J Smith: Preserving your own fruit can be hazardous to your health

“Out damned spot, out.” It’s the only phrase running through my head this week after a friend donated 30 pounds of cherries to my latest back-to-basics venture, canning.

Out damned spot, out.” It’s the only phrase running through my head this week after a friend donated 30 pounds of cherries to my latest back-to-basics venture, canning.

Free always comes with strings attached, and in this case the string is that processing 30 pounds of cherries actually might make you kill someone. And if Lady MacBeth thought the evidence stuck, well, let me tell you, she clearly hasn’t spent an evening with cherries.

With the cost of food skyrocketing, do-it-yourselfers everywhere are trumpeting the benefits of growing and processing your own food, but I think canning is really one idea that should come with a buyer beware sticker.

It may only be $50 to buy the canning kit at Walmart, and the fruit may come free. But if my experience is any indicator, it’s probably not worth the Lithium chaser needed to regain one’s composure. You’ll be paying for that for weeks.

The Slow Food, 100-Mile Diet, granola-raw food wave has always had its pitfalls and, admittedly, ventures toward the absurd for some.

Buying organic, local apples—probably a good thing. And the apartment mushroom aficionados, sufficed to say it’s totally possibly to be earthy without your house actually smelling like it.

Just as mushrooms do not belong in a closet anymore than spinach belongs in a hanging basket above your living room lounger—if you really want to avoid E. coli poisoning from your salad greens, it might make sense to simply wash your food first—cherry jam supplies do not belong in a condo kitchen.

I was fooled into thinking this was simple by the strawberries.

We got the strawberries a couple of weeks ago from a field in Rutland.

I bought the canning kit. Then the jars. My DVD player and TV are in pieces so we went straight to the written instructions.

Jars went through the washer followed by the lids and washers.

I found a recipe—screwed up the recipe (too little sugar). Made a couple of clean batches. Screwed up another batch—too much experimental pepper.

Well, you get the point. By 1 a.m., there were about 12 jars on the counter and the house was in relatively decent shape, lulling my inner housewife into a false sense of security.

I have a white kitchen. White cupboards. White carpet across the counter and beige tiles on the kitchen floor.

There has been one minor issue with berries in this house already. I once forgot to put a whole freezer bag of raspberries away in the morning rush and returned home to what I thought was a murder scene.

It wasn’t. Thankfully. But it did permanently alter the colour of my grout and require a scrubbing I had hoped not to repeat.

And yet somehow this week I allowed a few flats of free cherries to outstrip the raspberry incident by a mile.

From what I’ve just seen, I’m going to take a guess cherries are dripping with antioxidants and all the good things intended to stave off cancer, heart attack and impotence; but their juice could be a toxic chemical for the damage it will do to one’s white paint.

About 50 minutes into my new venture, after having frozen a few berries for safe keeping, I started to wonder why stores don’t carry frozen cherries.

They’re like candy when the juice starts to concentrate.

Five hours later I had my answer.

I now have permanently pink hands and a nice-button sized punch mark from the pitter.

My kitchen has sustained truly irreparable damage and we won’t even get into the names I started calling my freezer when the one bag blocked the vent and the entire fridge began melting.

Needless to say I have learned my lesson—and, no, it’s not what you think.

Both the strawberries and the cherries were probably excellent do-it-yourself, healthier eating ventures.

I just think I might look at contracting the work out next time instead and maybe having a beer or a glass of wine in the process.

Oh right, I think we have that deal in my neighbourhood. Grocery store here I come. I’m taking the added fat, sugar and salt with preservative order. Eating healthy may be good for your body, but it’s murder on the soul—at least where cherries are concerned.







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