Berries and lettuce and tomatoes, oh my! This time of year brings an abundance of fruits and vegetables to farmer’s markets and grocery stores. In most parts of the country, it’s possible to buy the majority of your fresh produce from local sources only a few miles away. This is the season to begin eating locally and supporting regional farmers while enjoying a wide variety of fresh fruits and vegetables. It’s also the perfect time to stretch that food budget even further through home preservation.
Having grown up in the middle of farm country in Pennsylvania, it was part of our family tradition to freeze and can the produce that was harvested from our garden. Growing our own vegetables meant saving money at the grocery store, but we couldn’t always eat as much as we picked. Freezing, canning and pickling were ways that we preserved the food to eat later, stretching our budget even further. Home food preservation was a big part of our rural life, so much so that my father’s employer gave away canning jars as a company promotional item.
Once I was living on my own, I felt that the tradition of canning foods seemed old fashioned and inconvenient. I didn’t have a garden so I assumed food preservation didn’t apply to me outside of picking up frozen vegetables from the grocery store. Now my view of food has come full circle in the light of the problems with global warming, the state of our agricultural systems and my personal desire to live healthfully.
Luckily for me and everyone else interested in stretching the food budget and supporting local food sources, home food preservation has reentered modern vocabulary with fresh, re-vamped recipes and options for every budget. For the foodie who insists on high-end equipment, William Sonoma offers a line of signature canning jars and canning equipment. For those of us with a more utilitarian budget, Kmart also offers a wide variety of similar canning paraphernalia.
Food preservation isn’t only about canning. Freezing, fermenting, pickling, drying and curing are also options. The National Center for Home Food Preservation offers a variety of literature, recipes and tips for making the most of your region’s seasonal harvest. There is also a surge of new preservation cookbooks on the market, with tips and tricks to making the most of what you buy (affiliate link). No longer is food preservation reserved for farmers with huge gardens. There are small-batch recipes that will stretch your food dollar past one trip to the farmer’s market or grocery store, and affordable, durable equipment to address whatever form of preservation you choose. Food preservation is enjoying a renaissance as consumers make the “green” choice to support local farmers and their health.