Zen and the Art of Canning – About Nicole

There’s something intensely satisfying about standing in front of shelves and shelves of goods you preserved yourself. Or tasting a recipe you threw together on a whim and realizing it’s fantastic. These are only a couple of the reasons why I can, but they’re the two that stand out the most for me as we come up on the beginning of the produce season here in Canada. It won’t be too long until the first tender spears of asparagus start poking through the soil, after all!

Canning is more than a hobby for me. Putting up my own food has become an integral part of my personality. I like knowing that even if catastrophe happens – we find ourselves without an income or there’s an extended power outage, I still have plenty of food put by to feed my family. I like knowing that it came from local farms and producers, and that I inspected every ingredient for freshness. And maybe more than anything, I like the quiet mindfulness my mind sinks into when I’m canning – almost a meditation – where I can let my mind run free as my hands perform the same motions over and over. That escape from the everyday burdens of life, deep into my imagination, is where I often wind up finding ideas and solutions for another facet of my life – writing. The two are not so dissimilar: like any art form, both involve creation, hard work, a great deal of learning and practise and in the end, something you can be proud of.

Far from leaving me exhausted, spending hours – days even – in this state is rejuvenating, and always leaves me looking forward to the next time (although at the end of blanching and peeling some 150lbs of tomatoes, I often swear I never want to see another nightshade again). Canning is what I do to relax. The fact that you get delicious food out of it is just a bonus. And those jars sure do look pretty all lined up like that.

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Bring It On, Zombie Apocalypse! (About Lindsay)

I’m only slightly embarrassed to admit that this all started with an intense interest in the apocalypse. A lifelong love of mysteries had led me to books about 2012, which led me to books about peak oil, which introduced me to permaculture and topics like peak soil, the plight of the bees, the state of the economy (this was before the 2008 crash), and on and on. Ever the pragmatist, I accepted that while the poles were likely not going to flip, and we have only a small chance of being buried in ash from a volcanic eruption in Yellowstone, it’s only prudent to be prepared for any eventuality. And thus, a prepper was born.

I do like to joke about the zombie apocalypse, and I feel our world is changing fast in many ways, but rest assured – I’ve got a good head on my shoulders. After about five years of preparing for whatever may come, I’ve learned that preparedness (food storage, financial preparedness, carrying a first aid kit in the car, and knowing how to react in emergency situations) can reduce life stress in general.

Canning and preserving is a great example. My plunge into canning came about as a natural melding of several interests – prepping, of course, but also foraging local wild edibles, learning drying skills, and cooking/food. I have loved learning the skills involved in canning and preserving, but I have also discovered just how nice it is to have shelves and shelves full of home-canned, healthy foods in the basement. During times of financial stress, illness, or when I’m just too lazy to run to the store, being able to walk downstairs and choose a jar as the base of our dinner or snack is comforting, to say the least.

Assorted jars in the basement.
Assorted jars in the basement.

Now that I’ve been canning for a few years, I couldn’t stop if I wanted to. In fact, when for some reason the summer of 2013 proved very overwhelming for me and I was tempted to can hardly anything, my husband begged me to still can tomatoes and salsa – he couldn’t go back to store bought, he said. Indeed, now that we have become accustomed to our favourite home recipes, we’d be hard-pressed to find anything comparable in a store.

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