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Letter from Publisher

Jul 31, 2020 10:00AM ● By Peggy Malecki

Peggy Malecki

My window is open as I write my letter this month. The heat and humidity have abated for a couple of days so the A/C is off, and I’ve been enjoying listening to the sounds of birds, cicadas and nature’s mid-summer chorus.

Many people I’ve talked to started home gardens for the first time this year or greatly expanded their backyard veggie patch. Soon we’ll be enjoying the harvest of all of our favorite crops, and wishing we could save some of the bounty for winter. Just as baking and breadmaking saw a resurgence in the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic, preserving food is on track to be another “old” skill that some of us try for the first time this year.

Others may dust off the large stock pots, canning racks and mason jars they have in storage and brush up on new recipes and preservation safety guidelines. Some may even expand their repertoire with a dehydrator or vacuum sealer, or experiment with freezing, sun dryers or low-temperature oven drying.

I’m fortunate to have grown up around people that preserved food as a yearly activity. My mom was an avid canner, as was my dad’s mother. While we had a small city backyard garden that grew a few tomatoes, peppers and maybe some lettuce, my grandparents on both sides devoted much of their backyards to full-sun vegetable gardens, as well as some fruit.

My grandmother’s raspberry bushes produced a seemingly endless supply from which she made dozens of jars of jewel-red jam (jelly was too time consuming with all the cheesecloth straining and restraining). What couldn’t be processed was frozen for winter use. I also recall her making countless jars of tomatoes and fabulous bread-and-butter pickles.

They also had grapevines: concords in Antioch and “grapes” at my grandma’s house in the city. I recall my mom bringing home baskets full of ripe grapes to make a natural-style juice that we enjoyed in the winter, as well as grape jam. My grandma’s neighbors had an abundant damson plum tree, and they eagerly shared the excess fruit. One year, my mom found recipes for canning plum butter, which was quickly followed by pear butter (pear trees in Antioch), and also by peach butter (store-bought). Butters combine ripe fruit with spices for a flavorful jelly and jam alternative. After college, I made butters for a couple of years using my mom’s canning equipment. I still own her large stockpot and jar racks and look forward to trying some new recipes this year, as well as continuing to dehydrate or freeze tomatoes and other veggies.

Interested in trying your hand at food preservation? We hope you are! To get you motivated, Julie Peterson spoke with some Chicago area food preservation experts, and offers tips for easy ways to get started in her article, “Preserving the Harvest,” as well as some great recipes in print and on our website at NAChicago.com. Do you have a favorite preserved food recipe you’d like to share? Please email it to us at [email protected] and we may add it to our web recipe collection. If canning doesn’t fit your lifestyle right now, we have plenty of other great articles for you to enjoy this month, as we focus on holistic dental care, plus self-care tips, fitness, good eating, green living, natural Chicago and healthy pets.

As always, I urge you to please make your best effort to step outside each day, observe the season’s natural progression, look for monarchs and other butterflies, silently observe a tree in the breeze, dance in the rain if you’d like and savor the late summer. Be well, please continue to stay safe and take daily action to make positive change happen in our world.

Peggy