Saturday 15 September 2012

Thanks Nicolas

Well, another night another seven or eight jars of Zucchini Salsa. I’m not even Mexican!

I mentioned before that Louise tried some at work and wanted to see if we could make some at home. It turns out that we can indeed make Salsa at home. The first batch was too hot, the second batch was just right, and God Himself only knows how the third batch will turn out. So far, we have about sixteen or seventeen jars of salsa downstairs and I think there are four in the refrigerator upstairs.

That is part of the canning process for me. Once the food is ready to be canned, you fill the jars, wipe the edge of the jars clean, place the lids on and tighten the twisty, screwy thingy. Then you place the sealed jars in boiling water for fifteen minutes. I think that is when the canning fairy makes his visit, waving his magic wand over the selected jars. Once removed from the bath, the jars are to sit undisturbed for twenty four hours. Wouldn’t that just be terrific? I would kill to be a jar of salsa or jam for the first 24 hours, but after that things go downhill.

Canning and preserving involves a lot of waiting in between steps, so it gives you a chance to let your mind wander. I began thinking about what it must have been like at this time of year for our ancestors. I was going to say a hundred years ago, but up until this past century, people have been responsible for looking after the food needs for the upcoming winter. I have done very little research, but I do know that it is possible to keep certain fruits and vegetables edible for months. The canning process would have been near miraculous when first discovered. We can thank the French government during the Napoleonic war for offering a handsome reward for any inventor that managed to think of a way to preserve large amounts of food that the army needed. In 1809 Nicolas Appert observed that food cooked and sealed in jars would remain good unless the seal was compromised. The article doesn’t mention whether or not Nicolas got his reward, but I somehow doubt it. Napoleon was a lying little twerp, or at least that is what I have heard.

It would have been so very important and time consuming. We have all of the modern machines that make the kitchen experience pleasant and relatively simple. Back in the day wood stoves would have to be kept at the right temperature, water hauled and of course there would be all of the cutting and chopping that the modern food processor makes simple. It is still involved, but much easier and during the winter it will be just awesome eating the salsa or jam that we put up. I think we might just expand our production next year and get into pickling or all of the other stuff that I don’t have a clue about. Not meat though, I can think of more than a few ways that could go horribly wrong.

I think some rhubarb jam might be a good idea. I had a friend ask me once how much jam can you possibly eat. I answered that it usually works out to one more jar than you have.

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