Sunday, August 28, 2005

Canst thou can?

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.


Mama T said...

Aaaah, but I do think it has to do with your walk with Jesus. I'm with the great St. Benedict on this one. Work done well is a prayer in itself.

Secondarily, I find it absolutely amazing how blown away people are when you do anything even remotely domestic these days. Make them jelly? They can't believe it. Bake them bread? Oooohs and aaaahs all 'round, even for easy old banana bread. Needlework? Same thing.

I've been watching Upstairs, Downstairs on DVD, and watching them sweep, polish, cook, bake and WORK, makes my life seem like a walk in the park.

justin said...

Ball jars are especially meaningful to my family. My Dad has had an uninterrupted history of employment from immediately following his undergrad to now, 30 some years later, starting at Ball Corporation's headquarters and surviving a merger, a split, and a buyout. The company is now called Saint-Gobain Containers, L.L.C. Ball Corp used to have a nice little historical museum in their headquarters, not sure what ever happened to it. My Dad is very much a biased party in favor of using glass whenever possible, and recycling ceaselessly.

OK, now that I've hijacked your comments for my own nefarious purposes, I will go quietly into the night. Happy Sunday! :)

Therese Z said...

MamaT: I never thought of St. Benedict on "regular" work. But why not? Monks certainly make all their work, manual and otherwise, a prayer. Thanks for the insight!

Justin: That was actually interesting, I love the blog world, everybody knows everything. The Ball line of canning products has been purchased a few times, it was owned Alltrista for a long time, and now is Jarden, I think.



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