I love summer. Who doesn’t. But what I love about it is the growing season and how the produce changes as it ripens and becomes ready for harvesting.
The kitchen staples of apples, oranges and bananas are a perfect example of how out of touch we are with where the food we eat comes from. Bananas are terribly cheap, horribly cheap as a matter of fact and everytime I eat a fresh banana I think a little part of me dies inside knowing where it came from. Oranges don’t grow here either so the only thing that we can actually get from around here are apples. I am staring at an apple tree as I write this. For those who come from the Okanagan they know that before there were vineyards everywhere, and the coddling moth, the apple orchards were what sustained generations of farmers and orchardists. They are a fabulous fruit in that they keep so incredibly well. I can buy a 25 lb box of apples, put them in my cellar and be done with it. No additional labour required. Fantastic.
Not all fruits are so simple. Peaches are another thing that grow plentifully where I am from and man who doesn’t love a fresh peach? They are simply delicious but they don’t keep well at all. Which is why I spent 3 hours a few days ago slicing, boiling, peeling and packing peaches into jars for us to enjoy in the coming colder seasons.
Canning is one of those seemingly lost arts. There was a time when not a root cellar in the city would be found without dozens of jars filled with wonderful fruits and vegetables lining it’s shelves. These days cans of food line grocery store shelves and are packed in factories instead of kitchens. It is sad really but I hear that canning is coming back into fashion what with the recession and all.
When I was growing up we also had a food dehydrator. My mom mostly used it to make fruit leather and banana chips, it didn’t really work all that well and I never really thought much of dehydrating food. Until this spring I met a friend who was/is an avid backpacker and recently purchased a food dehydrator. We would talk about all the things he was going to dry and as the fruit started to come into season a big giant light bulb smashed above my head. Dehydrating food is such a perfect way to keep it intact. I dehydrated a flat of strawberries early this summer and they came out magnificently I wish I had done more. We now have the ability to make our own raisins, crasins and chaisns (dried cherries I just made that up think it’ll catch on?). Brilliant.
To sum it up my primary modes of preservation are drying, canning and freezing. Pretty standard stuff.