In Case of Emergency

Friends don't let friends keep the harvest to themselves

As the sun sets earlier and earlier, and this abundant season begins to draw to a close, I've noticed the foodies around me going into nesting mode. They start buying produce by the boxloads and slaving over the chopping boards and stoves to put it by.

Funny to think that "canned" foods have only been around since the time of Napoleon (they did some preserved food in wine bottles before someone figured out those weren't very stackable), and frozen foods are even more recent. Before those innovations, your only options to preserve the harvest were drying, smoking, or fermenting. Fermentation has been making a comeback because of its probiotic benefits, and I admit reading Michael Pollan's discussion of it in Cooked got me thinking and putting a few books on hold at the library.

You know about this kind of fermentation, of course, to preserve grape juice...

But really I doubt if I'll ever mess with crocks of things stewing on my counter for days or weeks. I can't even be bothered to learn to can because there are just too many steps--who wants to sterilize jars and have to put them in a cooking bath afterward?

Fortunately for me, I have a neighbor who loves the whole business. She makes pickles, jams, sauces--you name it. And every year we swing a deal, where I bring over a portion of my husband's tomato harvest, and we make/can salsa together. She has the equipment and the expertise, and I provide tomatoes and chopping and pouring. Check it out:

So we're set for salsa, as you can see. The funny thing is, we'll consume all those jars, no problem. But if the world goes down the tubes in the near future, my own pantry won't be the one the post-apocalyptics raid--it'll be my neighbors'. And we'll be the first in line.

So if you're planning for Armageddon, better get to the Market this week. Anything can be put by, according to my neighbor's mom's 1950s Kerr Canning Guide:

Seriously. You will dance around in an evening gown after you put up those peaches.

There were recipes for every conceivable pickle and jam--watermelon rind? Check. Green tomato? Check. And then the sections of the book with fewer ancient stains and splotches--canned rabbit, anyone? Canned fried chicken? (I'd love to see a show of hands in the 1950s for how many people actually gave the canned fried chicken a go.) If you can it, someone will eat it, right? Or you can always give it to the kids' teachers at Christmas. "Happy holidays, Ms. Smith! Please enjoy our family's specialty--canned rabbit."

Perfect labels for it from

Put something by this week, or find a neighbor who'll help you do it! I dare you. There's great stuff out there, and if '50s housewives didn't balk at canning anything they could reach, what's to stop you?

Sweet peppers that turn spicy as they ripen?

Your own baba ghanoush?

Spicy Thai eggplant relish?