Tag: canning

A Side Project/Shameless Plug

If you’re a regular reader, you probably know that one of my other pastimes is canning and preserving.

My cold room.

My cold room.

I spend a great deal of my free time from May-October putting up anything and everything in season to feed us through the winter. This past week, for example, I canned 75lbs of tomatoes into pasta sauce, turned a case of apricots into jam (with amaretto and vanilla, yum!), went foraging in a couple parks in my city for saskatoons and sour cherries, which I made into a juice concentrate for smoothies, and bought a further 15lbs of Lapin cherries to make into preserves. In short, I’ve been busy. Oh, and I scored this lot at a small-town thrift store today:

That's around 100 jars. YOU CAN NEVER HAVE TOO MANY JARS.

That’s around 100 jars. YOU CAN NEVER HAVE TOO MANY JARS.

It only made sense then, for me and my canning partner-in-crime and longtime friend Lindsay to open our own store supplying canning products and accessories.

The Cannery - Now Open!

The Cannery – Now Open!

We supply the Canadian market with hard-to-fnd products like Tattler reusable lids and Pomona’s Pectin as well as your favourites from Bernardin and more. We also strive to make mason jars more useful by offering products that will turn your jar into a cup, a coffee- or teapot, a soap dispenser or even a martini shaker! And if it’s recipes you’re after, we carry a large selection of books on canning, pickling and dehydrating. But wait, there’s more! We’ve also just started up a blog, Pretty Little Jars, focusing on skills, tips, recipes, stories and more. We hope with these two sites to become one of Canada’s leading sources for canning supplies and information. And now back to our regularly scheduled content 🙂


This is going to be a bit of a ramble.

Every year, starting in about June and ending in October, writing gets shoved to a back burner and I focus on putting by enough food to feed my family for the next year. From freezing fresh fruit by the caseload to canning, pickling and dehydrating, the goal is to make it through the lean months of winter with a wide variety of food. Some of it I grow myself, most of it I source from local farms and markets.

Canning season starts with asparagus, pickled in brine with my own blend of spices. It usually ends with apples and squash, both sauced. Once the last of the kale and chard has been picked and the herbs hung from the rafters in the basement to dry, the garden gets put to bed and I start making soups and stocks to warm us on chilly days.

I’m committed to keeping as much of our diet local as possible, but you can’t get fresh Alberta-grown apricots or pears in February, so I have to get enough for the year in summer, and find a way to preserve them. The amount of produce that moves through my kitchen during these months is astonishing, when you add it up. 210lbs of tomatoes. 100lbs of apples. 40lbs of corn. 80lbs of strawberries. 60lbs of blueberries. You get the idea.

This is what it gets turned into.

This is what it gets turned into.

I can’t remember if I’ve ever mentioned it on the blog before, but due to food sensitivities I can’t have dairy, gluten, eggs or almonds. This means virtually all processed foods are out for me, and I make everything from scratch. Without having all this stuff put by in the summer when prices are cheapest, I think my dietary restrictions would bring our grocery bill up to an amount that rivals our mortgage. And as a working mom it simplifies my life a thousandfold. Getting home from work at 6pm means I only have a short time to get dinner on the the table, so having safe and tasty spaghetti sauce ready to heat means all I have to do is cook the rice pasta.

But this is a blog about writing, right? Why the hell am I talking about canning? Well, because I see a lot of parallels between my path as a writer and my path as a canner. With both, I started out small and kind of fiddled around for awhile, trying different things out, reading lots of books, making lots of mistakes. With each new project I got a little bit better, started trying out different techniques and now I feel I’m rather good at both.

My now-not-so-secret desire is to one day write my own canning cookbook, featuring my original recipes, which will cause canning and writing to intersect even more directly in my life. It’s a few years off, but I’m starting to think about it, compile all my recipes and work on the ones that still need improvement. In the meantime, publishing my fiction is where most of my efforts are going to lie.

At the end of it all, whether I’m gazing at the hundreds of jars I’ve filled over the past few months, or reading the final page of my many-times-edited novel, the feeling I get from both is the same – accomplishment and a quiet sort of satisfaction. It’s worth all the work, the late nights, the tears, the bitter disappointments. It’s something I can be proud of.

Today I’m Back

My tomatoes are done – 190lbs put in jars for the year in five whirlwind days.

This photo is so artfully composed. You have the empty jars. The full jars. The produce. The giant pot. The tomato splatter on the floor. It’s everything about canning all together. Courtesy my lovely husband.

A lot of canning is repetitive and doesn’t require much brain activity. Chop, peel, scoop, stir, ad infinitum. That leaves a lot of time for thinking and plotting and shaping scenes. Last night I finished my last batch and today I’m ready to write. To hell with cleaning the kitchen.

August and September

Canning season. The bulk of our preserved food for the year gets put up in these two months. It all comes into season at once, and it’s a hell of a lot of work keeping up with getting it all processed and put away. Subsequently, my writing time has suffered. I sure don’t want to sit down at my computer after spending three hours pitting cherries. Same goes for making 10L of spaghetti sauce. And then there’s the garden, which is a whole other workload. It’s my favourite time of year, to be sure, and nothing feels better than looking at my fully stocked cold room at the end of it, but it’s not my favourite time to be a writer, because I’m scrambling to get in any time at all. Guess I’ll just keep telling myself that I can’t write anything at all if I have to take another job to by store-bought food (or I’m starving).