Saturday, September 3, 2011

Weekend Cooking #13: Victory through Canning

Government posters promoting home canning

Victory gardens were great ways to supplement food rationing during World War II and the gardens weren’t limited to rural areas only. In cities, allotments of public land were often divvied up to those who did not live in houses that already had a garden, so everyone could benefit from fresh fruits and vegetables. Even rooftops were converted into gardens.

But what did you do when you found yourself with more tomatoes that you knew what to do with, and your neighbors had their own payload, so you couldn’t give them away? The answer was as far away as the nearest Mason jar.

Home canning was very popular during the war (in fact, it was before and after the war and still is, judging by the amount of canning equipment I see in the stores in my neighborhood.) Articles in magazines and pamphlets published by the government and colleges were always available to teach the safe way to home can. In 1942, 64% of women were canned food for their family. This increased to 75% in 1943 and grew exponentially until the end of the war.

My mother learned how to home can from her mother and she taught me how to preserved and make jam when I was growing up. Now, for the last 10 years or so, I have gotten together with a friend to can tomatoes and make bread and butter pickles. This year we added peaches to our repertoire.

Bread and Butter Pickles, Tomatoes
and Peaches

There is nothing quite like opening one of these jars on a cold, cold January day, when summer seems like it will never come again, to really appreciate the concept of preserving - they smell and taste exactly like they did in August.
This is my absolutely favorite recipe for the canned tomatoes, though you can also do it with fresh ones now.

Marinated Tomatoes

6 large rip tomatoes, peeled
¼ cup thinly sliced scallions (including some of the green parts)
¼ cup minced fresh parsley
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tbsp fresh thyme leaves, or ½ tsp dried thyme
1 tsp salt
¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
2/3 cup vegetable oil
¼ cup red or white wine vinegar

1- Cut the tomatoes into think slices and put them on a shallow plate.
2- In a small bowl, combine the scallions, parsley, garlic, thyme, salt and pepper. Sprinkle the mixture over the tomatoes.
3- In a jar, mix together the oil and vinegar and pour over the tomatoes. Cover and refrigerate for several hours, or overnight, spooning the dressing over the tomatoes from time to time.
4- Drain off the dressing just before serving

Makes 6 servings
From: Mary Emmerling’s American Country Cooking: Recipes and menus from Family and Friends Across America.

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  1. I love that first poster! So homey and comforting for a war-time picture. Your jars of canned goods look wonderful!

  2. my grandmother used to make bread and butter pickles (I love them) and chow chow and stewed tomatoes..

  3. Our next door neighbor growing up was always canning things, and bringing us samples. She was particularly good at jams. I myself have always been afraid that I would mess up the process and poison someone in the process, lol.

  4. How I love those old pictures! Have you ever heard the Greg Brown song, Canned Goods? I posted the lyrics once on the blog:

  5. i haven't done any canning years, though I usually make a couple of batches of freezer jam. Nothing better than strawberry freezer jam. Makes it fell like summer in the depths of the snow and ice.

  6. I hope they didn't eat the women!

    "In 1942, 64% of women were canned food for their family."

    Just one little out of place word makes for some funny facts! Sorry, I'm not picking on you--I make typos all the the time! This one tickled me, so I had to comment. ;-)

  7. Thanks for your comments, everyone.
    Joy, these are homey and comfy, but also tasty.

    Caite, have you ever thought of home canning yourself?

    TheBookGirl, I was always afraid I would poison someone, but so far it hasn't happened. It really is an avoidable mistake nowadays.

    Nan, I definitely need a copy of Canned Goods for my ipod, loved the post, thanks.

    Heather, I have never tried freezer jam, but would be interested.

    Diane, it seems no matter how carefully I proofread, a mistake slips in. This one is pretty funny, though.

  8. I love the posters and your jars of preserves look delicious. I was born in 1948 and still remember an old poster that used to hang in our kitchen it was of a dustbin with several chickens and a slogan that went something like ‘save scraps and feed hens – pigs can eat them too’

  9. I love this post, Alex! I didn't know all this and now my 83 year-old grandmothers' love for anything home-canned is explained!

    I have never tried doing it myself, but close to where I live in Toronto, there is a town that is by grand majority of Italian descent and I swear to you, canning food is a beautiful annual tradition. The women in the families get together and can tomatoes, peppers, eggplant ... anything they can get their hands on and it's wonderful to watch. It's a great way to stay connected and share life experiences.

    This post was a great read!!