The Lunch Lady

Of course I can!
Cindy Lazarenko

ww2-home-canning-3501-WEBI am completely obsessed with canning. My fridge is full of homemade preserves as well as relishes, chutneys and jams and jellies from the farmers’ market.

I am fortunate to have food coming my way from all directions. My in-laws share a community garden and it is not uncommon for me to get home from work to find that grandpa Bob came by and left us rhubarb, beets, potatoes and carrots on the back porch. I’ve also come home to find boxes of apples, pumpkins and tomatoes on the steps from people who know their beloved fruits and vegetables will be put to good use. Canning is the perfect solution to food waste.

My brother Tim, who took an organic Master Gardening course a few years back, grows plenty of vegetables to keep our family kitchens busy, including the most wonderful tomatillos which became roasted tomatillo salsa verde and tomatillo relish.

I pulled out my canning equipment in August and started the season off with a lemony triple berry jam. Whenever we didn’t get around to finishing a basket of berries, into the freezer it went and eventually I had enough berries to make a decent amount of jam.

When the carrots pop up I make carrot cake jam with raisins, pears and warm spices. Eat this on top of a graham cracker spread with cream cheese and you have a quick cheesecake-like treat. Who doesn’t like pickled carrots? Easy as can be. Homemade apple chutney on a warm crispy samosa or a combination of tomatoes and nectarines make a wonderful condiment for chicken or pork.

I think there actually might be a National Sneak Some Zucchini On To Your Neighbours Porch Day. Well, you don’t have to sneak it on to my porch. I’ll happily take it off your hands to make cakes, cookies or a quick shred in my robocoupe to freeze and use later. Or zucchini pickles and relish with dill or even curry.

I haven’t been canning long and I can’t say I really have any childhood memories of being in the kitchen with my mother or my baba and watching them in action. I think the first time I attempted to can was when I owned a restaurant. I was given loads of green tomatoes and we made a green tomato relish. We served it with everything.

When I first started canning, I would make as many jars as possible. I loved knowing my pantry was stocked full and it was there for the taking. The problem was that I never took. I hoarded. It’s not like back in the days when one survived the harsh winters by eating canned fruits, beans and jams. It’s not likely that if I use up my last jar of jam in February I’ll go without until the next canning season. Now I make smaller batches to share or trade and to give as hostess gifts.

When it comes to canning, I have no fear. When the mood hits me, I’m all in. It doesn’t matter if I can’t find my special jar retriever or the magnetic wand used for collecting the lids. Tongs work just fine for me. Even if boiling water dribbles down my arm I don’t care. My measurements are almost always off, I am often without the proper ingredients, but I just go for it. The worst thing that has happened so far is lids that don’t pop. In that case I just leave them in the fridge to eat right away.

Our family has land close to Smoky Lake and this year we had an abundance of saskatoon berries. It was impossible to pick them all and even harder to find the time to bake pies. I canned Saskatoon pie filling and can now make a pie any old time I feel like it.

When we’re at the cabin we often visit Linda’s Market Garden. You can always count on finding fresh dill for pickling and all kinds of vegetables. We love her potatoes. If you are lucky enough to be there during strawberry season, order a strawberry milkshake. Please.
Andrew hosts an annual Garlic Festival in October. Last year we brought back bags full of garlic bulbs that taste nothing like the garlic you buy at the grocery store. Flavourful and juicy, we peeled, then pickled the cloves using Auntie Val’s recipe. Those zingy little morsels appeared on many a charcuterie board afterward.


Dot’s Pickled Beets

12 c beets, washed, peeled and cubed
3 c vinegar
3 c water
2 c white sugar
3 T pickling spice
1 T pickling salt

Bring a large pot of water to boil and cook beets until tender, approximately 10 minutes depending on size. Drain.

Sterilize 12, 250 ml jars by placing in boiling water for 5-10 minutes. Remove jars and fill each with beets.

Prepare the brine: Mix vinegar, water, sugar and spices together in a large stainless steel pot. Bring to a boil for one minute. Strain the seeds (you can leave in, but my mom always strains them) and pour brine into jars leaving 1⁄4” space from the top of jar. Seal lids.

Prepare the water bath: Fill half a large stockpot with water and bring to a boil. Carefully place jars into water leaving
a bit of room between each jar. You may have to do this in two batches depending on the size of your pot. Be sure water is a few inches higher than the tops of the jars. Bring to a boil and continue to boil for approximately 10 minutes. Remove and let cool.

Makes 12 jars.

Cindy Lazarenko is the chef/owner of OnOurTable, a volunteer at Highlands Junior High, and helps her brother at Culina Catering.