Conquering My Fear of Canning

June 18th, 2012

food in jars cookbook coverThere are 20 pounds of zucchini lurking in my freezer. I try to pretend they’re not there, but deep down I know they are, waiting for me to figure out what to do with them. I love to grow vegetables but I never know what to DO with them all.

You can only eat, give away, or force on strangers so much produce before people start avoiding you.  I hear people talk about canning but to be honest, canning has always scared me.  When I first considered canning, I worried about botulism and exploding jars and scraping jam off my kitchen ceiling (with good reason–just ask my mom about cleaning exploded eggs off her ceiling one Easter).

For many of my generation, canning is something our grandparents did. But with the renewed interest in homesteading, eating locally grown food and with everyone trying to save money wherever they can, “putting up” food is coming back in a big way.

In this 1929 cartoon, a wife assures her husband that due to the breakthrough technique of canning, they can save their extra food for later.

In this 1929 cartoon, a wife assures her husband that they can save their extra food by using the breakthrough technique of canning. Once considered a lost art, interest in canning has surged in recent years.

Philadelphia-based writer Marisa McClellan, whose blog talks about well, putting food in jars, just published her first cookbook (also called Food In Jars) and will be coming to the Rising Sun Branch Library on June 28 to answer questions about canning, preserving, and putting up food. With the help of her fantastic book, I think I have conquered my fear of canning. This weekend I made Spicy Honey Mustard, Grainy White Wine Mustard and a Blueberry Butter that is beyond delicious.  As I write this my house is filling with the heavenly smell of roasting almonds drizzled with maple syrup for some Maple Almond Butter.

Food in Jars has step-by-step instructions on how to process with boiling water and how to tell if your jam has set (with pictures!), which is wonderful for a novice like me. However, the book also includes a wide range of recipes for more experienced cooks. From classics like Strawberry Jam and basic Marinara Sauce to more adventurous flavor combinations like Vanilla-Rhubarb Jam with Earl Grey Tea, there is truly something for everyone.

Marisa McClellan, food blogger and author of the cookbook Food in Jars: Preserving in Small Batches Year-Round will be at the Rising Sun Branch Library, Thursday June 28th at 7pm. Call 410-658-4025 or click here to register. Cecil County Public Library also carries several copies of the book, which you can place on hold by clicking here.

What do you think of the renewed interest in canning and “homesteading”?

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Chesapeake Writers’ Workshop

June 7th, 2012

typewriter pictureIf this were a chapter in a book, we’d begin with a character. Let’s call him Warner. He’d like to write a novel—or a short story or a memoir—if he could only find the time and figure out how to get beyond the first three chapters. He has a lot of good ideas and loves to write.

Imagine our new friend Warner, scruffy, wearing fuzzy slippers because it’s Saturday, maybe he’s still in his pajamas, pouring a second cup of coffee and then visiting the library website to discover just what he’s been looking for to help him write his book … the Chesapeake Writers’ Workshop.

Next stop for Warner, the bestseller list!

If you are like Warner and don’t know where to begin, or if you have a few chapters written of your novel or memoir, or you’ve written a short story or some poems, this upcoming writers’ workshop is for you.  We’ll be meeting monthly to share our work and to take part in the occasional writing exercise to keep the creative juices flowing.

In a workshop, writers come together to share their work in a positive setting. Participants will read other workshop participants’ writing in advance, and then come to offer constructive feedback. A writing workshop is a judgment-free zone in that the goal is to build on our strengths and work together to improve one another’s writing. Typically, we go around the table and focus on one person’s work at a time.

A workshop can be helpful on many levels. First, there’s honest feedback about one’s writing from other writers. Second, it helps to have a deadline as motivation to get writing done in time for the next workshop. Third, there will be coffee and cookies.

The most important aspect of a writers’ workshop is that it helps to build a sense of community. It’s good to know you are not the only one motivated to put words on paper. That community can help you become more comfortable with your own writing. It’s a place to share your own enthusiasm for writing, discuss your favorite writers, and share tips.

The first Chesapeake Writers’ Workshop will be held at 1 p.m. Tuesday, June 19 at the Chesapeake City Branch Library. From then on, we’ll be meeting on a regular basis to share our work.  At future workshops, you are welcome to bring another chapter from the same work, or share something new. And, as all events at the Cecil County Public Library, this workshop is free!

That first day, we’ll be getting acquainted and taking part in a writing exercise. Bring your passion for writing and your good ideas. Fuzzy slippers optional.

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