Pacific Palate: Don Genova

Save the harvest for winter: Inheriting the canning gene from my mother

Pacific Palate by Don Genova

Pacific Palate by Don Genova

Two pots burbling away on my mom’s electric stove, casting a sweet but slightly acidic aroma around the kitchen.

Chunks of ripe tomatoes from our garden, simmering with onions, celery and seasonings, slowly cooking to tenderness in one pot. In the other, the juice squeezed from a previous pot reducing to a thick, savoury liquid. When that second pot had reduced enough to satisfy my mother’s critical eye and tastebuds, I got the call.

Potholders carefully arranged on the handles, I would grab the hot, heavy pot and, hopefully without spilling a precious drop, take it down to the basement. There, her second stove was keeping old 26-ounce pop bottles warm and sterilized. She gingerly poured the hot juice into the bottles, and then I would firmly press the caps on the bottles using her ancient bottle capper. After they cooled, into our root cellar they went, the base for all of her tomato sauces over the winter.

I inherited my ‘canning gene’ from my mom, and this time of year can be the busiest for canners and preservers with late summer harvests of tomatoes, peppers and beans then later season fruits like apples and pears on the horizon.

Sales of canning equipment and books about preserving have been booming over the past few years as more people rediscover ways to eat locally-produced foods year round. But canning isn’t for everyone. That’s why you’ll find David Mincey, formerly the chef and owner of Camille’s, at four or five Victoria-area farmer’s markets every week with his Circle Canning company.

David helped create the direct farm-to-restaurant movement in Victoria. When he had leftover fruits and veggies from a day’s sales, he started canning them and selling them at the market he created in Bastion Square. David and his wife Paige create about 50 different products over the course of a year, purchasing and preserving everything they can get their hands on from local farmers, so that you don’t have to do the work. Even my mom would be

proud.

Don Genova is a Vancouver Island-based award-winning freelance journalist specializing in food and travel. Find him online at dongenova.com.

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