Boil, Boil, Toil, and Trouble

Preserving the Harvest Without all the Hassle

I grew up on a farm and by this time of year the shelves in our cellar were filled with colourful rows of canning jars while bushel baskets brimmed with apples, pears, potatoes, turnip and squash. Upstairs, our freezer was filled with family-sized bags of beans, peas, carrots and corn from the garden. My parents (and kids once we were old enough) worked together to make our harvest last longer. I loved hearing the “pop” of mason jars as they came out of the canning kettles and cooled on the counter, and watching cucumbers change into the pickles seemed like magic. However, preserving all these fruits and vegetables also seemed like a lot of work! Thankfully, WPL has a large selection of books that make canning, preserving, freezing, fermenting, and storing fruits and vegetables manageable and foolproof.

The canning books at WPL explain everything involved in food preservation, such as pectin, acidity levels, the equipment you need, and the steps to follow to prevent bacteria from ruining your efforts. Each of these books have different tips and recipes. Here are my favourites:

  • Ball is a huge brand name in canning supplies. Their book Ball Canning: back to basics: a foolproof guide to canning jams, jellies, pickles & more explains the whole canning process in simple terms. The book also includes chapters on fruit, fruit butters and sauces, and tomatoes. Each chapter begins with a list of what you will need, tips, and the steps to follow. There is also a “problem solver” and a chart for metric equivalents.
  • Preserving: the canning and freezing guide for All Seasons by Pat Crocker is a beautiful book containing over 500 pages of recipes and information. I especially like that this book is divided by season. You might think the season for many fruits and vegetables is over but there are more than 200 pages for fall and winter produce!
  • The Canning Kitchen: 101 simple small batch recipes by Amy Bronee has a colourful picture for every recipe. I really liked how the author explains the whole canning process in the first few introductory chapters.
  • Foolproof Preserving: a guide to small batch jams, jellies, pickles, condiments & more by America’s Test Kitchen is full of colourful pictures showing you exactly how the food should look at different points throughout the process.
  • Canning & Preserving: 80+ simple, small-batch recipes by Good Housekeeping also includes some recipes to use with their preserved items, such as “Sour Cream-Vanilla Pound Cake with Rhubarb Compote” or “Reuben Macaroni and Cheese.”
  • For those who prefer to watch someone else does canning before trying it themselves, check out the DVD Homestead Blessing: the art of canning. The West Ladies teach the basics of canning equipment and storage, offering advice, tips and tricks.

Freezing is another way to preserve your harvest. The Best Freezer Cookbook by Jan Main provides general tips for freezing, as well as what types of packaging to use, how long items keep, and how to better organize your freezer. It also teaches you how to freeze fresh fruits and specific types of vegetables. This book includes a chart for a whole month of meals, and all the recipes are included.

Fermented vegetables are not only another great way to preserve food but they are full of probiotics and nutrients, help digestion, and support our immune system. Fermented Vegetables: creative recipes for fermenting 64 vegetables & herbs in  krauts, kimchis, brined pickles, chutneys, relishes & pastes by Christopher and Kirsten K. Shockey teaches the science behind fermentation and the tools needed. The Shockeys also wrote Fiery Ferments: 70 stimulating recipes for hot sauces, spicy chutneys, kimchis with kick, and other blazing fermented condiments.

Karen Solomon’s Can It, Bottle It, Smoke It : and other kitchen projects goes beyond preserving just fruits and vegetables. Solomon’s chapter entitled “Spoon It” includes recipes for cornflakes and puffed rice. The “Stock It” chapter has recipes for vanilla extract and Worcestershire sauce.  And another chapter, called “Bake It”, has recipes for bagels, pizza dough, and cakes in a jar with “Stalk It” chapter shows you how to make corn tortillas and chips.

WPL also has books for keeping your harvest in cold storage. Root Cellaring: natural cold storage of fruits & vegetables by Mike and Nancy Bubel explains what types of fruits and vegetables keep well and at what temperature and humidity levels. The authors describe the different types of storage that are possible, how to plan your own root cellar, and how to prepare the items to help prevent spoilage. Recipes at the back of the book will help you use the inventory you’ve stored. The Everything Root Cellaring Book: learn to store, cook, and preserve fresh produce all year round by Catherine Abbott covers the same topics as Root Cellaring and also has lots of recipes. However, this book also includes information on how to dry foods and herbs, as well as chapters on canning, preserving, and freezing.

If you didn’t have time or space for an edible garden this year, don’t despair!  St. Jacobs Farmers’ Market always has plenty of delicious fruits and vegetables plus visiting the market is a great way to support our local farmers. I encourage you to take your favourites from the garden, market or store, and browse our collection to find the preservation recipes you will enjoy in the cold months to come.

— Sandy W.


Maker Expo 2018

Get your maker on at the 2018 Maker Expo at The Aud in Kitchener on June 2 & 3. There will be 70 exhibitors with awesome interactive activities. Stop by the WPL booth and check out our oh-so-cool augmented reality sandbox. You mold the sand by hand; see the landscape come to life! Or learn about WPL’s Girls Who Code program and how you can help save the world.

Looking for more cool maker projects? Here’s our list of new Maker books (for kids & families) for additional inspiration.


My DIY Project: A Domestic Scrapbook

I’ve been patrolling the library shelves, looking for a good DIY book, for a few weeks now. When I finally spotted Crafting a Meaningful Home by Meg Mateo Ilasco, I knew it was going to be a good one.

This book focuses on DIY projects that celebrate family heritage, memories and storytelling. In her introduction, Ilasco talks about how our homes tell the story of who we are. She describes our homes as “domestic scrapbooks that evolve over time as our lives progress.” The more meaningful the objects in the home, the richer the domestic scrapbook. This sentiment is a breath of fresh air in an age of minimalism and de-cluttering.

The book goes on to look at different individuals and how they have built their domestic scrapbooks. Each project is preceded with a story about why the DIY project was meaningful to the creator. The stories were just the right length to get a sense of how the DIY project could introduce meaning into the reader’s home. Although you could skip over the stories, I really enjoyed reading them.

Some of the projects were a bit hokey, but I thought a lot of them were great ideas. My personal favourites were the Vintage Fabric Display, the Memory Wall, and the Two-Family Crest. Another project that interested me (and more importantly, was at my skill level) was the City Rubbings. For this project you do rubbings of raised surfaces in your cities (e.g. signs, architectural elements etc.) and layer them into a collage. In order to really put this book through it’s paces, I figured that I had to give one of the projects a go, so I tried my luck with City Rubbings. Here’s how it went:

I started my City Rubbings project at The Artstore in Uptown Waterloo to gather my supplies. Along with paper, the book told me that I needed graphite sticks, wax crayons, or coloured pastels. I bought charcoal sticks. I learned very quickly that although charcoal looks an awful lot like graphite, it’s not the same thing. More on that later…

Armed with my supplies, I walked through the construction of UpTown with my eyes peeled for any raised signage or plaques. I finally found a heritage plaque at the old post office at King and Dupont.

Heritage Plaque

The Conestoga Wagon is a pretty iconic symbol of this region, so I was anxious to get a rubbing of it. This is when I realized how much charcoal smears. Here’s how attempt number one turned out:

Attempt 1

Not great, I know.

After multiple attempts and multiple failures to get a clear image, I realized that I would have better luck with a bigger sign. Fortunately, there was a bigger sign on the same building. After a quick and somewhat successful test on that, it was clear that we had to find a bigger sign. Knowing that we had exhausted the options in Uptown, we trooped over to Waterloo Park.

We found some great pieces to do rubbings of, including the City of Waterloo crest, but over and over there were problems with the charcoal smearing. At this point, it hadn’t yet occurred to me that I should reread the directions and use the appropriate materials.

With the rain threatening to fall, I went home slightly defeated. I opened up the book again and finally took another look at the directions. It was then that I realized my need for graphite sticks (and the importance of following instructions). The next day I acquired some graphite sticks and was ready to face the project again. This day I took a new approach. I started doing rubbings of objects in my home, and I landed on the jackpot: my bookshelf. Who knew embossed books made the best rubbings?

Here are some close-ups of the embossed sections that I used:

Embossed Covers

Following the collage instructions in the book, I began making my masterpieces *ahem* by combining the different textures. Here’s what I came up with:

Rubbings 1&2

It was actually a lot of fun. I felt like I was redesigning book covers. When I finally settled on one that I liked, I framed it and put it on the wall with some other photos.

Framed Rubbing

Although you have to be close to appreciate the design, I like the simplistic pattern I landed on. I did deviate from the book a bit, but I love the idea of shining a light on the ornamental details of book-binding that often get lost in the bookshelves. Was this the best project that I’ve ever done? Probably not. But will I enjoy this hanging on my wall for a few months? Most definitely.

Overall, I think this book has a lot to offer, especially if you read the directions. If you’re interested in making a DIY project that’s more than a disposable paper flower, I’d encourage you to check out this book.

Four out of five stars.

–Jenna H.