Canning and preserving fruits and vegetables is enjoying a revival, thanks to the burgeoning foodie and locavore movements.
A group of canners got together in Canton recently to barter and diversify their winter larder. As David Sommerstein reports, they make the old-fashioned...cool.
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A couple dozen people spread out at tables in the hall of the Presbyterian church. Sarah Scafidi-McGuire lines up her bell jars.
We had a lot of tomatillos, we had a lot of tomatoes, but some of the other things we didn’t put up, and it’ll be a little more colorful in the root cellar this year.
In the short term, that’s the idea behind this canning exchange, says co-oragnizer and farmer, Bob Washo. Turn your bumper crop into a cornucopia of wintertime eating.
For instance, if somebody ended up with a surplus of blueberry jam, they might be able to trade that for garlic that might not have done well in their garden at their farm this year.
But the big picture is about a more sustainable food system, local farming and seasonal eating.
The Corse family will rely almost exclusively on their harvest all winter long. They canned 327 jars. 13 year-old McKenzie Corse arranges a rainbow of them into a pyramid - orange peaches, purple beets, and yellow beans.
It makes me feel good that my whole family is eating food that came off our land and we’re not, like, buying stuff that, like came across the country. I just like pulling a jar of food that we made ourselves off the shelf and just making a big pot of soup or something.
If you haven’t already just try to label…
Organizer Flip Fillippi lays out the ground rules. No money exchanges hands. No tasting. Those would violate health codes. And, she says, try to value a trade according to the time and energy put into the products.
I wouldn’t trade one jar of dilly beans for one jar of maple syrup because he put a lot of time and love and sweat and energy into that maple syrup, and…alright, happy trading.
With that, the trading’s on. Jon Montan – maple syrup in hand – beelines across the room.
I traded one quart of maple syrup for three quarts of dilly beans. Sour for sweet!
In the middle of the room, Fillippi and Matt Kidwell are deep in multi-jar talks worthy of a multi-player baseball trade.
Would you consider a ketchup in the mix? If you added in okra to it? “Eeeeee…, oh, yeah, I didn’t get that. Yeah, totally.”
DAVID: “Wait, wait, let’s review.”
In the end we went, I got Matt’s fuschia pickled turnips, the peppers, hot peppers, and pickled okra, in exchange for ketchup, tomatillos salsa, and blueberry jam.
Canning’s gone way beyond a practical way to put up staples. It’s become a favorite of food lovers. There are blogs and canning cookbooks. A national organization, Canning Across America, held workshops in cities across the country last fall.
Here, there’s kimchee and fig wine and chutney and hull-less pumpkin seeds. Half of the swappers are in their 20s and 30s. And they’re really into it.
Why wouldn’t you love sitting around hulling, shelling beans or something like that on an afternoon instead of watching a movie.
Alright, maybe not everyone’s idea of a good time, concedes Louise Gava. But she says canning – and swapping – builds tradition and community and conversation around food.
And we’re talking about recipes and we’re saying, oh, apple ketchup, what’s in that? Tomatoes? Oh, no it’s just apples but with ketchup spicing. What would you use that for? Oh, meat. Well, what kind of meat are you putting it on? Well, I only eat venison, would you put it on venison? Y’know, that kind of thing.
Flip Fillippi says farmers and avid gardeners are often too busy during the harvest for chatting. An event like this, she says, is a way to share the satisfaction of a summer of hard work and its pay-off.
It’s like you’re taking home everyone’s little slice of garden, the way that they like to turn their food into something they can eat in the winter.
For North Country Public Radio, I’m David Sommerstein in Canton.