Grey Gardens of Canning: Or, How I Covered My House With Canned Items

home canned preserves I came to canning late in life, spurred on by friends who seemed to be making pickles, jams, and other yummy things every time I stopped into their kitchens. With my vegetable garden and a summer hobby of berry picking each weekend, I certainly had plenty of beautiful things to can. But, like most people, I was a little shy of tackling something that involved a big deep pan and tools that have an uncomfortable resemblance to forceps. Add to that the rather uninspiring and fear-inducing "warnings" on all of the FDA websites about the horrors if canning goes wrong. You can see why I thought I’d leave it to others to do.

Yet once I started thinking about it, I seemed to see full, colorful glowing jars everywhere: in the windows of cafes, on bakery shelves, in the pantries of friends, and decided it was time to learn. After a few group classes and demos, I felt ready, and with 30 lbs of strawberries staring at me, I dove in! A few weeks ago, I spent both days making jam: one with pectin and one without, one batch with balsamic vinegar and black pepper, one with lemon zest only. Then I moved on to making strawberry vinegar and finally pickled strawberries. The jars piled up and the obsession was planted–the next weekend I tackled raspberry jam, raspberry syrup, and raspberry-chipotle barbecue sauce. The pantry had to be rearranged to accommodate and anyone who visits my house is not allowed to leave without a jar in hand; but yet I keep plotting my next canning session.

This weekend: blueberry picking and all the deep blue jars I can fill. Then apricots before my canning world expand into pickles and relish and then on to tomatoes and sauces.

If at times my kitchen resembles what my eye-rolling daughter calls "the Grey Gardens of Canning" well, so be it: the ritual of putting seasonal food by is one that comforts me and will feed my family and friends all year.

Raspberry Chipotle Barbecue Sauce, from The Berry Bible

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