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By Emma Street, Permi8 member

Whenever I put on the local ABC talkback radio at the moment the discussion seems to be about the situation at SPC Ardmona. Mainly regarding the potentially devastating impact on farmers and workers around Shepparton, but there is another side that worries me too.

One of the reasons Australian canned produce is less competitive from a cost standpoint is due to the strict regulatory control of both farming and canning. Yes, this means we pay more, but you know that the fruit and veggies were grown safely with minimized impact on the environment, and that the end canned product is safe, nutritious and free of contaminants. Foreign produced food, unless made by a reputable company, just does not carry the same peace of mind for me, especially with high levels of lead found recently in imported canned product.

Mostly I try and eat fresh seasonal product, but rather than eating fresh fruit hauled halfway across the globe, or worse, imported canned fruit, I now bottle my own for use ‘off season’. Part of the reason we have such a massive garden and orchard is because we want the financial and health benefits of our own organic produce. If I could just work out how to grow bananas we would be self-sufficient in fruit throughout the year.

Growing your own, and bottling, is also about taste. People who grow their own tomatoes, for instance, know the taste benefits and pride that brings. Bottling them for use in winter just extends that pleasure. Doing it yourself also allows you to customize it to your taste. If you don’t like too much sugar with your bottled fruit, try fruit juice or even water instead. You might use honey for flavour, or spices, or even acid to provide more balance to the taste.

Many people are held back from home bottling by fear. Food safety in bottling is critical, but if you understand the requirement and stick to the rules it can be perfectly safe, at least for certain foods. And if you can’t trust yourself to make things safely, should you be placing such trust in product made outside our regulated processing environment? Perhaps the potential loss of safe Australian product will encourage more people to give home bottling a go.

To learn how to do your own bottling, come along to the free ‘nana-technology’ workshop at the Albury Community Wood Fired Oven 10am-12pm, Sunday 23 February.  See eco.redsally.com