When you think of Napoleon Bonaparte, the image that springs to mind is generally of a powerful military leader who had an affinity for keeping one hand in his jacket. It’s unlikely that you think of canning, but perhaps you should. In the late 1700’s, concerned with the availability of fresh food to his troops, Bonaparte offered a reward to anyone who could come up with a handy method of food preservation. Nicholas Appert stepped up to the challenge and found that heating and sealing food in glass jars, thereby sterilizing it, would make it last longer. Other scientists worked on his ideas and in 1858, John Mason invented a machine that could cut threads into lids and thus was born the Mason jar, complete with a zinc lid threaded with a rubber seal, rendering the jar reusable, something that previous canning methods had not offered.
With the invention of the Mason jar and subsequent Ball jar, canning became a popular activity in homes. It provided a cheap and effective way for families to put aside food for months and even years. Not only was it economical, it was something that they could do together, an opportunity for bonding and creativity. With the proper planning and research, nearly any food could be canned, from fruits and veggies, to meats, sauces, jams, jellies and soups.
Today, all of that still holds true, and while it is not as prevalent as it has been in previous eras, there is still a vast community of canners and lately, a resurgence in wannabe canners who just don’t know where to start. That’s where Market Restaurant is coming in. Chef Chad McIntyre is holding a series of weekly canning classes in which he will teach students the basics and a bit more. A constant canner, Chad has spent a lot of time in the kitchen perfecting the techniques, which he says are nothing to be intimidated by. Food you can at home is no different from food that you buy canned at the store, except that it is more than likely fresher and freer of preservatives and you know precisely where it comes from. Though there is definitely a risk if recipes, temperatures, and ratios are not followed, canning is as simple or as complex as you choose to make it. Just to give you a taste of what you might learn in one of Chad’s classes, here is a recipe for the pickled onions he uses in the restaurant.
½ tsp pickling spice
½ tsp turmeric1 ½ c sugar
1 c water
1 c apple cider vinegar
1 pinch salt
½ tsp whole brown mustard seed
½ tsp celery seed
6-7 cups onions, julienned (approximately 3 large onions)
- Combine the ingredients, minus the onions, in a large pot and bring to a boil.
- Pack the onions in hot jars, leaving ¼ inch headspace.
- Remove air bubbles.
- Adjust two-piece caps.
- Process for ten minutes in a boiling water canner.
- Always be sure to follow manufacturer’s guidelines for the specific jars and lids that you use.
- Enjoy your pickled onions as a flavorful addition to salads, sandwiches and more! And the next time you see that famous portrait of Napoleon Bonaparte, be sure to tip your farmer’s hat to him and thank him for the gift that is delicious, locally grown, locally canned food.
Written by Sherri Allen, Market events planner, personal assistant, all around awesome human being. Her email is firstname.lastname@example.org. She has a degree in English from ECU