Canning in Winter

To me, canning has always seemed to be the stuff of summer, something you do on those hot days when tomatoes and cucumbers magically multiply on every horizontal surface in your kitchen whenever your back is turned.

At least, that’s how I remember canning days at Grandma’s. Now, with each passing summer I stroll from booth to booth at my farmer’s market, ogling the impossibly beautiful produce, wishing I’d paid more attention to my grandmother and learned to preserve all that gorgeous goodness for the frozen, grey days of winter.

Which is why, on a very cold, very snowy day early this February, I arrived at a teaching kitchen at the Ivy Tech Culinary Center, ready to – finally – learn the art of canning from Suzanne Krowiak, Master Food Preserver, assisted by Beth Murphy, Personal Chef and Ivy Tech Culinary Arts Instructor.

There were a dozen or so of us in attendance, women of all ages and one devoted Dad who brought his daughter. We came armed with our own aprons and knives, but Suzanne supplied everything else, promising we’d go home with a jar or two of our very own canned goods. This particular class was for true beginners and introduced us to pickling, using the boiling water bath method of canning.

So, what do you pickle on a freezing day in February when the nearest fresh cucumbers are thumbing rides from Mexico? Why, carrots, of course, supplied by one of the farmers at the Indy Winter Farmer’s Market. And not just any carrots. These were beauties, ranging in color from pale yellow to deep, almost-red orange. Peeled and sliced, packed inside their jars and adorned with red pepper flakes, slices of jalapeño chilis and garlic, they were truly pretty. Next came the brine that Suzanne taught us to make and carefully pour into our jars, followed by instructions in how to release air bubbles, wipe the jar rims, add the lids and rings, and then subject our jars to a 15 minute boiling water bath.

And that was it. Really. The jars emerged from their bath to sit for a few minutes, during which time Suzanne answered questions and we listened to the little pinging noises our jar lids made as they cooled and vacuum sealed. In just an hour-and-a-half, one of the great mysteries of my grandmother’s kitchen was resolved.

I can can. And I can’t wait for summer.
Suzanne Krowiak is the organizer of Indy Food Swappers and a Master Food Preserver with training from Purdue University. Slow Food Indy and Suzanne will be offering a series of canning workshops this summer and fall; we’ll be sure to post those dates when available. In the meantime, check out IndyFoodSwappers.com.  

Of Note
Please join us this Saturday, March 1st, 10:30 AM – 6 PM for the Indianapolis Viewing Party of the TEDxManhattan – Changing the Way We Eat webcast. This exciting event will be held at The Bureau, 719 Virginia Ave, and will feature presentations from an all-star lineup of food entrepreneurs, activist, farmers, researchers, and educators, including Top Chef mainstay, Tom Colicchio. It promises to be a great way to meet and share ideas, so don’t miss out! Register online

About the Author
Lorrie Wehr is an Indianapolis writer and sometimes-artist who believes sharing good food is the key to a good life.