Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Canning, On a Personal Note

It was about this time last year that I started having incredible pangs of homesickness.

I have never been the homesick type, to be clear. Not that I don't love my home and family, but the urge to explore and the thirst for adventure has always trumped any feelings of homesickness in the past. I remember being a kid at summer camp and never understanding when, by the middle of the first week, my fellow campers were in tears and lining up at the only payphone on site to make their phone calls home. Weren't we having the time of our lives? Why would they feel sad?

It wasn't so much that I missed a particular place or city last year, it was that I had the overwhelming desire to put down roots. A place where I could create and flourish. I loved living in Korea, but for a variety of personal reasons, I knew it wasn't going to be my 'forever home'. My passion for food and all things home-cooked was getting stronger, and it was becoming increasingly frustrating not knowing how to read food labels or know which farms my food had come from. I had picked up some of the language, but I was nowhere near that level of understanding. There were just so many things I wanted to learn how to do that required the use of an oven, or at least the recipe book residing in my mother's head.

It was this time last year that I sent my mom a message saying, "If I come home, will you teach me how to put things in jars?"

One of the beautiful bowls I bought in Seoul last winter, holding my lemons for preserving this fall.

It's been with great anticipation, then, that I've watched the first signs of autumn arriving in Halifax this year. I've pored over countless websites, books, and blogs over the past several weeks, watching in envy and admiration as decorative jar after decorative jar gets filled, sealed, and prettily photographed by the bloggers I follow.

And now, one year after sending that message, I've gotten to partake in this wonderful, annual ritual: collecting piles of summer and autumn's finest, and preserving them for the cold, wintry days that will undoubtedly need that shock of colourful jam. I scored a weekend alone with my mom and we chopped, peeled, and stirred our way into the night, finishing up sometime after 2am, exhausted and sticky with jam and fruit juice.

The best part was that the recipes I chose were all new to my mom, too. So while I got to pick her brain on canning technique, she also got to add some new recipes to her repertoire. We both spent the weekend learning, which, in the end, resulted in nearly 30 bottles of preserves:
  • Approx. 15 bottles of Apple Butter from 101 Cookbooks. I've desperately wanted to make apple butter ever since I read  this post on Jenny's blog, Union Street Kitchen Witch, last June.
  • 8 bottles of High Dumpsy Dearie Jam. An adorably named jam with pear, apple, plum, lemon and ginger. You can find it on Karen's blog, Lavender and Lovage, of which I'm a huge fan! What can't this woman do?
  • 4 bottles of Peaches in White Wine Syrup, found and sourced on the ever-inspiring blog Domestic Bliss. Because we live in the same city, I always know I can find the ingredients for the creative dishes Alexis whips up!

I look forward to reading this post again someday and laughing at how there was ever a time I didn't have countless, beautiful jars filled with thoughtful preserves in my pantry. At how there was ever a 'first time' for so many of these ritualistic food and harvest seasons in my life.

Happy autumn, friends! For me, the most nourishing season in body, mind, and heart.

My wee, current stock of preserves: minus some already given as gifts or shared with my mother, plus some bottles from my mother's stock of  salsa, beets, and pickles, and minus the peaches, which are in the fridge. It's a start!


  1. Man I wish I lived near you, I so want to learn about canning someday:-) Your stock of gorgeous...wait delicious goodies look amazing! I think you made a great deal with your Mom, being home, learning fun food things, bonus in my book! :-) Hugs, Terra

  2. You're an inspiration Aimee:) Great job @ bottling those preserves! It's certainly never too late to learn new things:) Knowing your mom; I bet she was just thrilled when you suggested that idea! Beautiful to bottle & even more beautiful to eat:) Well done!

  3. BEAUTIFUL preserves and you know I LOVE to preserve myself ~ your apples look divine!
    Great photos too.....

  4. It is to an advantage that u never felt homesick, like that u could open yourself up to new ideas and their cultures while cooking.

    Canning is great and very usefull. My mum does it every year around sept-oct too.

    Thanks for sharing Aimee! =)

  5. this was just beautiful :)
    glad you you and your mum were able to get together to take part in such a fun fall ritual!

  6. I am the laziest and almost never can! But you can feel free to send some stuff over. Heh. This looks so beautiful Aimee! I really appreciate people who follow these fun fall rituals. :)

  7. i discovered canning (more than jam) while living in the okanagan- i had NO IDEA it was such a thing! (my mom never did that other than jam and pickles).
    I would love to make apple butter- it sounds yummy! you'll have to keep us (or just me :) ) posted on how they turned out!

  8. What a gorgeous and fun weekend! Made me miss my Mom!!! We need a canning date ASAP!

  9. I am in envy of your canning time with your mom! What an enticing array of goodies for your pantry! My mom is 86 now and unable to participate in activities with me. But we did have a nice chat about canning jam. My mom loves sweets and made "olallie" jam every summer. She remembers trying to can enough to last all year, only to run out each time! She gave me her large canning pots and I have started canning too.

  10. What a beautiful post Aimee! It's funny because a friend of mine was just saying how next year we need to have a canning day (neither of us have ever canned/preserved). Will have to try some of those recipes you mentioned!