When I turned 30, I made a list of 40 things I’d like to accomplish by the time I turn 40. Some of the items on my list are admittedly low hanging fruit (such as visiting California wine country or completing the second series in the Wilton cake decorating class) and others are more challenging (such as visiting Machu Picchu or living in the same home for three years in a row). And one of the goals on my list is to learn how to can.
I have fond memories of my mom and grandma in the basement kitchen at my grandma’s house, peeling pears for hours, boiling the jars to seal them, and laughing and talking the entire time. And later, of my mom continuing the tradition with jars spread all around her kitchen stove. Not to mention the fond memories of eating those delicious pears all throughout the winter. My husband recently told me that was how I got him — by serving some of my mother’s canned pears.
In the month after I moved to California, I talked (apparently) fairly often about wanting to learn to can. And, lo and behold, it turned out my brother and his girlfriend were also interested in learning. My brother’s girlfriend gave me a book about the process for Christmas and my brother set us up with a canning class at 18 Reasons in San Francisco’s Mission District. (This is a very similar process that got me into duathlons, but that’s an altogether different story.)
18 Reasons is a community-based organization that seeks to create social change through food. The organization has now merged with Bi-Rite, an organic and local products grocery store and delicious ice creamery. 18 Reasons delivers food education to people of all skill levels and income backgrounds to maximize food resources and to bring people together. I’m currently drooling over the variety of classes and community events they offer and encourage you to check out their schedule if you’re in the area!
Our canning class featured late winter preserves. We worked in teams to chop, simmer, pour, and can our way to delicious Meyer Lemon Ginger Marmalade, Vanilla Blood Orange Syrup, and our own mix of Lady Grey tea featuring bergamot oranges, cara cara oranges, and lavender. (Both types of oranges were completely new to me!)
There’s a reason you work in teams: prepping more than two pounds of lemons in thin, thin slices could be a day on its own.
Well, it would be if you work at my pace, which is just slightly faster than that of a grandma with serious arthritis in her hands. I was thankful to have my brother with his crazy-awesome knife skills and his girlfriend with her superior ginger chopping skills to work with.
I’m really excited to experiment with more recipes and to try the canning process at home.
While I don’t feel I’ve fully accomplished this 40 by 40 goal, yet, I do feel like I’m well on my way with the added bonus of starting a new tradition in my own home.