Cultural Musings

Canning. A dying Polish tradition that I’m keeping alive.

Five and a half years in Poland and I’m already an old Polish woman. One of my favorite summer activities is canning. Produce is super seasonal here so in the winter there’s no way you’re gonna find things like berries or good tomatoes. The only way to eat that stuff all year is to can it for the winter. When I lived in the States I was always a little wary of it. Whenever you read about it online, it seems so dangerous and scary like you can really easily poison yourself and your whole family. In reality, it’s not that hard.

Each summer I can 3 things:

Jam. If you’re going to make jam with pectin (żelfix or something), then it’s really super easy. If you prefer without, it’s for sure possible, but you have to use boil longer and I don’t have time for that. I like things to be healthy but whatever, I haven’t graduated to jam without żelfix. Anyway, it’s for sure better than buying it in the store. All you need is a package of pectin, 1 kg of fruit of your choice and 500 g of sugar and you’ll have fresh, homemade jam all year long.

  1. Take 1 kg of fruit of your choice (strawberry jam is my favorite, but also peach or raspberry) and wash it really well. You don’t want any creepy stuff in your jam.
  2. Mash the fruit and mix it with a package of pectin in a pot.
  3. Bring this mixture to a boil, boil for a minute or so, and then add the 500 g of sugar.
  4. Bring this back to a hard, rolling boil for 2-3 minutes.
  5. Pour the jam into disinfected jars (wash them in the dishwasher and boil), close the lid as tightly as possible and turn upside down. Once the lids suck in, place them in a cool, dark place. If they don’t seal properly, put them in the fridge and eat immediately. If they do seal, no need to pasteurize.

Strawberry jam is the best!


Kompot. There is the word compote in English but it’s something more like konfit so that word doesn’t really work here. You basically have to explain what it is. This is probably the easiest of all things to can.

  1. Boil half a liter of water with sugar. I use 4-5 tablespoons but you should do this to taste. I prefer a little less sweet so I don’t use much.
  2. Fill a liter jar halfway up with fruit of your choice. Some delicious combinations are strawberry/rhubarb, pear/cinnamon, and sweet cherries with… more sweet cherries.
  3. Wait until it’s no longer boiling but still hot and then pour into the jar with fruit.
  4. Close and boil for 10-15 minutes until the lids have sucked in and you know they’re sealed.


Sour cucumbers. Not to be confused with pickles, which are made with vinegar. I don’t actually can these because firstly, you can’t boil the jars. (Trust me, I’ve tried and they exploded in the boiling water. Probably some physics thing with gas that I can’t explain). The best thing is just to make them and eat them straight away.

  1. Wash your jars with soap and water – no need to boil this time as they won’t be kept for the winter. You’ll probably scarf them down immediately anyway.
  2. Buy those little ground cucumbers with the bumps on them and be sure to clean them as well as possible.
  3. Then stuff a few stalks of fresh dill, a bit of fresh horseradish, and a few cloves of garlic inside as well.
  4. Boil water with salt (1 tablespoon per 500 ml).
  5. Wait patiently for a few days until they’re nice and sour 🙂

Some of this year’s cukes!

Tomato sauce. For all the working ladies out there, this is a mega time-saver. I use it to make spaghetti, lasagna, chili, lots of stuff. I buy about 10 kg of tomatoes every summer and make both sauce and salsa for the year. Salsa is the absolute best for parties. Here’s my recipe for sauce/salsa.

  1. Peel the tomatoes. The best way is to cut an “X” on the bottom of the tomato and then place it in boiling water for a few seconds. That way the skin just peels right off.
  2. Put all the tomatoes in a pot, add some onions and garlic if you’d like (for salsa add a green pepper and cilantro as well), and blend with an immersion blender.
  3. Boil for a couple hours to remove a majority of the water. I usually boil for about 4 hours, but it depends on the tomatoes and what kind of sauce you’d like to have.
  4. When it’s ready, pour it into clean jars, making sure the rim is wiped clean of any sauce. Otherwise, they may not seal properly.
  5. Boil jars about 10-15 minutes until the lids seal.

So those are my favorite things to can. I’m definitely not an expert but I think it’s a lot of fun and a good day to enjoy summer goodies all year. Any special recipes you’d like to share?

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  • Reply cptn 4 July 2016 at 17:15

    On the first sight i thought that it’s “canning”

  • Reply cptn 4 July 2016 at 17:15

    On the first sight i thought that it’s “caning”

  • Reply acurrent91 5 July 2016 at 23:55

    My grandma always prepares syrops from fruits <3

    • Reply Leah Morawiec 9 July 2016 at 19:03

      Yeah? Do you have any idea how she does it?

  • Reply Adrian K 8 July 2016 at 21:05

    Hi Leah!

    I love sour cucumbers too! A little protip: if you want to keep them crunchy, try to add few cherry leafs on the top and bottom of your jar! I also like to add a little bit powdered jalapeno peeper (I love spicy food).

    • Reply Leah Morawiec 9 July 2016 at 19:02

      I’ve always heard that about grape leaves but I’m happy to to hear about cherry leaves as well! I’ve gotta try it next year 🙂 thanks for the tip!

      • Reply Wojtek 1 September 2016 at 13:52

        You can also add leaves of blackcurrant, horseradish (yes, root is not enough), oak and walnut – moderately, especially with walnut leaves – just a piece of one leaf. And mustard seeds, of course.
        As to boiling – no need for that. Just pour boiling salt water to the jars and screw the lids on really tigthly (use jars and lids with six and not four threads). It can be kept easily for a few months.

        And don’t wait until next year.

        • Reply Leah Morawiec 1 September 2016 at 13:54

          awesome tips! thank you

  • Reply Marc 29 July 2016 at 11:18

    Being Szczecin I tried traditional polish cousine, tatar and picles, not bad at all. Next I had a regular dinner at Dana hotel restaurant, you should definitely try that one and stay there for a while.

  • Reply Madame Bonheur 8 August 2016 at 00:44

    That’s really nice ! Thank you 🙂

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