FOOD MATTERS: Canning gives food year-round

NANAIMO: Healthy fruit and vegetables available in winter.

I canned six quarts of organic Okanagan peaches and six quarts of Roma tomatoes on Monday, using a large, tall, pasta pot.

Red and gold treasures, such satisfaction.

For years I had a massive pressure canner. Fall meant harvesting, preparing and processing, so that the family had healthy winter food. I like bottled peaches, tomatoes and cherries better than frozen.

My freezer is full of peas, beans, corn, blueberries, sliced apples, meat, fish and leftovers.

Sometimes I dry tomato slices or cranberries.

Nowadays our children are all fled and we live in a cottage with minimum upkeep on a sea cliff, and I have neither the energy nor the inclination for harvest frenzies. But I have a system.

That large pasta pot can submerge three quart jars. I sterilize half a dozen jars and make my light syrup.

I peel peaches and douse them in an ascorbic acid solution (crystals are available where canning supplies are sold).

I fill the jars with drained peach quarters, cover them with syrup and screw on the seals tightly.

They go into the pot and are kept gently boiling for the required time.

Six quarts (two batches) before lunch.

After lunch, six quarts of tomatoes. I score their skins at the blossom end in a cross, then plonk them in a pan of boiling water for 30 seconds.

Then they go into the sink to cool, when they can be quickly peeled and the top cored if necessary.

I take enough skinned tomatoes to fill a saucepan half full when thickly sliced, and cook them gently till the juices flow, then a little hotter to break down the flesh.

The softened mixture goes into my chinois – that’s the perforated metal cone with a wooden paddle that stands on three legs over a bowl into which the juices and some pulp are pressed.

This is the juice the tomatoes are canned in.

If you can’t find a chinois or they’re too expensive, use a metal sieve and a wooden spoon.

Another batch another day, and that’s probably enough for regular winter use.

Tools I find invaluable are a jar lifter and a slotted spoon for lifting fruits and veggies from liquids.

Use old towels or tea towels between your table or counter and the hot jars from the pot.

If you want information about the regular deliveries of Okanagan fruit purchased directly online, or have questions, you can reach me at the e-mail below.

I advise anyone starting canning to consult their local nutritionist for advice on the safest techniques. Or get some information from Nanaimo Foodshare about canning workshops.

I haven’t killed anyone yet, but maybe I’ve just been lucky.

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Marjorie Stewart is board chair of the Nanaimo Foodshare Society. She can be reached at: marjorieandalstewart@shaw.ca.