CBC News

In a pickle

by Amber Hildebrandt, CBCNews.ca

I may have scoffed at my fellow 20-something friends who took up the knitting needle when the grandmotherly activity gained popularity a few years ago, but now I can scoff no more.

This summer, I jumped onto the bandwagon of another old-fashioned craft enjoying a mini revival: canning.

I first waded into the world of preserves by making a few small jars of strawberry jam earlier this summer. Even that took hours and left me and my kitchen stained red for days.

Then came the bigger test: dill pickles.

I'd prepared for it by planting several cucumber bushes in my backyard. But with none of them producing enough for a jarful at any given time, I was forced to buy my pickling cucumbers at the St. Lawrence Market. After hours of sterilizing the jars, cleaning the cucumbers and figuring out the recipe, I'd made five 1-litre jars.

And then I waited and waited. Four weeks of waiting.

Finally, I cracked open a jar and sampled one yesterday. I was immediately transported back to my grandmother's kitchen. It tasted almost exactly the same.

In a New York Times article last month, it cites food costs, concerns about food safety, green sensibilities and a new appreciation of all things natural as reasons for the "small renaissance" of canning.

My reason for canning doesn't fall into any of those categories. It's simply because my grandmother can't make her pickles and jams anymore and I miss them.

And so my question to you: Have you taken up canning this summer? If so, what made you join the club?

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A good start. I bet you will find ways to up your efficiency next time.

My sister and myself do 50# of dill (about 46 litre jars) in about three hours every year.
Jars go through the dishwasher, pickle is heating as we stuff the jars and we run two canning kettles. A very satisfying enterprise.

Posted September 22, 2008 09:16 PM

Neil L.


Good post! I had no idea there was a renaissance in canning. I did my first batches this summer: bread and butter pickles, dill pickles, and canned peaches - some tomato sauce will be done soon as the weather cools off.

I think for me it was a desire to eat my own food more often, and to not have to compromise in the winter and eat food trucked in from chile or south africa. While I haven't made it there yet, I hope to expand the repertoire in coming years.

There is so much great produce in our part of the world that to let it pass with the seasons only increases our dependence on oil and large agribusiness - that's not good for anyone (except oil and agri firms!).

Posted September 23, 2008 06:15 AM


This is my first year growing a garden and I decided to try dill pickles as well. I got my husband's grandma to come over and help me with the first few jars, but I think I've got it now! We use an old baby bottle sterilizer for the jars and it works great. Everything we grew this year is 100% organic. What a satisfying feeling to not only be producing your own food, but know exactly what went into it! With all these stories coming out about food contamination, I think it is more important than ever to be taking responsibility for our own well being.

Posted September 23, 2008 07:58 AM



My Husband and I have been canning tomato sauce for eight or nine years now. Every year, we make more and more—and upgrade the equipment we use to make the process quicker. This year we made about 90 jars!

Nothing you can buy compares to making it from fresh, seasonal produce, and having the control over what goes into your food. It's a lot of work, but truly a labour of love.

Posted September 23, 2008 12:19 PM



I've been canning a salsa recipe from my grandparents with great success for the past three years. I tried pickles last year, but had a terrible accident involving tablespoons instead of teaspoons of mustard seeds. The result was inedible.

This year I bought 55 lbs of Ontario tomatoes on a whim, and with the help of family and friends canned salsa, bruschetta, ketchup, and pasta sauce. It was a lot of work, but will result in many delicious meals with a strong local and personal connection all winter long.

To me canning is exercising self-or more accurately community-sufficiency, and literally and directly enjoying the fruits of my labour.

Posted September 23, 2008 01:01 PM

Amanda Loewen-Ross

My husband and I are trying to do everything we can to reduce our environmental footprint, so this spring we decided to try to put in a bigger effort to eat locally. While we haven't managed the 100 mile diet, we have bought all of our produce from farmers markets and U-pick all summer and we've been trying to prepare for the winter by canning. So far we have dozens of jars of jam (strawberry, raspberry and rhubarb), 5 litres of tomato sauce, peaches, mustard green beans and anti-pasta. I had never canned anything in my life before last summer.
It's hard to say what the best part of canning is. It could be knowing what's in my food or that I've supported my local farmers and decreased carbon emissions from transporting food. But I think the best part was calling up my grandfather for advice as he was, once again, making & canning his blueberry and strawberry jams.

Posted September 23, 2008 01:47 PM

KB in To


I've canned green tomatoes in the past, but this year I focused on raspberry jam and grape jelly from homegrown fruit. I use a water-bath canner (I get mine from thrift stores), which is the recommended method to ensure sterile equipment and prevent food-borne contamination. It's not as complicated as it seems!

Posted September 23, 2008 02:40 PM

sandra Hession


I am trying to find an interview I heard on
CBC radio sometime last year which compared
the process of canning the fruits of summer
to be opened during the dead of the winter
to how a relationship grows and how one can
reach back to the memories of the first years
of love to help through difficult times.
Something like that.
Can anyone help? It was a show with
Shelagh Rogers and several guests discussing
home canning.

Posted June 1, 2009 08:19 AM

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From trends and culture to politics and nutrition, Food Bytes serves up tasty tidbits about food and the issues surrounding it that flavour our everyday lives.

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Amber Hildebrandt Amber Hildebrandt writes for CBCNews.ca in Toronto. Growing up on a farm in Manitoba, she acquired an insatiable appetite, but it was during a stint in Japan that she developed her discerning tastebuds and "foodie" ways.

Andrea Chiu Andrea Chiu is an associate producer at CBC Radio Digital. Though she loves to eat, cook and discuss food, don't ask her to bake. It never turns out well. She tweets as @TOfoodie on Twitter and organizes food and wine events in Toronto called FoodieMeet.

Tara Kimura Tara Kimura is the consumer life reporter for CBCNews.ca, covering a wide range of issues that range from rising food costs and the growing organic movement, to new trends in the marketplace.

Andree Lau Andree Lau is a CBC web reporter in Calgary. Her journalism career includes seven years as a CBC-TV reporter. Her own blog called "are you gonna eat that?" chronicles her eating adventures (including sampling snake and camel hoof tendon).

Jessica Wong Jessica Wong is a CBCNews.ca writer who loves to eat and cook, as well as discuss, read and watch programming about food, sometimes all at once.

Kevin Yarr Kevin Yarr, CBCNews.ca's writer in Prince Edward Island, wrote about food and beer for national and regional magazines before joining the CBC. He acquired a desire for new tastes on his first trip to Europe, and an appreciation of eating locally and in season when he finally settled down on P.E.I.

Elizabeth Bridge Elizabeth Bridge is a writer with the CBC Digital Archives in Toronto. She first ventured into the kitchen as a child to indulge a sweet tooth by baking cookies and making fudge. A student budget compelled her to be a vegetarian (for a while) and instilled in her an ongoing curiosity about food and cooking.


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