STORY AND PHOTOS BY LYN DEARDORFF
We wait for fresh strawberries, those luscious red tomatoes, plump okra and crisp cucumbers to come to our farmers markets or spring from our home gardens. But the season for each is short and then they’re gone.
Canning allows you to capture this freshness and flavor in a jar. Think of enjoying those heirloom tomatoes in January, sliced up on your veggie pizza. Or serving cranberry chutney with your pork barbecue in July. Strawberry jam with goat cheese on your holiday table. A taste of summer all year ’round.
We no longer have to compromise by settling for flavorless fruits and veggies off season.
Home preservation is the way to do this. If you take up small-batch canning, for example, you can catch a great variety of produce as it comes into season. Your pantry can be filled with four seasons’ goodness—and also four seasons’ meal ideas: appetizers for parties and guests, amazing dessert possibilities as well as breakfast and lunch options.
Nothing is healthier; nothing is tastier than produce canned at the peak of ripeness with no added preservatives, no artificial coloring, no huge amounts of sugar or salt.
So let’s talk about spring. I just can’t wait for the arrival of strawberries, soon to be followed by an abundance of other berries—blueberries, blackberries, raspberries. Fresh strawberries come and go so quickly. Let’s get some on our pantry shelves while we can.
Here’s a typical strawberry preserve but with a twist—of lemon! Surprising? I add a tiny bit of citrus—lemon or lime—to many of my canned fruits. A small amount perks up the taste of the fruit. In this recipe, you not only get the increased strawberry flavor but a refreshing bite of tangy lemon now and then.
And you can apply this recipe to all berries throughout the season (just vary the spices according to your taste preferences).
This recipe is made without pectin, which requires a large amount of added sugar to make the fruit set. I generally can fruits by cooking them down to a thickness that makes them similar to fruit butters so that I can limit the amount of sugar. In fruit butters, the fruit shines through and the sugar within the fruit itself produces a consistency that allows it to be spreadable. It’s also healthier—for those of us who choose or need to watch our sugar intake.
I also choose organic fruits. In many cases, fruits have the greatest amounts of pesticides of any foods (especially in their skins, such as apples and peaches). I also find that organic fruits have the best flavor, since they need to be picked close to ripeness (no preservatives!). This means they will usually need to be canned within a day or two of harvesting.
Lyn Deardorff is a 40-year canner, starting with her grandmother making sauerkraut and dill pickles in her basement. She teaches canning workshops in the Atlanta area and has produced and sold organic preserved fruits and vegetables. For more information please visit preservingnow.com.