Tuesday, October 07, 2008
Farewell Canning Season 08
Though I'm a zealot now, I was far from converted to the gospel of home canning when I entered adulthood. Quite frankly, I thought canning was a hideous waste of time AND that the only people that did it, did it because they were poor. Yes, my mother often talked about the high quality, how much better it was for you, blah, blah, blah, but I hated canning, let me say that again, I HATED canning.
I grew up as one of nine children. My mother stayed home and my dad taught school. Canning was a necessity. We had a HUGE garden and numerous fruit trees. In addition to our own stuff, because we had nine kids, people often called us to finish off their fruit trees. Every summer we bottled hundreds and hundreds of quart jars full of all kinds of things--cherries, apricots, peaches, pears, tomatoes, pickles beets, apples, applesauce, grape juice and a variety of jams and jellies. However, I use the term 'we' rather loosely since the kids never did that much. I remember many times promising my mother I wouldn't eat any peaches or anything made with the tomatoes, therefore I shouldn't have to can them. It never worked and so as I skinned peaches and packed tomatoes I swore I would never, ever, ever can anything once I was an adult. (I swore the same thing about taking my kids to church, making them do chores, sewing their clothes, making my own bread, planting a garden, and painting a bedroom by myself--I've gone back on all of those ones too)
I did become an adult eventually. I got married, had a baby, took over custody of a neice, did elderly care in our home so I could stay with my kids, and got pregnant again. I was about 4 months pregnant when one day Lee's aunt showed up at my house with a tub of blackberries. She'd been at the wet pack cannery and they had extra blackberries they were selling for $5. She bought them and brought them to me because "I know you love to can." How the heck she knew I loved to can when I most certainly did NOT love to can is beyond me. I was far more annoyed than gracious and after she left I glared at those blackberries with absolute abhorance (anyone that knows the value of a 10 gallon tub of blackberries wants to slap me upside the head about now). But, I was cheap and couldn't let them go to waste so I first put several gallon bags of blackberries in my apartment sized freezer and then decided to make some jam. Christmas was a couple months away and I figured I could give the jam for neighbor gifts.
So I did.
And the result was about 60 pints of the most beautiful jam I'd ever seen. I finished and just stared at what I had done. I made jam! I rescued 10 gallons of blackberries from spoiling and I preserved them until my family and freinds. I was mighty impressed with myself and a few months later was even MORE impressed with myself when my neighbors responded with astonished excitement when they got my jam instead of more candy. A switch was flipped, however, I lived in an apartment and soon had 2 little kids and a pre-teen, and a grandmother--so I didn't can again for several years. Then, we moved to Willard also known as the Famous Fruit HighWay. Whereas I felt like some kind of Martha Stewart when I lived in the city, up here I'm just like everyone else--they ALL can, but it's turned into a great resource for me in those ways as well.
I found a water bath canner at DI for $3. I planted beets and tomatoes, bought peaches and pears and apricots--I learned how to make mustard pickles. Now, some twenty years after my cursings about canning, I am so converted it's almost disgusting. I absolutly love to can. The feeling of accomplishment as I look at food I put up is almost hard to discribe. I think it ties back to an anciet female desire to create--and do I ever create! This year was actually a bit thinner than others because of time issues, but I still managed to can the following:
14 quarts of peach pie filling
20 quarts of peaches
12 pints and 4 quarts of mustard pickles
24 quarts and 4 pints of tomatoes
I only do jam every other year and this was an off year as I'm trying to use through the stuff in the freezer, and apples and grapes are yet to be dealt with--but most of the season is over for me. I finally figured out how to clean my stove (easy off, with a bowl placed over the sprayed burner to keep the fumes from knocking me out) and I had a great year for tomatoes. I had a couple friends ask me for tips when they decided to try their hand at canning for the first time in a few years, and that was a huge boon to me because they then get to feel that feeling of success, preservation, and accomplishment. I'm certainly no expert, and I've never yet attempted canning with a pressure cooker, but I'll get there and I'm sure I'll love it :-)
Now, I'm off to make an apricot cobbler--come on over this afternoon if you'd like some.