Back in the day, the only way to preserve a harvest was to dry it. This is why grains, seeds, and nuts are popular crops and so entrenched cultures around the world for thousands of years. Meat could be dried or salted, but was most often eaten fresh. Then, roughly 200 years ago, preserving food through canning began to be developed. We think of canning as a pioneer tradition, but it only became common in homes roughly 150 years ago.
I am lucky enough to have learned canning from my grandmother (back in the last century). She was extra careful to follow the Extension Service guidelines for how long to process the food she canned because a childhood friend of hers got botulism from improperly canned food (we are talking about back in 1911 here).
Jump to this century and the book – Modern Pressure Canning by Amelia Jeanroy (Voyageur Press $24.99). This volume is a shining gem of how to can – especially if you did not have someone’s elbow to learn at. If you already know how to can, this book is still useful to help you improve your technique, plus offer some tantalizing recipes to try. The beautiful photographs of the food, done by the talented photographer Kerry Michaels don’t hurt either.
The chapter “Storage, Troubleshooting and Other Considerations” elevate this book from a “how to” to a “must have.” Among other tips, Amelia urges you to keep records. She shares the fact that with the help of such written records she determined what her family uses the most, and now she concentrates on that.
I have resisted canning with a pressure cooker, because I was concerned about adjusting for altitude correctly. Amelia has solved this problem by including (on page 29) exactly what pressures to use at what elevation. That chart, plus the recipes, have me eyeballing the garden and dreaming of home-grown and home-canned harvest – months after the harvest.
Want to learn more about growing your own food? Look for my free lectures at your local Pima County Library branch, Tubac Presidio, Tucson Festival of Books and other venues. After each event I will sell and sign copies of my books, including Southwest Fruit and Vegetable Gardening (Cool Springs Press, $23).
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