The Maine Dish
Mason jar magic: how to embrace your inner pioneer without killing everyone
Anyone who knows me well enough knows I have a food preservation fetish that spans back about fifteen years, when I bought my first–and only–food dehydrator on clearance at the Topsham WalMart for about $10. I’ve dried all sorts of nom-noms in there from jerky to pints of berries that I scored from a farmer who planned to feed them to the pigs. I have a basement pantry that at various points throughout the years could’ve passed for an Amish general store.
I’m also an avid canner and have been most of my adult life. I sadly abandoned my quarter acre garden plot a couple years ago when writing and catering took over my life on a full-time basis, so I’ve really slowed my usual pace. But when the Mason jars do come out, I have to admit I mean business. Pressure canning (a technique specified for low-acid foods) is my absolute favorite: when the safety of your food is wrapped up in the hard sciences–thermodynamics, chemistry, and math–us nerdy cooks tend to get a little excitable. When you have to use an apparatus to literally alter the boiling point of water, what geeky girl isn’t going to rejoice?
These days, canning is becoming quite the hipster pursuit, and I admit I suffer from acute incredulity when I see canning jars for sale in stores that specialize in ironic graphic t-shirts and handmade jewelry from local artisans. But my cultural angst is generally overshadowed by my sincere fear for the people who buy these jars and head home to bang out some nice jars of soup. Absent the proper equipment and technique, they’re in effect starting a deadly biological war against themselves and anyone who comes into contact with the botulism-ridden death in a jar that might result. Just ask that family up in the County about that whole “canned moose meat and ambulances and ventilators” incident a few years ago…
With the holidays approaching, canned goods can seem like the perfect homemade, cheap, and charming gift that tons of well-meaning people opt for. So I thought I’d hit you with a couple of important links to make sure that the gifts you give and the food you serve this holiday season don’t end up being a “Holiday Surprise” that your homeowner’s policy doesn’t specifically cover.