends and family. As usual, this wealth of rather useless advice is not meant to replace your own good common sense, but is shared simply to bring a smile to your face!
Clip art courtesy of Antique Clipart