BENZONIA — The recent awareness of healthy eating, buying local produce and tending home gardens have cooks following the natural progression into home canning. Sales of canning equipment are on the rise, and those trying it for the first time are learning what Bob Karczewski has known about for a long time — the lost kitchen art of food preservation.
The Traverse City resident is no stranger to food preparation. He began cooking when he was 8 or 9 and recalls gathering apples from trees at the old Traverse City Golf and Country Club (now the current site of Walmart on South Airport Road) and cooking them into applesauce in a three-pound coffee can over a campfire. He trained for a career in food service at Northwestern Michigan College, was a cook in the army, worked at Chef Pierre for 25 years and still cooks three dinner meals each week at the Grand Traverse County Jail. Home-canned food has been a part of his life all along the way.
He and his sister, Kathy Snyder, of Mount Clemens and Benzonia, often share fond memories of their great-grandparents' 1883 farmstead in Benzonia where the family gathered for Sunday dinners. "The shelves of the fruit cellar off the kitchen were always filled," Karczewski said.
What their great-grandma Guri Olsen knew to be a routine chore of turn-of-the-century domestic housekeeping has evolved into a fun, family tradition for the Karczewskis.
"Our aunts canned, and our mom canned fun things — pickles, relish, spiced peaches and pears," Snyder said. "When you compare them to commercially canned, well, there's no comparison."
"We grew up knowing how good it all tasted," said Karczewski. "My brother Dave started making 'Dilly' beans, which were easy. My daughter Amy liked them and also liked bread and butter pickles and pickled asparagus.
"I wanted to make them for her, and that's how I got interested in pickles and relishes, and I put up tomatoes every season."
Paging through the second edition of the family cookbook, Snyder said the whole family is into cooking and canning. She is the family genealogist and recognizes the importance of sharing the memories attached to each recipe and keeping them in the family. Snyder added that their niece even set out small jars of canned pickles as favors for each guest at her wedding reception.
One thing Karczewski knows is, no matter how much you can, there's never enough. This year he got his son involved. Together they put up four dozen jars of stewed tomatoes, a dozen quarts of bread and butter pickles and a dozen jars of each of his specialty relishes.
"Men like canning for the scientific aspect of it and for the fun of making unique things. It's fun, it's something that you know what's in it and it's fun to share," Karczewski said. "The whole family loves to get together on special occasions and taste what each of us has made and we like trading and giving it away, too."
While it's a fun family hobby, Snyder said if the produce harvest is good and the price is right, canning can be a money saver. At the same time, she cautions that getting started can be a bit expensive. There's an initial outlay for jars and the canner, and a food processor or grinder can be costly.
"You also have to find good produce and know ahead that it (the process) does take time," she said.
But Snyder said it's worth the investment.
"It's something that if you enjoy, you keep doing it," she said.
Both brother and sister say they think it might be time to enter their specialties in next year's county fair.
"There's a lot of personal satisfaction in preserving your own food," Karczewski said. "Part of the beauty of canning is the 'eye' appeal.
"When you stand back and look at what you've done — well, that's pretty cool."
5 c. white vinegar
1 c. water
4 t. pickling salt
2 T. sugar
2 cloves garlic
Bring to a boil all of the ingredients listed above and simmer the brine for 10 minutes. Dispose of the cloves of garlic before putting the brine in the canning jars.
Note: Karczewski makes up this brine when he cans jalapenos or asparagus. He has substituted 2 T. of Splenda instead of the sugar with good results.
-- Bob Karczewski
100 2-inch pickles or 1 peck
Salt (pickling) saturated solution to float an egg*
1 T. powered alum
1 gallon white vinegar
1﻿½ t. oil of cloves
1﻿½ t. oil of cinnamon
Soak pickles in brine for nine days. Take pickles out of the brine on the tenth day and soak three hours in three quarts boiling water to which has been added 1 T. powdered alum. Boil pickles six minutes in this solution. Remove from fire and rinse three or four times in cold water. Place in a stone jar or crock and cover with a gallon of white acid vinegar and let stand seven days. Draw off vinegar and for each cup of vinegar, add 1 c. sugar. Add oil of cloves and oil of cinnamon. Boil five minutes. When cold, pour over pickles.
-- Grandma Rose Karczewski
Sweet Dill Pickles (Candied Dill Strips or Chips)
1 quart jar Vlasic Polish Dill slices or strips
2 scant c. sugar
½ c. vinegar (Snyder uses cider vinegar)
¼ c. water
Drain juice from pickles. In saucepan, bring sugar, vinegar and water to a boil, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Cool slightly. Pour over pickles in jar, close jar and refrigerate. Ready to eat in 24-36 hours. Note: These are good with sandwiches like tuna, ham and egg salad.
-- Kathy Snyder
1 quart cucumbers
1 quart onions
1 quart green tomatoes
1 large head of cauliflower
3 red bell peppers
3 green peppers
3 jalapeno peppers (if desired for a little heat)
Grind all of the above ingredients and mix together. Add one gallon of water and a pint of canning salt. Refrigerate overnight and drain in the morning.
4 c. brown sugar
½ gallon of white vinegar less 1 saved cup for later
1 T. mustard seed
2 T. celery seed
Bring the above ingredients to a boil and add the vegetables. Mix together ⅔ c. flour, ¼ c. dry mustard, 2 T. turmeric and 1 c. white vinegar. Add to the boiling vegetable mixture and mix well. When the mixture thickens, put in hot jars and seal. The jars will seal as they cool. Makes 6-8 pints.
-- From the kitchen of Marguerite Karczewski (Bob Karczewski's and Kathy Snyder's mother)
Hamburger & Hot Dog Relish
5 c. cucumbers
3 c. onions
3 c. celery
2 hot red peppers
2 sweet red bell peppers
2 green peppers
Combine the ground ingredients. Add 1﻿½ quarts water and ¾ c. canning salt. Refrigerate the mixture overnight. Drain when ready to can.
1 quart white vinegar
3 c. white sugar
2 T. mustard seed
1 t. celery seed
Combine all of the above ingredients, heat to boiling and cook for 10 minutes. Put the relish in hot jars and seal immediately. The jars will seal as they cool. Makes about six pints.
-- From the kitchen of Marguerite Karczewski
Hot Swedish Mustard
2 T. Coleman's Dry English Mustard
¼ c. white granulated sugar
1 T. white vinegar
1 T. heavy cream
Stir together the dry mustard, sugar and vinegar until smooth and well blended. Add the heavy cream and mix well. Place in a glass jar with lid and refrigerate. Let the mixture stand for 1 to 2 hours if it is to be served later that day so that it will blend the flavors. This will keep for several weeks. Do not add old mustard to a batch of new mustard. This recipe may be doubled and re-doubled.
-- Bob Karczewski