A Slice of Life: Preserving the tradition

Joanna McQuillan Weeks More Content Now

There was a time — well, decades ago, if I’m being honest — when I would can strawberry and blueberry jam, make pickles and tomato sauce, and go through all the boiling of jars, lids and so on.

That undertaking mostly has gone by the wayside, what with the other chores and diversions of life. But there are plenty of folks, like my sister Mary Anne McQuillan, who are both great gardeners and industrious enough to “put food by.”

As noted in today’s main feature, freezing is the way to go for a lot of foods. You have to stand over boiling pots of water to blanch vegetables, but at least you don’t have to sterilize jars and then process them.

I called Mary Anne Monday morning, and caught her as she finished a project. “I just put in about 15 pounds of edamame,” she said. The pods, plump with immature soybeans, had to be boiled for 5 minutes before she could drain and pack them for the freezer.

Also packed into her freezer are grilled, peeled and seeded peppers; grilled slabs of zucchini and eggplant; and a mixture of those vegetables, along with tomatoes, that is glossed with olive oil, seasoned with salt and pepper, and roasted. “I make much more than I can eat at a meal,” and then freeze the surplus, Mary Anne says. That’s efficiency: Cook once, enjoy several meals.

My sister also freezes fruit, though this year, the winter moths decimated her fruit trees, and wild turkeys have been competing for the raspberries. When she has a big crop of cantaloupes, she freezes sections of the melon, “and then you can make daiquiris with it.”

One of the remaining canned products she makes are pickled green beans, zesty with garlic and dill. Our niece Katie particularly favors these beans, made from a recipe in the old “Victory Garden Cookbook.”

A new resource you can turn to for recipes and advice is the Better Homes and Gardens “Complete Canning Guide,” with directions for freezing, preserving and drying an array of fruits, vegetables and other foods.

Canning had a comeback after the recent recession, both for its economy and its feel-good sense of accomplishment. The enthusiasm for locavore food, as well as concern about additives, are other motivators to preserve your own stock.

The hefty book, which runs to 482 pages, was published in hard-cover ringbinder style by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. It costs $29.99, and is also available in ebook format.

The book gets down to brass tacks with the basics tools and utensils, jars, boiling-water and pressure cooking technique, and troubleshooting.

The recipes, broken down into chapter like “chutneys & conserves,” “fermented foods and pickles,” “relishes and toppers,” go far beyond the classics like bread and butter pickles or apple butter. Tomatoes get a chapter all their own.

Some of the recipes that caught my eye: Jamaican Jerk Pickles, Zucchini Relish (who doesn’t need another recipe for squash?), Calvados-Cranberry Applesauce, Freezer Guacamole, and Green Tomato-Pineapple Chutney.

As well, there’s a chapter on soups, stews and stocks that will line your pantry shelves with foods that don’t have long lists of unpronounceable ingredients on their labels. How about Mexican Beef Garden Soup, or Chile, Corn, and Chicken Chowder?

To get you started, here’s an easy recipe from the book.

Asian Pickled Carrots

Makes 3 half-pints. From “Complete Canning Guide” by Better Homes and Gardens, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2015, $29.99.


1 pound baby carrots

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup julienned peeled fresh ginger

3 whole allspice berries

3/4 cup water

3/4 cup rice vinegar

1/3 cup brown sugar, packed

4 whole cloves

4 whole peppercorns

In a covered large saucepan cook carrots with salt in a small amount of boiling water about 3 minutes or until crisp-tender. Drain.

Pack carrots into clean half-pint canning or other jars. Divide fresh ginger among jars; place one whole allspice berry in each jar.

In a small stainless-steel, enamel, or nonstick saucepan combine the water, the vinegar, brown sugar, cloves and peppercorns. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, uncovered, for 5 minutes.

Pour hot vinegar mixture over carrots. Wipe jar rims; adjust lids. Cool; label and store in the refrigerator for up to three months.

Joanna McQuillan Weeks is food editor of The Standard-Times. Contact her at Follow her on Twitter @JoannaWeeksSCT.