The art of preserving freshness for our food, whether pickling, canning, making jams and jellies or curing, has definitely made a comeback. Preserving food is as old as the first time that anyone had leftovers. Fruits and vegetables are the most common to preserve, but you can also can some meats.
Some preserving methods are older, and some might surprise you with how recently they were developed. Like every other generation before us, we have added our own flair to the processes which have been around for quite some time. Even in times long past, people around the world had ways to preserve freshness in food. Examples include natural cooling and freezing, drying, curing, smoking, pickling, fermenting, and preserving in honey.
Food historians believe that the art of preserving food accidentally occurred through geography and living conditions. Foods froze in the very cold northern areas and dried out in the hot southern sun. Early cave-dwellers likely stumbled upon smoking food after hanging it in the same caves where they made fires for their warmth and light at night.
Almost everyone in ancient times made pickles of some kind, either with a brine or by fermentation. People in India were likely the first to make cucumber pickles over 3,000 years ago. Ancient Egyptians and Babylonians pickled fish, including catfish, salmon and even pickled goose. The ancient Chinese used vinegar brine for pickling proteins, from eggs to a variety of meats, including rabbit, venison and goat.
Canning, however, didn’t come about until the early 19th century. Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte created a cash-prize challenge for whomever could create a method to preserve food to keep his armies fed. French confectioner Nicholas Appert, known as the “father of canning” won the prize money. He was the one who developed canning, using the same process that continues today to preserve seafood, fruits, vegetables, dairy and meats. These processes include heating, boiling and sealing food in sanitized glass jars.
Even though we feel a connection to our mothers, aunts and grandmothers through preserving freshness in food, some things weren’t done as often as most of us would like to believe. Much of what we feel nostalgic about when we first try our own preserving isn’t as old as we might think.
Depending on the climate, the needs for preservation are different. The south has a pretty short winter and therefor the growing and harvesting times are longer. In the northern climates, there is more pressure to preserve. Not only was there not as much need for preserving freshness in foods in the south, not everyone had the resources to do it. Apples stored very well in root cellars through winter, and along with other types of fruit they were used to make cider and brandy. Not a bad way to enjoy the preserves! Sugar, on the other hand, was scarce. People ate fresh fruit when they had a sweet tooth. Making the fruit preserves, jams, and jellies wasn’t common until after the Revolutionary War.
Despite the differences in climates, many of the food preservation techniques from Europe, Africa, and other parts of the world eventually found a home here. Sometimes we have added new twists. The sweet-and-sour flavors in chow-chow, piccalilli, chutneys, fruit relishes and spiced fruits find their roots from Malaysia. Other types of pickling traditions came from Germany. Pickled eggs and pigs’ feet were often offered as free bar snacks.
Do you like your biscuits and gravy? Those came from the method of preserving ground meat cooked into patties, and then stored in crocks and layered with rendered lard. They would scoop out the meat patties with fat, and use them to make sausage gravy. The additional lard provided the fat for baking the biscuits.
After the Civil War, poverty hit everyone in the south. Food preservation then became even more important. If you owned any land, you grew food. Then of course, what you didn’t eat, you preserved! A way that we still see today within the Mennonite culture is souse (head cheese). This is a way to preserve all the extra bits of a pig.
The World Wars also changed things. It became every American’s patriotic duty to grow a victory garden. Everyone wanted to preserve and can food, to support the troops, to supplement rations and help families survive.
During the Great Depression, the Ball Brothers Company, which made jars for canning, developed a canning unit. The federal government used the canning unit to create canning centers around the country. This assisted with helping families manage the cost and work of canning food. More canning centers opened during World War II, until over 3,600 centers were open around the country. Most of these centers were in the South and not only helped people eat, but also gave people (especially women), jobs.
Canning jars didn’t come on the scene until 1885 – and even then, not many could afford to buy them. Think of all the places that you can buy jars these days. Grocery stores, department stores, hardware stores and even the second hand stores often will sell used glass jars.
The necessity, along with the varied flavours and seasonal abundance is what made canning and preserving a very unique technique. Now we are going back to the basics more so, therefore we are taking those old preservation techniques to preserve our fresh fruits and vegetables. Sometimes we even come up with a new canning creation. We can develop skills that we haven’t used before, through watching YouTube videos on how to cure bacon at home, make freezer jam, process canned sausage or even make our own salsa recipe. There are more options available as well for participating in canning classes and clubs. We are able to preserve foods and flavors that weren’t widely available before.
Think about the legacy that you have inherited and are also creating for future generations the next time you can a jar of homemade salsa. Much like the process itself, our love for preserved foods has been around for a long time, waiting patiently to be remembered and re-opened.
Cooking with fresh Ontario produce in your home kitchen is very rewarding and healthy! In this article we will go over the process of planting, harvesting, cooking with, and freezing zucchini – one of the easiest vegetables to grow in this area. There are many varieties of zucchini to choose from: Continue reading
Are you wanting to engage your mind, your body, your spirit and willing to get your hands dirty? Read on to see how garden therapy or nature therapy may be something you can add to your daily routine.
Gardening can reduce stress and manage depression. It can also help you cope with your emotions, provide an outlet for unused energy, and produces healthy eating. All off these positive effects while getting exercise for your mind, body and spirit. Continue reading
According to a recent report, Canadians waste a lot of food. The statistics for food waste are very surprising. Looking at the numbers much more closely, we’re one of the biggest contributors to food waste on the planet. This is due to our consumer lifestyles, and a constant feeling of abundance when it comes to food availability. Continue reading
Every person on the planet absolutely relies on food to survive and thrive. Farms exist in many communities around the world, producing food for millions of people in turn. Here in Southern Ontario, our neck of the woods, there’s a very rich agricultural and farming landscape. This means that there are lots of local farms offering extremely fresh produce and serving their respective communities with high quality foods. We’ve written about some benefits of local food in the past, but we’ll go into some more detail in this post. Continue reading
Have you ever considered having an indoor garden? As the weather continues to transition away from the cold winter chills to spring, it’s time to restart gardening and indoor planting season. While you prune, clean and perform basic maintenance on your garden and indoors, you can start looking forward to planting some tasty vegetables that you and your family can enjoy from the comfort of your own home. In this article, we’re going to suggest some of the easiest vegetables that can be grown without too much hassle. Considering the fact that many grown foods require certain ingredients to thrive, i.e. water and fertilizers, growing your own can be easy, even for first timers. The list of vegetables and herbs which you can grow at home is a lot. We’ve narrowed it down to a few of our favorites. Happy growing! Continue reading
Ah, it’s winter season again. That time of year when the leaves have already changed color with most of them almost completely fallen away while the colder temperatures are becoming more constant. With the arrival of winter, some people have the impression that produce growing season has now come to a complete halt. We don’t agree with the notion of a halt, but do however think that the fall and winter season has some of the best tasting produce. The big question is which ones are the most delicious and most healthy? Luckily, we’ve curated a list of awesome fruits and vegetables that we know you’ll love, along with their health benefits.
In case you missed it, we’ve also written this lovely post on the impact of the seasons on what we eat. Feel free to give that one a read as well!
It’s that time of year when we celebrate one of our most treasured holidays, Thanksgiving. Last year, we shared some tips on simple ways to improve your Thanksgiving meals. This time around, we’ll be sharing a mix of meal ideas that could help you have a stress free and healthy Thanksgiving holiday overall.
We know that holidays like these only come a hand full of times a year in Canada and as such, they can be very stressful to plan. As with many things in life, stress can ruin good times but a little planning can go a very long way. Here are our top tips for keeping things generally stress free. Continue reading
The presence of annual and perennial weeds is the least favourite part of gardening. Imagine taking the time to make your garden or backyard look beautiful only to have pesky weeds destroy the beauty and affect the quality of your plants. Simply put, weeds are unwanted and have very harmful effects on any natural environment if they aren’t properly controlled. Major weed invasions have been known to threaten the survival of plants and animals because they compete directly (and at times indirectly) for the same resources, nutrients and sunlight. In this post, we’ll take a look at some of the most common garden weeds along with tips on how you can fight them too. Continue reading
Farming is one of the most productive and impactful professions in the world, and as such, there are a lot of
misconceptions surrounding the industry and the people who work in it, farmers. Many consumer misconceptions arise as a result of mistrust and a general lack of information. There are many misunderstandings and
confusions surrounding the industry and while some of them are hard to debunk, we’ll do our best to bring more clarity and challenge some of these common misconceptions as well as provide an explanation for why they don’t hold that much weight. Happy reading! Continue reading
It’s safe to say it’s officially summer for us here in Canada. We know that summer’s the perfect time to head outdoors and get some fun in the sun, but did you know it’s also the perfect time to switch up your diet? Because we’re outdoors more often in the summer, there’s more risk of health issues like dehydration, skin irritations, and vitamin deficiencies. This is where healthy summer food choices come in and it also certainly doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy tasty summer barbecues and desserts. With this post, we’ll share some great food essentials that’ll keep you looking and feeling healthy throughout the summer. If you haven’t already, read our previous post on the impact of seasons on what we eat. Continue reading
What would you define as a unique shopping experience? We define it as one where the shopper is in an environment where they’re able to enjoy a rich variety of specialty items and products that are specific to that region as well as being in a place where the people are genuinely interested in sharing their passion for locally made products. Continue reading
We’re finally beginning to see signs of spring with the return of rain and increased sunlight. As we transition to much warmer weather, there are a variety of interesting activities to look forward to like spending more time outdoors, saying hello to longer days and enjoying the fresh produce that’s available this season. As the seasons change, so do the foods that are available. Continue reading
Farming is still highly regarded as one of the world’s most important practices and industries, but in recent times,with the growth of technology, the industry has gone through a host of drastic changes. Change isn’t necessarily a bad thing but like everything related to technology, no one speaks too much about its negative impacts when it comes to farming. We’ve become so focused on getting quick yields regardless of possible negative consequences. People have also become very accustomed to convenience that they only look at the surface and not think deeply about the processes behind the production of the foods we eat. We’ll examine a few categories to determine whether technology has become a help or a hindrance to farming. Continue reading
Ah…It’s that time of the year when the air is filled with joy and excitement! Many of us certainly don’t want to spoil the excitement with the stress of making complicated Christmas dishes. Sometimes, we try too hard to make things perfect but end up putting immense pressure on ourselves by making complicated dishes that end up ruining the moment. You can still impress your guests with simple delights and take the stress out of Christmas while savoring the moments with friends and family. Continue reading
For many of us, life moves very fast with our busy schedules, and always-on lifestyles. This can make planning family mealtimes a difficult exercise, but it doesn’t have to be. There’s also the feeling that family meals should mostly occur on special occasions like Thanksgiving, Christmas or Easter, but sitting down together and having a family meal shouldn’t be limited to these events. This mealtime is an opportunity for families to share conversations and enjoy each other’s company. Continue reading
Thanksgiving is one of the most treasured holidays in Canada and it only comes once a year.
As such, it’s important to take time to prepare the most delicious Thanksgiving meal in order to have a truly memorable time with friends and family. If you’re looking for ways to improve your typical Thanksgiving meals or you’re simply looking for more ways to make your meals exciting, you’ve come to the right place! Continue reading
There are growing concerns about the actual ingredients in our food. With this, many people are beginning to turn to organic and locally grown foods. These days when you walk into grocery stores you’ll notice many food products plastered with stickers and labels like “farm fresh”, “GMO free”, “100% natural” and “all natural”. Continue reading