Editor’s Note: A couple weeks back, members from Canning Across America had the opportunity to chat with Marisa McClellan of Food In Jars while we noshed on an assortment of pickled vegetables and savored a batch of last years strawberry schrub. We were so inspired by her new book Food in Jars: Preserving in Small Batches Year-Round (Running Press, July 2012), that together we wanted to share the joys of seasonal canning with our readers prior to our fourth annual Can-a-rama. Enjoy!
The first time I really clued into the concept of seasonality was when I was a sophomore in college. In those days, I lived in Walla Walla, WA, home of vineyards, wheat fields and a fast and furious asparagus season. For the two or so weeks of harvest, asparagus was everywhere and typically sold for as little as three pounds for $1.
I had grown up thinking of asparagus as a special-occasion vegetable, too pricy for anything other than birthday suppers and holiday meals. Seeing it for so little at every independent grocery store in town made me realize that it wasn’t an inherently expensive vegetable when grown locally. It was the travel and scarcity that made it so. I’ve carried around that lesson every since.
Once you clue into the seasonality of food, there’s really no going back. Not only are things more affordable when they’re abundant, they also taste far better. The one question that comes up is what do you do when you have a hankering for asparagus in November or peaches in January? You can either squelch the urge or you can do a little work during their respective seasons.
I choose to do the work every time. I make asparagus pickles each spring, make vast vats of apricot jam in July and preserve about 100 pounds of tomatoes each September. As I eat through my stores, I think about the time I spent preserving and appreciate the seasonality of food, even from half a year away.
To enter to win a copy of my new book, featuring 100+ seasonal recipes for everything from jams and pickles to chutneys and flavored salts, visit the Canning Across America giveaway page.
CAA Contributor Marisa McClellan grew up in Oregon, where she learned to can local blueberries, blackberries and apples from her mother. A move across the country came between her and her canning pot, but a fortuitous blueberry picking expedition with a friend in 2006 reawakened her passion, and she has been canning and preserving ever since, blogging about it on Food in Jars, one of the Internet’s most popular and enduring canning blogs, which was selected as one of Saveur magazine’s “Sites We Love” in 2011.