The summer months seem to just fly by faster and faster than I ever remembered as those dog days as a child. I find myself so busy during June, July and August bundled with family time, camping trips, hiking & scouting, fishing, my thriving garden and a local farmer’s market all keeping me focused on family and stocking up what I can for the impending long, dark, wet winter months.
I love the long days that the solstice brings as it allows me the time to put up fresh, local food that will sustain my family. There is great satisfaction in knowing the hard work my wife and I have put into canning & preserving will pay off when real fresh summer fruits or veggies are not available in the market and yet our child will be able to eat the summer bounty in December.
Recently, we met up with another great family friend, the Pickle Princess, for our annual weekend of pickling cucumbers. The Princess started canning with her mother and her grandmother many moons ago and has carried forward the tradition not only of canning & preserving, but teaching others the process through rote. Her boys help her in the kitchen scrubbing cucumbers to prepare them for the brine. My wife and I help with the many chores related to making pickles: sanitizing jars, firing up the cajun cookers, making the vinegar/salt brine, stuffing jars and processing the finished jars. It’s not hard work, it’s just time consuming and many hands make light the work. It never hurts to have some rocking tunes, and the occasional nip of whiskey to help fuel the madness when you are staring down boxes of pickling cucumbers that weigh in at over 100lbs.
For those that have never canned before, there are so many great resources out on the web that any search engine will point you in the right direction. Water bath canning pots are not expensive at all and if your resourceful you can find them at thrift stores all the time. My guestimate would be that for $50 you can get a canning pot some jars and have what you need to make your first batch. You may need to go forage and pick your own berries for free to come in at this price point though. I often times hear concerns about getting botulism, but with anything, if you keep a clean kitchen, sanitize your jars and pay attention to proper processing times you will be ok. There are limitations with water bath canners and you cannot just can anything, but to get started making jams/marmalades and pickling veggies — a water bath canner is all that you need.
General How-to Resources: