Canning Time

Speaking of the State Fair: Monday’s News and Observer highlighted burgeoning interest in canning over the past couple of years. State Fair contest entries of jams, jellies, salsas, chutneys, and an array of other preserved goodies have nearly doubled since 2007. Part of the increasing popularity may be a result of a sagging economy and increased home cooking. I suspect it’s also a result of the slow food and locavore movements as well.

For some heirloom recipes for pickling and canning, look to the legendary Marion Brown, whose 1955 classic, Pickles and Preserves, we reissued in 2002. The book contains 408 recipes for jellies/jams/marmalades/preserves, pickles, relishes, syrups, fruit butter, and more. A new foreword for this edition, written by Damon Lee Fowler, explains Brown’s mid-century techniques and offers updated methods for modern canners–both the novices and the experienced.

Here is an excerpt from Fowler’s foreword:

Like so many art forms, preserving in salt, sugar, and vinegar was born out of necessity, but it was transformed by imagination into a means of self-expression and pride for housewives who had few creative outlets.

Consequently, the image of an old-fashioned Mason jar, filled with homemade pickles or preserves and sealed with a shiny new brass lid, has taken on almost mythic proportions. The image glosses over the hard work and tedium of necessity, and evokes a romantic image that most housewives of the past would no doubt find amusing. since it is no longer necessary for us to preserve food in the way in order to eat, pickling and preserving at home has today become little more than a hobby–if not a vanishing art. For those who are rediscovering this satisfying art, this foreword provides an update on modern methods, which should be consulted as you prepare pickles and preserves from the recipes that follow. With all that in mind, it is a pleasure to introduce a new generation of cooks and readers–whether novices or seasoned pros–to Marion Brown’s charming Pickles and Preserves, and to the remarkable woman who wrote it.

You can read the rest of Fowler’s foreword at the UNC Press book page.

My grandmother used to can so many quarts of Blue Lakes every year, I hardly knew what any other green bean tasted like as a child–and I did love them. Or did I? Maybe it’s just that I love them now, partly out of nostalgia.