If we want to capture a sight, we take pictures.
If we want to capture a sound, we record it.
But what happens when we want to capture a taste?
We preserve it of course! Preserving foods has been an essential technique for good eating for countless centuries and it's an especially good way to be sure that you can 'eat local' all year 'round. But at the same time, food preservation skills are something that we’ve recently begun to lose. Perhaps it is because we have no time, perhaps it is because of all the imports and convenience foods available, or perhaps, it is simply that we cannot remember how or never learned in the first place.
Hamilton Eat Local believes than now more than ever we’ve come to a complete disconnect with our food – not knowing how it should actually taste or how to obtain food that is good for both us and the environment. Amidst such melancholy though, there is hope: we can re-learn, if we so please.
Like any other skill, learning the art of preservation takes time, but once you learn the basics it gets easier, and more interesting. Start with making jam or canning tomatoes; these are simple to ways to start that do not require much equipment. Opening up a homemade jar of strawberry jam in January is like a tasty trip back in time to last June. When you’ve put up your year’s stock of assorted jams and tomato sauce, move on to pickling. Who doesn’t crave the texture and tang of pickled beets mid-winter?
The next progression is towards pressure canning, a technique used in preserving low-acid foods, such as meats, seafood, and vegetables. Low-acid foods such as these require specialized equipment which allows processing to reach temperatures and sterilizing capabilities far beyond the simpler boiling-water bath method used for more acidic foods.
At last, the final step in 'preserving the art of preservation' is to spread it! Let your children get involved, share jam recipes with your friends, invite neighbors to can with you, organize workshops, become a part of food advocacy groups such as Hamilton Eat Local and Slow Food Hamilton—do your part in re-establishing our connection with locally grown food and all its glory.