Feminist adventures in food preservation

This weekend, my friend Amber and I (with a guest appearance by my housemate Carolyn) tried our hand at canning for the first time. It was my first time canning anything, and Amber’s first time canning tomatoes (she’s made jams before). We also made refrigerator pickles using this recipe(thanks Ann!).
Food is becoming a recurring theme of my posts here at Feministing. It’s occurred to me (thanks to some conversations with Jos) that I’ve never really explained why it’s a feminist issue. Well, when I spent the better part of my Saturday doing something that felt more like grandma’s past time than a feminist one, it really got me thinking about feminism and food.
I think the politics of food are pretty clear. The way we eat is manipulated and controlled by big business, the media, the fashion industry, television, advertising companies, even the government has a say. Feminists have long been pushing back on the representation of women’s bodies in pop culture and the pressures we face to look and eat a certain way.
Food has historically been a woman’s domain–at least the preparation of it. Part of the feminist revolution was challenging the inequitable division of household labor–including food preparation. Convenience foods, prepared dinners, are all linked to the new reality of multiple working parents. But they aren’t only a result of this–let’s not blame feminists for TV dinners just yet. This food industry is also about finding a way to make more money off of food. Processing food is a big business. It adds value to foods that wouldn’t have been there before and it creates thousands of new products to sell. We’re seeing the results of this high fructose corn syrup fueled industry now–we’re feeling it in our health and our economy, not to mention our environment. It’s not just about convenience–it’s also about cash. I don’t think the food politics movement needs to send women back into the kitchen–unless they want to be there. For our nation to eat healthy, we ALL need to be cooking, and thinking about what foods we eat.
I’ve been inspired by much of what I’ve read and seen about the industrialization of food to take things down a few notches. Shopping at the farmer’s market for one, thinking about where my food and veggies come from, trying to pick things that are freshest and most local. I live in a seasonal climate–my farmer’s market only lasts until Thanksgiving. Facing the prospect of winter without the yummy fresh veggies I’ve been enjoying all summer, I realized (with a little nudging from Barbara Kingsolver) that canning was my only way to guarantee I could eat local veggies this winter.
So my canning adventure! It’s hard work friends, no doubt about it, but for one day of hard labor in the kitchen I could have enough tomatoes to cook with all winter, until next year’s crop. Amber and I also canned some salsa and I’m looking forward to tasting that come December.
A few tips for those of you who might be canning inclined after the jump.

-It’s only worth it at the height of tomato season, which for us in DC was about two weeks ago. At the height of the season tomatoes are cheapest at the market and most likely ripe and ready for canning.
-Buy A LOT of tomatoes! And buy seconds, if you can. Seconds are the farmer’s tomatoes that are a little bruised, split or with bad parts. They sell for much cheaper and are great for canning because you can cut those bits off. If you buy in bulk also you get a better deal. Amber and I bought 20 pounds of tomatoes and I wish we had bought 80. The 20 lbs only made us 6 quarts of canned tomatoes and 6 pints of salsa. If you want to can sauce, you’ll need way more tomatoes than that.
-Get a basic canning kit and a BIG pot. You’ll need them.
-Have left over jars? They’re great for making refrigerator pickles or storing bulk stuff like rice and pasta.

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