Preserving summer’s bounty
VAIL CO, Colorado
Andy Kaufman and his wife, Annie Sinton, just started selling canned jams and sauces this summer.
“I did not grow up with a family that canned, but my friends always had pantries full,” Sinton said. “I started canning in my 30s when I would go to Grand Junction and get all those fruits and vegetables.”
Now it’s the Minturn Saloon kitchen where their canning happens. Sinton is the owner of the Minturn Mercantile, but has become the director of the saloon’s canning and retail program.
Kaufman, part owner of the Minturn Saloon, said they are finally canning and selling their signature barbecue sauce and their red chili jelly and green chili jelly, but it’s taken some time to perfect the recipes.
“The jellies are sweet and spicy, and delicious over cheese or as a glaze,” Kaufman said. “It’s taken a little bit of trial and error to get them perfect, but we learn more each time we do it.”
Sinton said it’s helpful to have the space of a commercial kitchen when you are canning, but she said she owes her skills and knowledge of canning to Valley resident Beth Levine.
Levine is a long-time local architect, but she has found time to embrace canning as a hobby amidst owning a business and raising two children with her husband.
“I started canning as a kid with my parents, and then when my husband and I married 28 years ago, I started doing it as a family lifestyle,” Levine said. “I usually can between 300 and 400 jars per year, depending on what the season has to offer.”
Her pantry really does hold aplenty. Levine cans jams, jellies, chutneys, pickles, tomatoes, peaches, pears, relishes, antipastos, olives, peppers and sauces. She said she makes sure all her recipes are low sugar, as well as diabetic-specific, no sugar canning for her dad, but also emphasized how important it is to find canning recipes and to follow them exactly.
“You have to be really careful that you use the precise amount of fruit, to sweetener, to pectin that is called for in a jam recipe, for example,” Levine said. “This goes for vinegar and cucumbers as well, or any of the ingredients.”
Levine said she always follows recipe steps and quantities, but she does create personal variations with spices.
Proper canning ingredients and procedures are essential to can food safely. Thick glass canning jars should be sterilized before filling, and then sealed with a canner, or pressure cooker. This is to create enough heat during the boiling process to ensure thorough preservation and to prevent the food from spoiling.
Since improper canning can result in serious illness, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) website states that it is critical that consumers who intend to can at home obtain proper and current information from a reliable source. The site states that only a pressure cooker or canner allows water to reach 240 to 250 degrees Fahrenheit, which is the only temperature that can kill spores from the foodborne bacteria of the disease Botulism.
Levine and Kaufman both emphasized the importance of making high-altitude recipe alterations.
“Extra boiling time is determined by every thousand feet you go up in altitude,” Kaufman said. “All that needs to be planned for. It’s not hard to get that information, but make sure you get it.”
Levine said the high-altitude adjustment is generally an increased boiling time of two minutes for every quart, per every thousand feet gained in elevation. So for where Levine lives in Singletree, she says she increases her boiling times by about 15 minutes per batch.
All the precautions make for a mindful process, but the benefits of canning seem to outweigh what’s daunting about it. Levine says after the initial overhead of the materials, the cost comes to less than one dollar per filled jar.
“It does save money, but you certainly have to put the time into it,” Levine said.
As a lifestyle, however, canning can become a part of the domestic tradition. Levine and her husband have their own vegetable garden, and they raised their kids on the family’s own fresh and canned goods. Levine said in late summer and early fall her cupboards start to be full of empty jars – that’s when she knows it’s time to start canning again.
Not all canning has to be seasonal, however. Year-round local flavor can be found at the Minturn Saloon, and now it is being sealed and sold for restaurant customers and market-goers alike.
“I think there is more and more canning these days,” Sinton said. “I think it’s really a very worthy trend. It seems good that it’s happening and makes people want to buy and eat local products.”
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