Preserving Food

Preserving your own food may seem like an unnecessary burdan in today's day and age, but I believe it's something everybody should do at least once in their lives.

Preserving food takes time and effort. It always has and it always will. So the question becomes why would we bother in today's day and age of globalization when fresh food is available year-round and pre-canned food is readily available?

The answer can be quite complex. Other that just the satisfaction of knowing you've grown the food you're eating and the taste is just so good, we all need to know the value of food.

There's a drive to feed the world and breeding of fruits and vegetables has been steered into the lines of efficiency, longevity, shippability, ease of harvest, and processability. Taste has been removed from the equasion for the most part. Preserving your own foods ensures you have the best tasting food grown the way you want it without that extra breeding for all the aspects that aren't as high on our priority list.

But more importantly, we all need to see the value of our food. We're lucky to have some of the lowest priced foods in the world, but the side-effect being that our food holds inadequate value. We've been a lucky society in that we've never come face-to-face with starvation like so many places in the world and so many of our ancestors but that luck has bred a wastefulness. Our children pick little bits and pices from their plate and leave the rest. I always remember my dad saying that, during the war, the most food went to those who could work the most on the farm. Whoever was smallest, got what was left. And he was the youngest. It taught him that all food has value and nothing, and I mean nothing got wasted.

Good ingredients take time and cost more to grow. Preparing good food the best way will always cost more than the lowest cost means. I remember when an unnamed food processor came to Canada and there was a stink over tomato juice. In Canada, it has always been mandatory that tomato juice is just tomato juice. But the processor, to save costs, preferred to re-constitute tomato paste with water like they do south of the border. I actually never followed the outcome, but it exemplifies the cost savings over the true value of the product. Does our tomato juice hold so low of a value that we can't even enjoy it without cutting processing costs even more?

It was a number of years ago, I first canned my own tomatoes for the winter. It was time consuming, it wasn't a very clean process, and it really wasn't horribly exciting. I learned the value of the lowly tomato that year. Every time I opened a can of tomatoes I enjoyed the flavour, and I was much less likely to have waste. I'd seal up the jar if there was some left and made other meals shorly thereafter to make sure we enjoyed every last bit of thsoe tomatoes. As benign of task canning those tomatoes was, it taught me a valuable lesson. It's also a lesson I really think our kids need to learn as well.

Since my first experiment with my tomatoes, I continue to try and preserve what I can. I make a hot sauce of Thai chilly peppers with onions, carrots, and lime juice. A Moroccan style Harissa sauce with garlic, olive oil, and all kinds of spices for a real kick. I smoke and dry my jalapenos into chipotle powder. We freeze our strawberries for a mid-winter snack. There's more I want to do, but I fully admit time is tight. Every time I cook, I know I have more delicious food that I value more than the $0.99 can from the shelf. Somehow, it also makes my food taste better.

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