In the past, canning and preserving foods used to be the number one method to supply fruit and vegetables during months when they weren't available. My grandparents owned a garden that supplied them with fresh produce in the summer months, and at the end of summer, my grandmother, mother and aunt found themselves surrounded by boiling pots, glass jars and labels. They made pickled cucumbers, canned tomatoes, and a whole array of jams.
The garden was sold after my grandfather's death, when no one was willing or able to continue taking care of it. It happened a long time before I was born, but the excitement of harvest was conveyed to me through my mother's stories, and Mom still has a burning passion for making her own preserves.
Today, we live in an age when practically anything can be found available all the time, at every season - although often, at high prices and with the additional cost of flavor and nutritional value of the fruit and vegetables we consume being damaged in favor of larger size and long shelf-life. Fruit is picked early and ripened artificially, so that it doesn't accumulate all the nutrients it could have if it had been given the opportunity to ripen properly. It's not by chance that almost every older person will tell you fruit and vegetables tasted better 50 years ago - they really did.
With today's soaring prices of food, and the increasing desire all over the world to return to simpler life - for which no replacement was found after all, in all the years that passed since the Industrial Revolution, I think it is inevitable that people start growing more of their own food. For better health, better taste, sustainability, and the satisfaction of eating something you planted with your own hands.
My husband and I hope to start our first garden as soon as the Sabbatical year ends here in Israel. We are supposed to move around Rosh Hashana (the Jewish new year), which is, if I remember correctly, around the end of September this time. So far, the only things I have planted (in pots) in the past were herbs (like dill and peppermint) and green onions - and they were greatly enjoyed as well, not to mention that they added to the pleasant atmosphere in the kitchen. I'm looking forward to having a real garden, however small it might be at first, and I'm already preparing by reading every material I can lay my hands on.
A very useful online resource is Rhonda Jean's wonderful blog, Down to Earth. I think I have mentioned it once or twice already. Rhonda has written many wonderful articles about gardening, canning, raising chickens, simple living, frugality and sustainability, and generously shares with us on her blog. If you are interested in any of the above, you will enjoy visiting Rhonda and browsing through her archives, as well as new articles (sorted into sections).
In the meantime before we start growing our own veggies (and maybe even fruit), I decided it would also be useful to learn a bit about canning. I thought I'd start with something simple, like pickled cucumbers - my mother makes them much better than store-bought - and picked up my grandmother's old Romanian cookbook. Here are the instructions I followed:
"Take fresh cucumbers and as many glass jars as you need. Wash jars with boiling water before use, and place the cucumbers in, tightly packed, with some sliced garlic and grains of black pepper. Pour boiling water with salt over cucumbers, using 3 tsp. of salt for every cup of water. Cover every jar with a clean cloth, and leave for a couple of days, until the desired level of saltiness is reached."
Remembering my mother's cucumbers started looking like pickles after just one day, I wondered why mine didn't. A call to my mother helped me realize I forgot the part of the instructions that mentioned covering a jar with a clean cloth. Instead I closed my jar with a lid, which prevented air coming through - a necessary part of the natural process. I removed the lid and replaced it with a cloth, and now it seems as though my cucumbers are coming along nicely. If they are good, I'll make more in a few days.
I'm feeling better, but now my dear husband is a bit unwell. He will stay home again today, and didn't get up yet. I think I will gently check if he is awake, and offer to make a cup of coffee and something nice for a late breakfast. You have a wonderful day!