learning to can

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Last week the song Kelvinator (by James Gordon) came up while listening Pandora. I’ve never heard of him or the song before, but it made me think.

Isn’t it true? Haven’t we turned from shopping in the store in the corner to buying in big stores on the outskirts of the city, with fruits year around from around the globe?  To now again coming back to buying in smaller stores, local?  And learning from older generations on how to can and preserve foods?  I think it’s great and we try to do our best.

Funny.  Growing up, my mom was always canning.  I don’t remember much of my grandmas and what or how they did it. They lived further away, but I remember trying their homemade jams and foods.  I also do remember my Omi, baking.  She had the best Christmas cookies ever.  (I need to find that one recipe, I think they were ginger cookies.)

But my mom canned.  She made ketchup that I didn’t like then, but I loved how those cool bottles she had looked in the pantry.  I wish I could try it again and have a picture of them.

She also made jams.  All sorts of jams.  She canned fruits, and made pickles.  I remember having a big jar on the kitchen counter with pickles. I should ask her how she made those.  I think they must have been fermented.

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I helped some.  Picking the fruit, stirring, putting them in jars.  It was fun. Usually in the heat f the summer.  We always had the food she had made, and that she had put away.  Some canned, some frozen.  It was what she did.

Then after college, getting married and moving to the US with Mark, we started a little garden the first summer we were here.  It was a little box in the porch of our studio apartment.  Arugula.  I had never tasted it before.  Then, we helped start a garden at some friends’ big lot further out from Portland.  We weeded, and plowed, and made rows, and started a garden for us and them.  We planted all sorts of vegetables.  It was great! our first big garden.  How rewarding it was.

That same year, we bought our house in the fall, and that following spring, we started a garden in our own house.  The perfect place to have one, just in the back yard.  It was so much fun to see the plants start to appear, and then later, eat the fruits and vegetables right off the garden.  It can’t be any more perfect than that.

This was 18 years ago.  And we’ve had the same garden space since then.  Redesigned a few times, tried many different kids of plants.  Every year looking a little different.  Many times enough to eat from it during the summer, and enough to share with friends too.  Just perfect.

This year, we had lots of tomatoes and green beans.  Enough to eat, share and can!

But I remember that first summer, 19 years ago, in our little studio apartment, just married, going to Fred Meyer and buying our first new canner.  A big expense for us back then.  But a must.  It was what we were doing.  Both of us had grown up with canned goods as the food you bring to the table.  There was no questioning in our part of why were doing it, or how we wanted to live our lives, or what type of food we wanted to eat.  We both knew just this one way.  We were just doing what we knew, with what we had grown up with.

We’d go to a farm, buy a big bag of beans, cucumbers, peaches, and can them.  Pick tomatoes.  Pick berries and other fruits to make jam.  That’s what we knew.  My mom and his grandma, had done it.  We had helped.  That’s what we were suppose to do.  As the adults we had become by having our own home for the first time in our lives when we moved here, we were doing what we knew.  Nothing more than that.

My mom had done all the canning and knew all the details of the recipes.  The same for Mark.  So, the same day we bought the canner, we also bought a hot jar grabber (like this one) that my mom didn’t have, some jars, a magnetic lid wand (like this one) that neither one of us had ever seen before either but thought we might need it.  And of course, the Ball Blue Book: Guide to Home Canning, Freezing & Dehydration (1995.) That told us the amounts of the ingredients to use, and most importantly, the number of minutes to keep these filled jars boiling.  Mark nor I had ever paid attention to how to seal these jars.

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This is, the only preserving book we used for a very long time.  It has recipes for everything we wanted to know.  We still have the same copy, pages bent, torn cover, marked recipes.

Some friends later, knowing we were canning, gave us this book.  The Complete Guide to Home Canning, Preserving and Freezing by the US Department of Agriculture (1973.)  Now we had two resources, and we were happy for a very long time.  We didn’t need anything else.

As the years passed, we learned and tried new recipes.  Some we’ve repeated.  Others we’ve forgotten.  But it wasn’t until recently, with the new boom of preserving foods and the coming of lots of new, beautiful books, I have checked out pretty much all the preserving books from our library and tried even more foods.

Now, with new recipes on hand, and a few new preserving books on our shelf, we are passing on to our own kids what we do with our food, because still, we just do.

Maybe for the same reasons my mom canned and made jam from fresh fruits picked by ourselves.  Maybe the same reasons why Mark helped his grandma pick pounds after pounds of strawberries.  Maybe with new reasons. Probably some added reasons pertaining to our lives today.  But I’m sure, not very different to the summer days our moms and grandmas spent years ago, in different homes, in different lands.

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Wanting to share the delicious foods available, and being able to taste them in the off-season months is what motivates us to keep.  Today, we  share the love of preserving with Lucas and Siena.  At different levels and at different times, both have helped.  From the seed planting time, to picking the fruits and vegetables, to mixing and stirring, to cutting, to pouring in hot jars, writing the date on the lids, and finally, hearing that beautiful ‘pop’ when jars seals as they cool.

They are ready to be put away for later.  We’ll be ready to eat them then.

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2 Responses to learning to can

  1. Amy Jo says:

    Your pickles look so tasty.

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