Top 5 Reasons Why We Can - and So Should You!
With tomato season rapidly approaching, we here at Consiglio’s have been getting more and more excited about canning and preserving. This week, we got caught up with our very own Chef Angela Consiglio and the rest of the Consiglio’s crew to talk about our passion for preserving and why we can - and so should you!
Top 5 Reasons to Can and Preserve -
Why we Can, and So Should You
(by Ryan M. from Consiglio's Kitchenware's online team)
For those not familiar with canning and preserving, it’s quite simply the practice of producing homemade goods and storing them in such a way to ensure a long and stable shelf life. Rooted in a food history where survival was often dependant on making sure harvests would last through a long winter, canning and preserving has become a part of the food traditions for some families (one that is still going strong for some) yet dwindling for others. With increasing access to grocery stores, prepared foods and restaurants, it has never been easier to live a “fast” food lifestyle. Why, then, is it still important to can and preserve?
1) Connection: To Foster, Maintain and Create Connections Between Food, Family, Friends, Tradition and Culture
When I ask Angela what first sparked here interested in canning, her response is immediate: it’s something that she’s been doing ever since she can remember, something that her grandparents have been doing for the past 46 years.
“Growing up in an Italian family making our yearly 30 bushels of tomato sauce for 4 families
was a tradition we all looked forward too. It was time for our families to get together, to share stories, and to enjoy the Italian home baked goodies that Nonna always prepared the night before.
We would usually stop around 2pm to fuel up with a plate of pasta or paninis.”
It’s a memory that her brother John echoes - from the time he was a young boy, he and the other children in the family would join in the tradition and be put in charge of inspecting and washing the tomatoes, growing into the responsibility of blanching the tomatoes before sending them off to the adults running the tomato milling machine. Angela recalls being granted the privilege in her late teens of working with her Nonna to prepare a sauce from the freshly milled tomatoes - something she makes a point of emphasizing was an honour never to be taken lightly.
My family’s relationship with canning couldn’t be further from that of Angela and John - while I can recall faint memories of sitting in my great-grandmother’s kitchen as a (very) young lad while she made jams and marmalades, it was a tradition that did not pass along through the generations of my family. As time passed, my family moved away from food as tradition until even the mention of canning became a faint memory.
Despite this, my great-grandmother’s marmalade was the first thing to come to my mind when this article came up - and even though I can’t remember exactly what it tasted like, I can assure you that I have never tasted anything like it since and can still picture the line of Bernardin’s 250mL jars lined up along her counter, freshly out of the canner and cooling away out of reach.
I mention it to my sister, and her immediate response is to ask if she can come join me in the kitchen the next time she’s in town. She’d love to get in on the action.
Marmelade: my first canning
These connections, discussions, and this sense of community created, strengthened and preserved by these food traditions are a huge part of why canning is still important.
2) Taste: Canning can Optimize Flavour and Creativity
At its core, canning is about preserving fresh produce at its peak. As Angela puts it:
“Have you ever eaten a tomato from the grocery store versus one from your
backyard? Garden fresh tomatoes will be bursting with a deep, juicy flavour
you could just imagine enjoying at a restaurant in Italy. Canning lets you
keep that flavour, to enjoy it year round.”
Fruits and vegetables allowed to ripen on the vine are given time to develop these deep, rich flavours - flavours lost when produce is harvested early and ripened en route during the days (if not weeks) long trip to the grocery store. By sourcing in-season fruits and vegetables locally from farmer’s markets, you ensure you’re getting the best flavours possible out of your foods. By canning these foods, you’re ensuring you’ll get to enjoy these flavours for months to come.
Not only does canning preserve these flavours, it opens the door to start customizing and personalizing them. Wish your pickles had a little more of a kick to them? Find yourself wishing for a jam that isn’t sickly sweet? When canning and making your own, all of this becomes possible. You control the final product, and can make it completely to your own preferences).
I ask Angela about some of her favourite things to can. Tomato sauce (obviously) tops the list and has a special place in her heart. A close second is a marinated red pepper recipe that makes for the perfect accompaniment to an antipasto platter, panini, or salad - she teases that a recipe will be coming soon, and I for one could not be more excited.
The coolest thing she’s ever canned? Spiced cherries in a honey syrup, best enjoyed over a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
3) Efficiency: How Canning Actually Saves you Time
Though it might be surprising, dedicating time and effort to canning actually saves you time - whether it be time saved during your daily food prep, or time saved by reducing the need for last-minute grocery runs for that one missing staple, having a pantry well-stocked with canned goods often streamlines your cooking process.
The active-time required for the marmalade recipe I tried was 25 minutes - less than the time it takes me to walk to and from my nearest grocery store. I was able to prep my citrus (one lemon, two limes, one grapefruit and two oranges - all of which I already had on hand), and let it simmer while puttering around the house, doing laundry, watching a documentary, and writing this article - all things I would have been doing with my evening anyways. With less than half an hour of work, I was able to make and preserve six jars of marmalade which will keep in my cupboard for up to a year - though it’s so good I doubt it will last even half that long.
4) Affordability: How Canning and Preserving Saves You Money
The cost of canning supplies is one of the most commonly cited reasons why people are hesitant to get involved and start doing their own canning, which is why it can be so surprising for some to hear that canning actually saves you money - and I’ll be the first to admit that I was one of those people.
I was fortunate enough to already have the citrus needed for my marmalade recipe on hand, and was able to pick up a couple Bernardin 250mL mason jars and lids from a friend who had picked them up second hand to use as centrepieces for a recent event - meaning that I only had to pick up a package of Bernardin’s single-use snap lid closures, which came in at $3.85 after tax for 12.
Already owning a large stock pot to use as a water bath canner, I was good to go! The average price of a jar of marmalade at my local supermarket runs about $4.99 - I was able to make SIX jars for less than this. Even if I had to purchase the citrus required (approximately $5), and the Bernardin Jars ($11.99 for 12 from Canadian Tire), I would still be coming in at less than half of what it would cost me to buy the six jars of marmalade I ended up with.
Sourcing in-season produce from local farmer’s markets can also drastically reduce the cost of canning and preserving - Angela is able to freezer preserve enough of her homemade pesto to last months with just $5.00 worth of basil from her local market, and the average cost per jar of the Consiglio’s family tomato canning tradition comes in at about 38 cents each.
5) Ethical Food and Informed Eating: Canning and the Big Picture
Locally sourcing and either canning or preserving your own foods not only saves you time and money, it reduces the distance that food has to travel from source to final product - instead of a vegetable being grown in California, shipped to a processing plant, and then entering the North American distribution chain, the food you’re able to can and preserve is rooted close to home.
Instead of travelling thousands of miles, the food at your local farmer’s market comes from just up the highway. Because of this, canning and preserving is a great way to reduce our “food footprint”, and reduce the resources consumed and pollution created by massive commercial shipping networks.
Canning and preserving also gives you complete power over exactly what goes into the food you consume. The ingredients for the marmalade I made? Citrus. Sugar. Water. That’s it. No shelf stabilizers, thickeners or fillers - just fruit, some some sugar and water.
New to Canning? Here’s our Advice and Top Tips for Getting into Canning and Making Your Own Preserves:
If you’re not currently preserving, hopefully our article above was able to shed some light into the benefits of canning your own foods. In case you’re ready to make the plunge and trying some canning for yourself, we’ve put together a list of some tips to help you get started.
Canning is an amazing way to get connected to the food you eat - so get excited about it! Find a recipe that speaks to you, and commit to giving it a shot.
For me, the latest thing that’s been getting me passionate about food has been Batch - the new cookbook from Joel MacCharles & Dana Harrison of wellpreserved.ca. Their blog is an amazing resource that contains a tome’s worth of knowledge, and Batch is no different.
Batch will not only give you the knowledge you’ll need to take your first steps towards canning, it will get you pumped to start your journey.
Make it a team effort!
If you’re new to canning, what better way to start than with a spouse, friend, family member or neighbour! Having an extra person involved will not only keep you committed to trying this new thing (no backing out!), it will make the project all the more fun to tackle - not to mention that if a question comes up, you’ll be able to sort it out together.
Gather all of your supplies before starting, and make sure you are prepared!
Read, and then re-read the recipe you plan to make thoroughly - and then read it again and make a list of everything you will need to complete it. Make sure you familiarize yourself with the canning or preserving technique you’ll be using, and gather the tools you’ll need.
If canning, make sure you have jars and closures. Bernardin is the go-to brand in Canada for canning jars, and has been for decades - if you’ve ever seen a mason jar, be it for canning, a centrepiece or feeling really cool while drinking local craft beer out of, chances are it’s been Bernardin. Canadian Tire carries the line year-round, and you can often find used Bernardin Jars at second hand stores - if you do, be sure to pick up new seals. They’re single use only.
Most recipes or resources will tell you exactly what you’ll need to complete the canning project.
In the coming weeks, we’ll be tackling a full list of canning supplies and tools, so be sure to check back!
Do your research!
Out of all of our tips, this is easily the most important - FAMILIARIZE YOURSELF WITH THE PRESERVING METHOD YOU WILL BE USING. When done right, canning is an amazing thing. When not done right, however, it can make you really, really sick. So, put in the time to learn about the method you will be using (water bath canning, pressure canning, fermenting, dehydrating, etc.), and how to do it safely.
If you’re looking into getting into canning or preserving, you can find a selection of canning tools and supplies here:
We’ve covered why we can - why do you? What got you into it? What’s the coolest thing you’ve ever canned or preserved? Share in the comments below!
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