Have you ever made a truly superb batch of jam – and then forgotten which recipe you used? Ever lost track of how long a bag of frozen peaches has been lurking in the bottom of the chest freezer?
You aren’t alone. Years ago I made some exquisite plum preserves. I have no idea what kind of plums I used. Ever since, I have been trying to re-create the recipe with no luck. After many summers of trying to perfect my great-grandmother’s ripe pickle recipe I finally got it right. But then promptly lost the sticky note I wrote everything on.
I needed a Canning and Preserving Journal. Maybe you do too. Just like a personal journal can help you keep track of your life events, and a gardening journal will keep your backyard garden organized, a canning journal is a valuable resource for those of us who can and preserve fresh food.
If I had started my journal 20 years ago, I would know what kind of plums to pick up at the Farmer’s Market. My great-grandmother’s pickles would be on my table this year, and that forgotten bag of frozen peaches might be used, not sent to the compost pile.
No matter if we have one canning project a year, or one hundred, it helps to have a place to keep track of them. It’s our self-sufficiency version of including a “best buy” date on each jar.
None of us wants to waste food, especially when that food has been preserved by our own two hands. A canning journal helps us stay organized so that we preserve just the right amount of food each year.
When I was a child my grandmother and her sisters made their mother’s Russian Bear pickles every summer. The whole large family loved them. They are made with the overgrown cucumbers that get lost under the leaves and are usually thrown into the compost pile or to the hogs!
But apparently, none of the next generation made the pickles. The sisters aged, their children and grandchildren grew up and moved away, and the pickle making tradition stopped.
By the time my children were grown, I was wondering how to make those wonderful pickles from my youth. The recipe was found. Only problem – the recipe was simply a list of ingredients, sort of. It says, “make brine, add vinegar and cloves and cinnamon.” Not much to go on.
I researched and tweaked those ingredients for years, until I made a big batch of Grammie’s Russian Bear Pickles. If only I had written it down in a canning journal. The next year I had to start almost all over again, because I lost my recipe. Now it is safely written down to help jog my memory. Writing down your projects saves you lots of time.
As the above story shows, you never know which family member will want to re-create your specialties years from now. Although I started canning while in my 20s, I was in my 40s by the time I really started canning more unique items, and wanted to share the canned goods from my youth. By that time, most of my grandmother’s sisters were gone, and my grandmother could no longer remember the exact recipes.
A canning and preserving journal will become a treasured family heirloom. It will show future generations not only how to make your special Frozen Green Tomato Enchilada Sauce, but also is a window into what we ate, how often we enjoyed each product, what kind of produce was popular, and what processes were considered safe.
Wouldn’t you love to have a written record of your mother or grandmother’s favorites? I certainly would. A canning journal helps keep the future connected to the past. Food is love, and a canning journal is the bridge between the two.
For some reason, finding a canning journal is not an easy task. You can adapt a pantry journal, although that is more of an inventory list and less of an information guide. You could make your own canning journal or purchase a canning log book on Etsy. Also on Etsy you will find my handcrafted Canning and Preserving Journals, like the one I have made for my own use.
The time to start a journal isn’t sometime this summer, the time is now – while we are getting ready for a new canning and preserving season.
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