[Exene Says] Yes, We Can! (Our Own Food!)

[Editor's Note: Exene Cervenka is a writer, visual artist and punk rock pioneer. The OC transplant is the lead singer for X, the Knitters and Original Sinners. Her column, Exene Says..., is her space to basically just write what's on her mind, everything from crazy life stories to political theories and observations about what's going on in this fucked up world of ours. To contact her, send all messages to askexene@ocweekly.com.]

You should always store enough food and water for an emergency. You may not grow enough food to can, but you can preserve produce from friends' gardens or the farmers' markets.

If you don't know someone who knows how to can, you can easily find info online or at the library. Canning is very serious business. The rules and recipes have to be followed exactly. Jars, utensils, lids, rings--everything has to be sterilized. There is hot-water-bath canning, which works for jams, jellies, pickling and tomatoes, anything with a high acid content.

Then there's canning with a pressure cooker. You need that to can vegetables, meat or anything with a low acid content that needs to be heated to a higher temperature. It has something to do with botulism.

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I wanted to get a pressure canner, but I couldn't find one at any stores. And buying one online is weird because of the Boston Marathon bombing thing; it seems buying pressure cookers is now suspect.

For now, we did the hot-water-bath method, which is the best way to start: It's simple, easy, fun. A long time ago, I canned vegetables from my garden in Idaho. My stepmother, Ruby, taught me how; she was from a rural area--like mountains, outhouse rural. But I kinda forgot how, so a few friends and I got together for a home-canning get-together.


Buying the Ball jars, lids, rings, canning pot, tongs, etc. is a little pricey. Of course, the big pot and jars (not the lids) are reusable. It is a good thing to learn and a motivator for growing a garden in your back yard.

I don't have much of a garden now, so we bought tomatoes and blackberries at the Orange Home Grown market on Saturday.

Our friend Steph was in charge at our little canning party, and she was so good at explaining. We made blackberry with honey and lemon thyme jam. And we canned tomatoes with basil and peppers.

It was so old-fashioned. I recommend the home-canning party as the new Tupperware party. I liked getting together and peeling tomatoes, talking about life and laughing and sharing info and just being part of a meaningful activity. I'd love to have a cellar full of canned goods on wooden shelves.

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