The Power of Preserves

Written by Alanna Burns, Illustration by Jaclyn Simon

“Jam on a winter day took away the blue devils. It was like tasting summer. ” 
― Sandra Dallas

Imagine this situation. You’re at the grocery store trying to figure out what kind of snacks to buy for your hungry friends who are coming over that night. Chips? Sure, everyone loves a good chip. Cheese? Duh. But you want something a bit more substantial than chips and cheese. What if you buy the wrong flavour chip or everyone is lactose intolerant?  Snacking shouldn’t be stressful. Enter preserves. I’m not just talking about jams and jellies, I’m talking about food that has been pickled, fermented or canned. Food preservation has given us endless opportunities to snack better and to enjoy our favourite seasonal foods anytime of the year. 

I love to cook and entertain and my pantry is always well stocked with ingredients that I can turn into a delicious meal at a moment’s notice. Shelf stable ingredients like pickled vegetables or tinned fish can easily be transformed into dinner when combined with other ingredients like noodles or rice. Making sure you have some preserves on hand means that you will longer stare into the abyss that is occasionally your pantry at dinner time wondering what the heck you’re going to eat that night.

Entertaining brings on a whole other array of potentially problematic situations. What do you serve a group of people so that everyone is happy? Well, the good news is that everyone enjoys a charcuterie board. It’s a classic choice to put one out when you have company over. A collection of cured meats, cheese, crackers and fruit. It’s a delightful experience only made better with the introduction of preserves. Adding a chutney or red pepper jelly to your charcuterie board or even some pickled red onion turns an ordinary charcuterie into something your friends won’t stop talking about for weeks after (well, maybe. I’m not promising your charcuterie will be a transcendent experience, but you never know). 

In winter time you can fully appreciate preserves for their simplicity and ingenuity. The fruit and vegetables you grew in the spring and summer can be saved for later when pickled or turned into jam. It’s a good way to reduce waste and make sure you get to enjoy all of the fruits of your labour. Imagine standing in your kitchen making toast and spreading strawberry jam you made in the summer over your piece of organic sourdough. Sounds pretty heavenly right? What is jam if not summer in a jar? That is the beautiful thing about preserves. Each jar or tin of food is a memory waiting to be consumed. How many times have you tasted something and it brought you right back to a certain moment in time? Food is powerful but preserves are even more powerful as they have the ability to preserve time as well.