As we near the end of May and the last month of Spring, I start to get antsy to begin canning the season’s new goodies. As a food preservation teacher, I get the most requests for canning workshops in the early Fall – September madness, as we say around my house. It makes sense – to a point. September is when our natural preservation hormones kick in. We scurry about like squirrels, putting up tomato sauce and pepper relish, and the last of the stone fruit preserves – all because we start to feel the imminent winter approaching.
But since we aren’t actually squirrels, it’s important to note that our winter stores can be infinitely more varied. And if you don’t learn to can produce until the Fall, you miss out on the late Spring and Summer bounty. What about the pickled asparagus, ramps, the strawberry and blueberry jams, and cherries, as preserves and sweet or savory pickles? Don’t you want those things in your little winter stash? I certainly do!
Folks often ask me about the nutritional benefits of canning since it requires heat. It is basically the same as cooking your food. If you get produce at its peak freshness and can it immediately, it will have greater nutritional content than if it’s picked and then shipped over the course of a few days to a week before you buy it and eat it raw.
When you preserve food yourself, you also have control over the ingredients. You can make lower sugar jams and jellies, you can pickle produce without chemical additives or colorings. Or you can simply preserve foods that suit your tastes – super spicy, without the garlic, or with spices traditional to your cultural background.
Whatever your reasons for exploring canning, now is the perfect time to get started. And by the time Fall rolls around you’ll be a preservation pro!