Blue Heron Local Cuisine

Cooking, Eating, and Drinking on the North Shore (and beyond)

The Obsessive Canner and the Zombie Apocalypse May 27, 2009

Filed under: Preserving the harvest — blueheronlocal @ 2:25 pm
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[New York Times, we are way ahead of you.]


It could just be that I’m an obsessive personality. Instead of buying a complete bike, I buy a frame and spend 2 years tinkering to get 10 speeds out of a 28-speed gruppo.  Instead of waiting and saving for a hot tub, I drag an old one out of someone’s yard so it can beautify mine. A pattern has been established.


So, I think about BPA being in all of that “organic” food I buy in (plastic-lined metal) cans, and decide to buy some nice, inert Ball jars and a pressure canner. Maybe you can see where this is headed. (more…)


On Skills, Economics, and blogs that won’t let me comment October 2, 2008

(photo from Appalachian Farming Systems Research Center)

NPR* has this snazzy little radio show called The Splendid Table, hosted by the grand dame Lynne Rosetto Casper (with a voice like pork cooked with apples, topped by well-buttered biscuits).  About a year ago, she started a local food challenge blog,  which includes posts from people around the country.  I’ve been sporadically following a woman named Autumn, from my home state, West Virginia. 
On 9/11, Autumn posted a thoughtful rant about the economic past, present, and future and how that relates to food: growing, eating, preserving, buying, obesity, health, life, the universe, and everything.
In short: WV has economic and health problems, which grew out of a history of subsistence lifestyles that were rendered obsolete and not properly replaced with anything else (other than coal—a place I will not go today). This lead to a loss of skills and host of modern health issues, which can be summarized by saying that obesity is bad and prevalent. 
Her solution: Rebuild local economies based on meeting basic needs, like food, locally.  (more…)


Not Canning (easy, easy, easy jam) September 9, 2008

Filed under: Preserving the harvest,Recipe — blueheronlocal @ 4:15 pm
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(thanks,, for the photo!)

(thanks,, for the photo!)

We ran out of jam the other day, which constitutes a crisis in our household, as we are major consumers of the stuff. Being low on both funds and the energy to go out and buy jam, I decided to make some at home.


This is an easy way to make jam without canning. You can store it in the fridge for about a month in a closed container. It’s also a great way to use summer berries that you’ve frozen or just gathered. You will need:


4 cups of your favorite berries (strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, etc., or a combination)
1 cup sugar
A few tsp of fresh lemon juice

Combine the berries and sugar in a pot and bring to a simmer over med-high heat. Turn down to medium and cook until the mixture thickens. This can take about an hour for fresh fruit, longer if you’re using frozen fruit. Stir in the lemon juice when done. Yum!


Canning! September 8, 2008

Filed under: Ethical Eating,Preserving the harvest — blueheronlocal @ 11:13 am
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Ping!  Ping!  Ping!  Every time I hear the exclamation of a fully sealed jar of pickles, preserves, or fruit, it fills a neglected corner of my heart with the classic warm and fuzzy feeling familiar to all people who gain a great deal of satisfaction from producing truly useful things.  The line of jars full of sweet-and-sour cauliflower, lemon pickled beans, spiced plums, and dill pickles will not only allow me to eat a bit of local food in February, but the mere act of producing them is pure rebellion. (Right, chant that over and over as I scrub the burnt plum syrup off the stove. It boiled over…)


In America today, consumption has become the king of all driving forces.  We are told to buy, buy, buy and then, oh, go buy some more.  Because the economy is failing.  Because it’s good for national security.  Because your three-year-old won’t stop screaming at the grocery store until you buy the box with the cute blue puppy on it.  Preserving your own food is one step toward short-circuiting the glorified gore of consumption.


You can flummox the marketers, minimize packaging waste, avoid (some of) the horrors of the modern grocery store, have instant solutions for what to take to the potluck, and have handy presents for sudden occasions requiring gifts.  Wedding gift?  Give them a jar of jam and the promise of a fruit tree or two come spring.   Birthday?  A jar of pickled beans, a bar of homemade soap, and a couple of jars of dried herbs.


Plus, joining the legions of Americans who have preserved food gives you a connection to the past and a mildly esoteric skill set that may be needed again someday.  Maintaining such skills is a vital and often neglected area of food culture. Like saving seeds (and field dressing a moose), saving culinary traditions can give us insights into the past and provide inspiration for new ways (and survival—your home-canned food plus a few cans of tuna can be your emergency stash).


For anyone who has limited freezer space, canning can be a good way of preserving local food for the dark and cold winter months.  The only real problem with canning is that many recipes that can be made without a pressure canner tend to be a bit high in salt, sugar, or both.  Decreasing the salt and/or sugar is generally not an option since the salt and sugar maintain an environment hostile to microbial growth.  Also, keep in mind that if you are using an old recipe, you should check a more modern source for processing times as guidelines have changed. 


Joining my shelves soon: crunchy Asian cabbage, pears, more plums, and maybe applesauce.