Canned Love

It is so easy to think that the way things were when you were born, or at least before you were old enouh to form your own memories, is the way that things have always been. My own early memories, spent in one of the first suburbs in Kansas City, Kansas, had one little grocer within walking distance and and A&P store not a mile from that.
My family, with our little plot of land, mostly consumed by house and terraces between the houses, never had a garden. All of our food had to fit in either the cabinet with the canned goods, the cabinet with the food boxes, or the refrigerator. I don't recall spending a minute of my formative years storing food for the winter. I remember the first time I saw canned food at my grandmother's house in rural Missouri. Her canned bread and butter pickles were a real treat that I looked forward to, her canned meats were delicious in stews. As a kid I never wondered why food was in those jars.
I remember dinners at home. We ate well, we never went hungry that I knew of. My father had to endure some lean times as a member of the UAW in the sixties and seventies as the union and company learned to share through strikes, some of them quite long. I am sure that the foods we ate in the plainly lableled cans and boxes was during those times. Even when our source of income was that insecure we never produced any of our own food, we never went to a farmer's market during the seasons of plenty to buy a lot of food and lay it up for later. Once a week I would go with Mom to the A&P, walk the aisles or set in the car while she shopped.
I myself only lately discovered saving food for later. I read Pollan's book “The Ominvore's Dilemma” and after that I put a tiny garden in my side yard. Planning on a bunker crop, I got a bath canner and a couple of dozen mason jars. The bunker crop never showed up so I kicked around looking for something else to do with all that glass. Turns out there is plenty you can do with mason jars.
Mason jars are way better to have in your cabinets than Tupperware, Glasslocks, or any other food storage option for leftovers. For one thing they are taller than they are wide, so they store more with a smaller footprint. Being glass, they never leach hormones into the hot foods you put in them. The little lids are reuseable, although you can only use them one time for canning, you can use them over and over for storage. I only throw one away if the lining gets damaged and I see a littel rust. I never throw a jar away. Now I have half pint, pint, quart and half gallon mason jars, a couple dozen each.
You can also make your mason jars into quart or half gallon fermenters. Fermenting is when you take a pure food like cabbage, and turn it magically into a pure food like sauerkraut. Nothing on earth is easier to do, which is why people have been doing it since the pottery jar was invented. It happens naturally, and I am sure it happens by accident, which is probably how it was discovered.
Yesterday we went to the farmer's market downtown. We got as big a head of cabbage as nature creates, and made that into a half gallon of kimchi and another half gallon of sauerkraut. I guess we didn't actually make either one of those yesterday, really, because both take days or weeks of fermenting to actually become those things. What I did yesterday was mix my sliced cabbage up in salt. Over about an hour, the water in the cabbage comes out and mixes with the salt, making a brine. The crisp cabbage wilts and takes up less room. I packed it into a half gallon mason jar as soon as it would fit and poured the brine over it to cover all the cabbage with liquid. Then I put a special mason jar lid on it with a tiny hole in the top, fitted with a rubber grommet that will allow me to put a plastic airlock on top. In this way my jar will be airtight, but it will allow the carbon dioxide that forms during fermentation to escape, but it will keep mold spores from getting in and spoiling my sauerkraut. I can now litteraly set back and allow the minions of rot create new vitamins in my cabbage, new flavors. If you think you don't like sauerkraut, it is because you have never made your own. This product is WAY better than the same thing in a can or jar from the store. Mine won't have any vinegar in it. Mine will be delicious and not sour. When I cook it I will rinse the brine off, drain it, cook it with a shredded potato and a shredded onion. The perfect side dish.
This summer I will repeat this process over and over while local cabbage is pleniful and priced to sell. It will last all winter long, until the cabbages come out of the field next year. I already have a flat of beets in the basement that I am going to try making kvass and fermented beets with, it's part of the same process.
I am serious enough about this that I have turned a room in the basement into a storage room with lots of shelf space. I imagine those shelves crammed with freshly packed foods from fields in my neighborhood, everything created with love and the passion for doing the job right, not doing the job cheap. No one in my food chain will be thinking about getting rich feeding me.


About dcarmack

I am an instrument technician at the electric utility servicing the Kansas City Missouri metropolitan area. I am in the IBEW, Local 412. I was trained to be a nuclear power plant operator in the USN and served on submarines. I am a Democrat, even more so than those serving in Congress or the White House.
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