Sometimes I miss the old days when Mom would head down to the root cellar to bring up a colourful jar of something delicious that had been grown in her garden and lovingly preserved for the long winter months. I can remember her standing over a hot stove in the middle of the summer heat (with no air conditioning) boiling jars of pickles or some homemade strawberry jam. I can also remember dipping what seemed like 100 turnips in parafin wax to preserve them. I loved how the wax would mold to my finger as it cooled. I also remember how much I hated turnip. I seriously could not understand why on earth she would want to preserve them!
We had a huge garden for a few years along with apple, cherry, peach and plum trees and a few grape vines. I was in my glory with all this wonderful food ripe for the picking. My mother has a green thumb that, unfortunately, was not passed down to her daughter. Instead of a beautiful garden, I have a farmers market two blocks up the street. It works for me.
I tried growing a vegetable garden once. I remember being pregnant with my youngest and going to the garden centre to pick up some seedlings. Mr. P loved the pickled peppers that you get with your salad at Olive Garden and I had a recipe that would yield similar results. I picked up a tiny pepper plant and thought to myself that it would not be nearly enough. So I bought two flats. That would be 24 hot banana pepper plants for those who don't know. By the time I gave birth in August we had more peppers than we knew what to do with. I decided that, if I cut the peppers in half, took out the seeds and cramed as many as I could into each jar, then I might be able to use up half of them. So Mr. P and I started chopping and seeding the hot banana peppers. It took us most of the afternoon. It wasn't until Mr. P needed to use the bathroom that we realized that perhaps we should have been wearing gloves! The capsaisin on our hands was so potent that, for the next few days, we both had to wear gloves when handling our newborn!
Just a few short months ago my canning cupboard looked like this.
This is another view. I removed all of the bbq items and gave them their own trunk elsewhere in the room. I removed all of the books. Some were donated and others were packed off to another closet. This was going to be strictly a canning cupboard.
This is what it looked like after.
Lots of empty jars just waiting to be filled up. It took a lot of work but I did eventually manage to fill most of them.
There are a few empty jars left but I think I am done my canning for this season.
I had four strawberry picking baskets so I used two of them to store snap lids and screw tops. I put the standard size ones in one basket and the wide mouth ones in the other. No more hunting for the proper lids and I can see right away if I need to buy more.
Having a full freezer and canning cupboard satisfies some sort of primal instinct in me. Probably because our ancestors were hunter/gatherers, and if history has taught me anything, it's that I can gather like nobody's business! Probably why I need to declutter so often.
This is my dream root cellar. Isn't it beautiful?!
Over the next few days I will share with you some of the recipes for what I have canned. A couple come from my grandmother and I have a great recipe for jam that uses Jello.
Do you preserve food for the winter?