Caution: Do not follow the recipes photographed below.  These methods were acceptable in 1917 but are not considered safe today.  More on that below..

My friend Brock (from Kensington Brewing Company) approached me with a smirk.

I have a gift for you.

His arm extended forward and he handed me this:

His arm extended forward and he handed me this:

In the introduction, the booklet makes a compelling argument for women to preserve.  The argument includes:

  • Most fruit was only available in Ontario 3-4 months per year.
  • Learning to preserve can reduce waste to ‘almost nothing.’
  • Preserving adds variety, starch and sugars in addition to mineral matter and fiber that are important for health.  “In families where the diet is poor in vegetables and fruits, or where these are abundant for only three or four months of the year, recourse to medicinal help is more frequent.”
  • Having a garden ‘from one-quarter to one-half acre’ would provide enough food for a family in the summer and a surplus to can.  And this made sense because, “The economy of home-gardening and canning of these vegetables is not fully appreciated.  If the produce were purchased as required on the open market, the cost would be from $100 to $200, and if purchased as canned goods the cost would be considerably more.”
  • It also makes a plea that food ‘is going to be scarce this winter.’  This was the middle of the war.  The book mentions it was patriotic to preserve the surplus and consider selling some to raise money for the Red Cross and/ or donate jars to soldiers ‘in the hospitals and in the trenches.’

The writing is obviously aged but many of the points are still valid; preserved food can save money, increase diversity and the amount of healthful options in your pantry, can lower waste and make the most out of a short growing season.

Beyond the cultural changes (such as preserving being the exclusive domain of the ‘woman of the house’), the book shows other signs of age.  I’m fascinated to read recipes like the one that follows for caning beans and peas without a pressure canner (and the inversion method of cooling the cans) that is now considered extremely risky and should not be done at all:

I’m amazed to see diagrams like this which show a pressure canner on top of a wooden stove:

Books like these fascinate me.  They show me just how much the world, our kitchens and preserving techniques have changed – and how much (like the intent and purpose of putting food up) has stayed the same or similar to the way it was.

It’s a fascinating look at the past and I thought you’d enjoy it too…  A giant thanks to Brock for the book, it’s a lot of fun!

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