I have always loved taking little risks in the kitchen. When I was in high school, my dad looked on with horror as I stood in the kitchen in a crisp, white chef’s jacket, wearing a pair of swim goggles to protect my sensitive eyes, and dropping streams of batter into hot grease, my first attempt at making funnel cakes. (An attempt that was successful, might I add.)
The older I get, and the more I cook, the less I see these feats as risks. Perhaps excursions from the ordinary dinner or baked good, but not so much risky. I suppose when you’re 14 and handling hot grease, risk is a perfect word for it. Nowadays, I prefer to think of my cooking style as a learning process. I’m learning as I go; I’m learning what whole foods taste like in their raw form, I’m learning what happens when you apply steam, or cook things in a frying pan as opposed to an oven. I’m learning which spices I like the best by trying them and, sometimes, having them turn out a little funky. Sometimes the experiments work; sometimes they don’t.
Canning, to me, feels like an experiment, the way that funnel cakes felt like an experiment back in high school. Canning is a time-honored practice, one perfected by previous generations, one made to seem difficult and steamy and time-consuming. An article I recently read in the new Southern Living included a quote from the author who said that canning was really quite easy, but we’re scared of it because our grandmothers made it seem harder than it was; they wanted to be martyrs, and to achieve that, they had to make everything they did look and sound difficult. I don’t know about the martyr part, but there is a certain level of mystery to the way our grandmothers cooked; a dash of this, a bit of that, add this to taste. (To taste is hard to translate.) But what this author got down to is that canning is really quite simple and fun. And she’s right. Continue reading »