This week’s interview is with the amazing Erin Anton who lives in Southern Ontario with her husband, two children, and a handful of backyard chickens. She once won first prize (a whole 75¢!) at the local fall fair for her canned peaches. If she’s not in the kitchen or working on her knitting, she can be found blogging about life in their little corner of the world at Home Spun Life.
1) How long have you been canning and how did you learn?
I grew up watching my grandmother, my mother, and my aunts canning. They would get together and make a day of it, dividing out the jars at the end of the day. I have many memories of helping out here and there and so I guess you could say I’ve been canning, on some level, since I was old enough to stir. Once I was out on my own and started canning for my family (about 14 years now) that’s when things really took off and the canning got serious for me.
2) Tell us about your canning philosophy. What inspires and motivates you to practice this art?
Taste is a huge motivator – let’s face it, there’s just nothing else that quite tastes like home canning! I also love that I can know exactly what goes into our family’s food. Finances are another big one – I can put away produce from our own garden if we have enough, I can pay the cheaper price at a u-pick farm, or I can buy bushels of fresh, in-season produce directly from my farmer. Buying this way and storing food for the winter saves us a ton of money. And lets not forget memories – when I open up that jar of pickles in December I remember planting the cucumber seeds and the dill and the garlic cloves. I remember watering them all summer long and I remember canning day when all three were put together in a jar for us to enjoy at this exact moment. You just can’t get that from a supermarket jar of pickles!
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?
For someone just starting out, I would recommend starting with one thing that your family really loves – perhaps a simple jam that you think everyone will enjoy. Also, I’d suggest starting out with a jam or a fruit or pickle that can be done in a water bath canner. Pressure canners are expensive and can be a bit intimidating – save that for another year!Oh my, I certainly have been the seasoned canner facing burnout more than once! I think if you’re facing burnout due to lack of time (let’s face it, things can get crazy busy with kids sometimes!) – just take a break and make only one or two of your family’s favourite things for one season. You can always go back to canning more next year. The other reason I think canners can face burnout is from boredom. Sometimes making the same recipes is comforting but sometimes we just want something new. Why not make this the year you try an adventurous new recipe – it just might become a family favourite!
4) Care to share a favorite canning recipe?
A favourite recipe in our house is raspberry-currant jelly. It’s sweet and tart all at the same time – my daughter just can’t seem to get enough of it!
5) Any words of advice for parents wanting to teach canning to their children? How do you tackle canning projects with active children at home?
With young children, I find it helpful to do the canning with another adult around. That way there’s another set of hands to entertain them when they get tired of helping. It’s also fun to make a game out of it – little ones love to guess which canning jar lid will be the next to pop or estimate how many jars of tomatoes you’ll get from one bushel. As the kids get older they can help with various things such as stirring pots, labeling jars, putting the screw-top lids on, measuring the ingredients, etc. I think the more a child is involved, the more that canning just becomes a part of their seasonal routine and the more likely they’ll be to continue the tradition once they set up their own home.