Baked on the Bright Side

Canning, Freezing, and Keeping it Gluten-Free, by Guest Blogger Jennifer Corbin-Carson

September 28, 2011

It’s getting cooler out; the days are shorter; the nights are cooler. I love this time of year! Here I am with the first garden I have had in a LONG time. So I water, feed, water, feed…oh look! There are some flowers! Ohhh, darn, it’s almost the end of September and I am just getting flowers? So much for life at 7200 ft. Ok, so I have beans and tomatoes plus the fruits and veggies from the co-op. There are only 3 of us. I do not want to throw out food (which we all do). What do I do now? How about preserving them for a later date? Yes, I am speaking of canning.

Daunting? Yes. Difficult?  No. I would say there is a learning curve, but it’s not difficult. So how do you start? Well I will tell you what I have learned and you can take it from there. The wonderful part of canning is that you control your ingredients. Gluten Free all the way! Once you have canned, you have a ready supply anytime you need it. If you want to put it in your rotating stock for your emergency kit or your winter supply or to give to friends for Christmas, or if you want to teach your kids the value of fresh produce (and of course the taste!), all of those reasons are great reasons to can.

The first day I canned, I prayed upon every batch I made. Well, that didn’t work. I think the big guy was taking a siesta or something. It is daunting because I can cook. I can put flavors together and tell you, on an elementary level, what kind of wine will pair well. I first tried to make jams and jellies. They turned out more like preserves, or at least the American version….runny and good over ice cream. Ok, new batch! Plum, peach and strawberry jam (all together in one). What I didn’t realize is that, much like baking, this is a science. Ripe plums, peaches and strawberries have a low to medium pectin content. Pectin is what makes the fruit set to a gel-like consistency after being heated. Here’s a hint: Get a cookbook that helps you figure out the pectin content in fruits. Another hint: take the time to do it right. Take the time to make sure the fruit mixture has set. I got too impatient and most of my jellies turned out watery. Now I know to add more pectin or to get ripe fruit. But I have to remember, my fruits were almost over-ripe. Just ripe produce is the best. Pick it in the morning at its ripeness and can it that day. This will ensure the sugars and starches will be at their prime. You will taste that at the table in the middle of winter when you open the jar and are grateful that you sweated over a hot stove for a day or two.  Please, please use a recipe. Do not use your own method if you are just starting out. Make sure you use 5% vinegar or 5% cider vinegar. I had to throw out a whole batch because I didn’t use any vinegar! Like I said this is a science and you do not want to get anyone sick.

The other option I ensue is freezing. The vacuum sealer is a wonderful thing! Everything from veggies to baked goods to meats that I can put into one little pouch, label and throw in the freezer. I also have had the idea of taking leftovers, putting a dinner sized portion into one bag, seal it and put it in the freezer. This will allow me, my husband or my daughter to take dinner out, throw it in the microwave and have a quick, delicious, nutritious, gluten free dinner for all of us (I am the only one with a gluten intolerance) in less than 10 minutes. How awesome is that when you get home and you have 20 minutes to get the kids ready for soccer, dinner on the table, feed the dogs, take out the garbage…..whew! No worries, dinner is done. It’s better than going through McD’s drive thru or Taco Bell, not that us gluten free people can! And like that commercial, kids are what they eat and so are adults. Feed them something wholesome that you do not have to worry about preservatives, additives, salt content, hidden gluten, etc. It’s fresh because you made it from organic materials you grew or bought.

Growing in your own garden is not the only way to can or preserve. I also look for the 10 for $10 specials that the supermarkets have. But beware, that’s how they lure you in and get you to buy more. Stick to your list and your money will be all the more well spent. Wash them well. I use a veggie scrubber to get most of that wax off. Some people buy the solution that you soak your veggies and fruit.

Look around your community and find out if there is a co-op of farmers that sell to your area. Most areas have a non-profit organization that caters to communities. If you don’t, most of those co-ops have an opportunity to start one near you. I enjoy the one near me called Bountiful Baskets… You can go on their website and find a location near you or start one yourself! Be bold, be brave! Give back to your community and start a co-op near you!

There are also government resources to get the Ball rolling. Pun intended J. There is a National Center for Home Food Preservation (go figure!) You can also Google brands like Ball and Kerr to get information and recipes.

Get your kids involved in the whole process from starting seeds to canning. My daughter and I love to go out to the garden and report to each other how the beans or the corn is doing. And she is 13!! Get excited about cooking, preserving and eating fresh, healthy foods and your kids will follow your lead.

Happy Gardening and Happy Eating Everyone!

My name is Jennifer Corbin-Carson. I am gluten intolerant and have been for 10 years…just didn’t know it officially until about a year ago. I have a wonderful and supportive family. My 40 hour a week job requires me to be a Senior Field Engineer. I love to garden and spend time with my family. I volunteer in the community as much as I can by way of the Colorado Balloon Classic and El Paso County Planning Commission. With an active daughter and husband, that is quite enough to keep me busy. Being diagnosed with gluten intolerance turned my world on its side, not to mention how it affects my family. With that said, it’s not just an individual or familial journey, it’s a community journey. That is why I have reached out to blog and get the word out through as many media venues as I can. Projecting the importance and getting information out to the public on different gluten conditions and diseases is my main goal. I hope you enjoy the recipes and blogs I have written! You can also visit me on Happy Eating Everyone!