Outdoor cooking for year-long enjoyment.

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Inspiration Melanie Franz

As the days shorten and the nights cool, there’s no mistaking the gradual slide from summer heat to crisp autumn. While fall brings the end of long, lazy days basking in the sun, it also brings a rich abundance of delicious crops of all varieties. Apples, pears, peaches and blueberries, as well as carrots, sweet potatoes, squash, corn, tomatoes, peas, beans, beets—you get the idea! Local farmer’s markets and your very own garden might be ripe to bursting with fruits and vegetables just waiting to be picked. You can enjoy the fruits of your labour all year round if you transform your fall harvest into canned and bottled preserves. For many, canning in a confined kitchen is too big a challenge. Why not take your canning outside? Setting up a preserving station near your Bunkie or backyard bar is a fantastic way to spread out, get a little messy and keep cool while your preserves simmer. Keep reading for more great reasons to take your canning can-do to the great outdoors.

Growing your connections

Canning on a larger scale is not just easier in a bigger space, but also with more hands pitching in to help. Why not pick a beautiful fall weekend to invite other gardening enthusiasts over for a group canning session? A backyard bar is the perfect spot to divide and conquer, and working together will yield even greater results as you take turns sterilizing jars and lids, chopping and prepping fruits and veggies, overseeing the canning process and making sure all is properly bottled and canned. Plus, if each of your guests brings different ingredients, you can swap the preserved results and each benefit from a wider selection of treats to taste throughout the winter. Canning solo can be a lot of effort, but canning together cuts down the work and increases the fun. Best of all, you’ll be able to exchange useful tips and tricks passed down for generations, or the most helpful methods and innovations you’ve discovered on your own through trial and error. It’s community at its most delicious.

Growing your savings

More and more of us are turning to organic, locally-sourced foods to serve our families. Getting back to nature through the foods we prepare and eat is a way to support local farming trade, have a deeper connection to our immediate environment and make an effort towards reducing our carbon footprint. But eating locally or organically isn’t always wallet-friendly, especially in bigger families with lots of growing kids and big appetites. Fall and end-of-summer harvests are more affordable, and preserving lets you take advantage of great prices that you can buy in bulk and serve up all winter. With the exception of some salad greens, like lettuce, most fall crops freeze or preserve exceptionally well. If you don’t garden or you want to supplement what you do already grow, now is the time to check out farmer’s markets, local grocery stores and even bulk clubs for organic fruits, vegetables and legumes at excellent prices. And don’t forget about curing, smoking or freezing meats—chicken bone broth soup is an excellent and shelf-stable way to put up organic pastured chickens, for instance.

With a little planning today, you can make your savings last all winter.

Growing your storage

So you’ve invested in some inexpensive reusable jars, you’ve been to all your favourite markets and shops for your own fall harvest, and you’ve set a date with friends for a spectacular outdoor canning-fest. Where are you going to store all those canning supplies and accessories, or all those preserved or frozen goods? Few of us have the cold rooms and cellars previous generations relied on to store perishable and non-perishable items. If your kitchen pantry is already filled to the brim and your basement is more recreational space than root cellar, you can follow the lead of many of our Bunkie enthusiasts and convert part of your Bunkie into a perfect storage space for canned goods and preserves. Installing some simple shelving units is a practical solution, and you can keep your cleaned and intact glassware and lids safely stored away for next year. Some families install a second refrigerator or deep freeze so they can stock up and freeze plenty of on-sale items, then defrost and serve as needed. A little extra storage in a sturdy, solid structure can go a long way to reducing trips to the grocery store and paying for costly out-of-season ingredients.

Fall is almost here. You can take the best of country cooking to the next level by heading outdoors to shop for, preserve and store your very own crop! Check out some farmer’s markets in Ontario and Québec to get started.

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