Howdy! Welcome to the first ever virtual Cook’s Country Fair. With a cornucopia of agriculture-themed posts and down-home cooking competitions, for 12 weeks we’ll pay homage to our rural roots and those who taught us to enjoy good, simple food. We’ve got our summer jam-packed with fun stories, blue-ribbon winning recipes, and exciting giveaways. Each week we’ll be asking you, our fans, to share your personal stories in our comments, and we’ll pick a new story each week to be our winner. We hope you’ll join us for the festivities every Thursday afternoon from June to September!
I think its fair to say that 2013 is the year of the Mason jar. This year marks the 100th anniversary of the creation of the original pale blue “Perfect Mason” jar series by the Ball Corporation, and thanks to the spread of do-it-yourself fever, the traditional practices of home canning and preservation are popular once again. It seems like every which way you turn, Mason jars are adorning restaurant tables, decorating modern homes, and bolstering the craft cocktail scene. (They’ve also made appearances in our own video tips, too.) In rural Texas, I grew up drinking iced tea out of a pint-sized Mason jar and watched my mom use tall quart jars for canning homemade salsa, peaches, and other summer produce. After moving to the city, I never thought I would find a reason to use Mason jars again. But after a few years, I learned the itch to preserve doesn’t ever leave a southern girl’s heart.
Photo: Arizona 4-H Foundation
Every new generation seems to look back at their predecessors for inspiration—whether it be hobbies, crafts, recipes, or books from their era. For canning knowledge, we turn to the tried-and-true methods used by the preservers of country fair history—those who never left their kitchens. While the majority of us no longer have a need to preserve food for sustenance, the ability to savor seasonal produce and flavors year-round is a useful tool for any and every home cook. As long as I can remember, my mom would buy heaps of late-summer tomatoes and turn them into jars of deep red stovetop salsa. My only job was to prep the cilantro, snipping it leaf by leaf into a large bowl, tossing the herbs into a Dutch oven. We’d spend the weekend putting up jar after jar of salsa only to give the whole batch away to friends, family, and neighbors. Where I’m from, canning does more than preserve food: It preserves relationships as well. After all, you’ll need more than food to get you through the rest of the year.
Photo: Kristin Brenemen
No matter the generation people will always preserve, and the “Perfect Mason” jar will always be there. Whether you are a single-batch fridge pickle kind of person, or a three-time ribbon-winning jam and jelly maker, the art of home canning is a simple (and useful) kitchen technique to master. All you need are a handful of basic ingredients, a few of those ever-popular Mason jars, and a handful of hungry friends. What are you waiting for?
HOW THE COOK’S COUNTRY FAIR WORKS
Every Thursday this summer, we’ll post a new story on the Feed. Preserve the summer with a few of our favorite DIY recipes like Raspberry-Peach Jam, Bread and Butter Pickles, Tomato Jam, Dilly Beans, and Wine Jelly.
MAKE IT NOW
Need an intro to canning? Take a look at our Canning 101 guide.
SHOW AND TELL
HOW TO WIN THIS WEEK’S GIVEAWAY
We’re giving away a copy of Cook’s Country Blue Ribbon Desserts! Want to win? Leave a comment below telling us your favorite use for a Mason jar. Entries due Wednesday, September 4, 2013, 11:59pm EST. Giveaway for continental US residents only.