GOOD

Yes, You Can


The can-volution takes canning out of the factory and puts putting-up food back on the table.


Canned foods were born in the early 1800s when a confectioner named Nicholas Appert invented a method for preserving food in airtight containers for the French army. From there, canned foods went on to become a safe, reliable staple of the workingman's lunch and a source of pride for frugal homemakers. Canned food also became a symbol of modern industrialized society-as if the food itself were produced mechanically. Cans of green beans, Campbell's soup, or fruit medley represent the promise (easy-to-use, pre-cooked food all year-round!) and the perils (bland, salty, overcooked food all year-round!) of modern culture.

While having canned beans available year-round-and, indeed, the can itself-is the result of a huge industrial effort (as James Parker recently wrote in a spirited defense of canned foods), a cottage industry of do-it-yourself community canners has cropped up again. Sales of canning supplies are reportedly up 30 percent this year, fed in part by an interest in local foods, awareness about contaminated processed foods, and a slumping economy. DIY home canning has also drawn inspiration from a generation of designers and tinkerers dedicated to customizing off-the-shelf products-computers, bicycles, food-that were once thought of as sterile, efficient exemplars of industrial product design.

Although producing canned food yourself may not be as cheap as buying the mass-produced version, it allows you to save your own seasonal foods, customize recipes, and enjoy your tomatoes with the knowledge that they weren't picked by an enslaved Immokalee worker.

One enthusiastic cheerleader of canning's new wave has been Kim O'Donnel, a Seattle writer who launched Canning Across America this summer. "I got inspired by Yes We Can in the Bay Area and I kept thinking about Hands Across America, where people would simultaneously hold events around this idea of putting up food," O'Donnel says. "I threw an idea out on Twitter. I have not seen anything like the response I got in a long time and it was because of twenty-first century technology. We're using social media to talk about a way of preserving food that dates back to Napoleonic era."




Back in 1810, Appert thought that driving the air out of containers prevented spoilage, although canning actually works by combining that sealing action with heat. The heat sterilizes the contents. But beware: it also tends to turn softer vegetables, like beans, to pulp.

Because modern home canning is a relatively easy process, it doesn't require any prerequisites in the kitchen. At its simplest, canning requires only glass jars, lids, and a lot of boiling water. Usually, the jars and the food are heated. Then, acid or sugar is added. The food is put in jars which are boiled in hot water. As they cool, they make a "pop" and seal shut. The most accessible recipes, even from the culinary innovators like David Chang of Momofuku, tend to be for similar fare: high-acid foods, like vinegary pickles, or tomatoes.

For the first timers, it's really important to follow a recipe. Putting Food By is a canner's best friend. Neophytes might also want to follow someone who's done it before. Which is part of the impetus behind community canning projects: learning from others. Yes, We Can's Anya Fernald said it best when she wrote, "Like everything that's hot, sticky, exhausting, and a little risky, [canning is] way more fun with friends."

As much as I enjoy canning pickled beets, whole tomatoes, or crabapple jelly myself, there's always something new to learn. "It's a way to get people together for two or three hours," O'Donnel says. "Not only sharing the work load, but catching up and getting to know each other. Those things have been highly underrated. Canning is one way back."

Top Photo by Peter Smith. Bottom Image courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Articles
via Real Time with Bill Maher / YouTube and The Late Late Show with James Corden / YouTube

A controversial editorial on America's obesity epidemic and healthcare by comedian Bill Maher on his HBO show "Real Time" inspired a thoughtful, and funny, response by James Cordon. It also made for a great debate about healthcare that Americans are avoiding.

At the end of the September 6th episode of "Real Time, " Maher turned to the camera for his usual editorial and discussed how obesity is a huge part of the healthcare debate that no one is having.

"At Next Thursday's debate, one of the candidates has to say, 'The problem with our healthcare system is Americans eat shit and too much of it.' All the candidates will mention their health plans but no one will bring up the key factor: the citizens don't lift a finger to help," Maher said sternly.

Keep Reading Show less
Politics

There is no shortage of proposals from the, um, what's the word for it… huge, group of Democratic presidential candidates this year. But one may stand out from the pack as being not just bold but also necessary; during a CNN town hall about climate change Andrew Yang proposed a "green amendment" to the constitution.

Keep Reading Show less
test
Me Too Kit

The creator of the Me Too kit — an at home rape kit that has yet to hit the market — has come under fire as sexual assault advocates argue the kit is dangerous and misleading for women.

The kit is marketed as "the first ever at home kit for commercial use," according to the company's website. "Your experience. Your kit. Your story. Your life. Your choice. Every survivor has a story, every survivor has a voice." Customers will soon be able order one of the DIY kits in order to collect evidence "within the confines of the survivor's chosen place of safety" after an assault.

"With MeToo Kit, we are able to collect DNA samples and other tissues, which upon testing can provide the necessary time-sensitive evidence required in a court of law to identify a sexual predator's involvement with sexual assault," according to the website.

Keep Reading Show less
Health

Villagers rejoice as they receive the first vaccines ever delivered via drone in the Congo

The area's topography makes transporting medicines a treacherous task.

Photo by Henry Sempangi Senyule

When we discuss barriers to healthcare in the developed world, affordability is commonly the biggest concern. But for some in the developing world, physical distance and topography can be the difference between life and death.

Widjifake, a hard-to-reach village in northwestern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) with a population of 6,500, struggles with having consistent access to healthcare supplies due to the Congo River and its winding tributaries.

It can take up to three hours for vehicles carrying supplies to reach the village.

Keep Reading Show less
Health
via Keith Boykin / Twitter

Fox News and President Trump seem like they may be headed for a breakup. "Fox is a lot different than it used to be," Trump told reporters in August after one of the network's polls found him trailing for Democrats in the 2020 election.

"There's something going on at Fox, I'll tell you right now. And I'm not happy with it," he continued.

Some Fox anchors have hit back at the president over his criticisms. "Well, first of all, Mr. President, we don't work for you," Neil Cavuto said on the air. "I don't work for you. My job is to cover you, not fawn over you or rip you, just report on you."

Keep Reading Show less
Politics