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A Dark Days Secret: Our Larder

We try to write this blog at a level that anyone can follow, whether a seasoned cook or someone who is just learning. When I learn a new technique, I often need to be told how to do things in painful detail. Pictures help. When writing, I make sure that we assume nothing.

In that vein, I don’t want this post to scare anyone away. You don’t need to be as crazy as we are to eat the way we do. That being said, this post is about canning. Please don’t run.

Lindsay started to explore canning this past summer when so many of our fresh and local ingredients were about to go out of season. Save the strawberries! Save the blueberries! Save the tomatoes! She started off small with jams and jellies and worked her way up to canned peaches and tomatoes (lots of tomatoes).

Having been a witness to it, canning can be time consuming, but it’s not very hard. We made a commitment to ourselves to eat 85 – 90% locally for at least one year, staring in spring 2010. Lindsay had the foresight to recognize that in order to actually live by this during the winter without depriving ourselves, we had to preserve the harvest. (Sounds Amish, right?)

That attitude is totally throwback. I’m stubborn. I would have eaten gruel to get through the winter. I have to admit, though, given the constraints that we committed ourselves to, this is a nicer way to do it.

Most people don’t want to take whole foods / local eating this far. I tend to agree. But, however far you want to take it, it takes small steps to get there. I would be thrilled if people just ate mostly local most of the time, even if they shop at the grocery store in the winter. I don’t want anyone to take this post as a requirement or a judgement. But, if you really want to control what you are eating, all year, and you don’t want to be bored to death with your food, canning is a powerful tool.

When Lindsay did her canning in 2010 we didn’t have this blog. When the canning season starts again in the late summer of 2011, we will be sure to post about it, with how-tos. For now, I just want to share the value of having canned foods on-hand.

What prompted this post was a breakfast we had a few weeks ago. Lindsay preserved local blueberries by making and canning blueberry-lime jam (which is totally awesome – pictured above on a bagel, and on the left, below). She also canned whole plums with sage (right, below). We cracked these opened to put on our bagels on New Year’s day.

After opening these jars, I wanted to document our larder. We have set aside three shelves of a bookcase to store Lindsay’s canned goods (keep in mind that we live in New York City – not a lot of space!). We gave away quite a few jars for Christmas, in addition to the fact that we have recently started to use these ingredients ourselves (e.g., local marinara sauce in the winter). I wanted to document what we have left before it’s gone.

Also, according to the rules for our Dark Days Challenge, all of these ingredients are OK. So, no one can accuse us of cheating!

Shelf one consists of various canned tomato products: whole canned tomatoes, stewed tomatoes with vegetables, tomato butter, and Bloody Mary mix (click to expand):

Shelf two contains jams, jellies, whole peaches, canned peach pie filling, and apple sauce:

Shelf three contains various pickled items such as green beans, bruschetta, sauerkraut, pickles, and beets:

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