In each crate of peaches we bring to market, there are always at least five bruised and mushy ones that we put in a separate box labeled “seconds.” These are the unwanted and abandoned; the contorted cucumber, the scarred tomato, the dented nectarine.
Thank goodness for these quirky seconds, because the abundance of them has led me to the wonderful world of canning.
In the first decade of the 1800s, the French government offered a reward for someone to come up with a way of preserving food for soldiers. Nicholas Appert, the ‘father of canning,’ was the big winner in 1809. He wrote the first canning cookbook; he started the first canning facility; he even canned a whole sheep, just for show.
Home canning is popular particularly among people who grow food, because the amount of second- and even first-quality produce left over is astounding. Canning is easy, fun, artsy, and safe, if you follow the directions of whatever recipe you’re using. Boiling the jars and adding the right amount of acid, if necessary, to their contents eliminates bacteria (botulism is not a concern if you can follow directions).
Actually, you don’t even need a canner to can basic stuff. A canner is basically a big pot with a shelf that keeps your glass jars from knocking around in the boiling water. You can just use a pot with a towel in the bottom; that’s how I did my first batch of ginger peach jam of the season. Check this website out if you’re interested in canning!
If you’re still intimidated by canning (don’t be!), did you know you can make jam without a canner? Follow a recipe for “freezer jam,” stick the jars in the freezer, and pull them out whenever you want some jam on your homemade pound cake.
And here’s a tip for you beginning canners or canning enthusiasts: many farmers have so much second quality produce that they would LOVE to sell to you with a discount. At the farmers market, approach your farmers with an offer: you’ll buy all of the second quality tomatoes or peaches or cucumbers next week, 20% off the regular price. Then, make tomato sauce, peach preserves, and pickles that will last you all year!