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.
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.