This week’s I Eat Local Because I Can Interview is with the ever lovely and talented Anna Hewitt. Anna spent most of her life in New England, but currently lives with her husband in Saint Paul Minnesota. She loves to create, especially with food and fabric. She spent several seasons working on farms and in community gardens and with other aspects of local food. Currently she spends much of her time sewing for her business, Seedling Design, and writing about her creative pursuits on her blog The Road to the Farm. She hopes to eventually have some land where she can grow, share and preserve lots of food.
1) How long have you been canning and how did you learn?
My first canning experience was when I was working on a farm in 2003, my we picked lots of berries and tried making jam. When I first learned about canning, I was nervous that I would make a mistake and do something dangerous. It was good to do it with friend who had a little bit more experience. Since then I have done most of my canning by myself, but I am always looking for people who want to learn or collaborate on food preservation.
I revel in the processes that connect me with my food. I appreciate a meal when I know the source and the hands that brought the food to my plate. There are many reasons why it tastes better, but one of the things that I find most motivating is that I like to do things by hand and be an integral part of the process. Because I enjoy the labor of harvesting, processing and physically putting food on the table I like being part of the food that makes up a good part of our winter stores. I also love the sense of luxury that comes after doing the work to fill the jars and the pantry shelves. I am so lucky to have the flavors and the bounty of summer in jars whenever I want them.
3) What’s the best piece of advice you would give to new or novice canners? How about advice for the seasoned canner facing burnout?
I have realized that is important to can things that you want to eat. This may seem obvious, but sometimes in my excitement for preserving, I have made things that I probably won’t use or might not even like that much. In order to fully complete the circle, you need to eat and enjoy the things that you have sealed into jars. Of course they make wonderful gifts, too. I also think it is important to know that you don’t have to can things in great quantities. Small batches of special preserves or things that you want to try and might make more of in the future are a way to make sure that you will enjoy the fruits of your labor. Sometimes it is easier to focus on getting things in jars but really the fun begins when you figure out how you will use your preserves and serve them.
4) Care to share a favorite canning recipe?
One of the favorite things that I can is salsa. We love to eat salsa and it is amazing to be able to grab a jar from the pantry whenever we need one. I try to make enough to last all winter and it is such a luxury to eat homemade salsa from local ingredients. Its not the most exotic recipe, but it is a staple of our pantry. We still have a few jars left, but they probably won’t quite last until fresh salsa ingredients are growing here.