I finally kicked off canning season, a little later than usual. Pint jars of home-canned tomatoes and tomato juice are quietly cooling under a bath towel on my counter. Next week: peaches and peach preserves. Then corn relish. Pickled beets. Maybe pumpkin butter. The hell with pickles this year.
Besides the famous Ball Blue Book, I use old family recipes to make the old favorites in pickles, preserves and simple veggies and fruits. People act as though you bled into every jar, they are so impressed. They shouldn't be: it takes only lots of hot water, newspapers and a good timer to do a fantastic job of canning. (Sounds like emergency childbirth, doesn't it?)
Canning shifts your mind much like baking bread does. It takes you back to a more effortful time in making home pleasant and food good. You become sensitive to the seasons, worrying how much longer peaches will be at the Farmer's Market, frowning seriously at boxes of green beans, critically tasting plums "to see if they'll can." Canning books routinely contain chapters on smoking meat, drying fish, preserving nuts and beans. The older ones even tell you how to butcher hogs, and make sausage and render and store lard, and we're not talking 100 years ago, either. It is humbling to realize with what luxuries we live and how protected we are against the environment and against hunger.
Do you remember your mom, your grandma or aunts canning? Are their recipes still available? Make them a batch of something they used to make; instant happy tears. Or, if you need Christmas gifts for those hard-to-figure-out people in the office or in the neighborhood, consider canning. (The trick is to train them to return the jars and lids, with the promise some day of more, then all you have to buy for the next time are the flat lids for about $1.50 a dozen.)
I've had a great time showing a wide assortment of friends how to can. They are enticed by its unique combination of craft and cooking, and realize how much thought and love goes into every batch.
UPDATE: This entry has nothing to do with my walk with Jesus. But sometimes simple satisfaction in a job completed is the best part of a day, and I keep patting the jars as I walk by. The high points of my day today therefore are Mass and jamming tomatoes into jars.
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