The Roundup -

Canning Preserves Family Traditions, Creates Memories

 

Home canning is a satisfying, fun, and economic way to fill your pantry.

Growing up on the eastern Montana plains I have many harvest memories, from my mother driving beet truck while I played on the edges of the fields, to my grandma blanching and freezing corn my grandpa brought in from the garden. Canning produce has been something that all of the women in my family have done and I can fondly recall standing in the back of my grandpa's truck picking choke cherries by the bucket-full which my grandma would then turn into her beloved choke cherry syrup. The house was uncomfortably warm and the sweet smell of syrup filled every inch of that warm space as she canned it in mason jars to give as gifts and sell at craft sales.

As an adult, there are certain traditions I have purposed myself to learn in an attempt to carry a part of my family's past into my present and canning has become one of those. Every fall my mother visits friends in Idaho and stops at the local orchard to purchase lugs of peaches, pears, and plums and together we spend a day or two preserving them for the year.

And so the process begins... I haul jars and rings to her house to be washed, slip skins off of peaches and pit them, peel and core pears, heat lids, and spend a day or two sticky with fruit juice, decked out in my apron, and continually watching the clock to pull jars from the hot water bath at the appropriate times. After four years of canning together, my mom and I have a pretty good rhythm and, honestly, canning is just more fun with a friend. Over the few short years I have been doing this, we added plums and tomatoes to our canning extravaganza and I have ventured out making homemade applesauce, apple butter, pear butter, and plum jam and this year we have plans to make buffalo berry jam, which my mother tells me is delicious. One of these summers I will brave the gnats and go out to pick choke cherries and make syrup from my grandma Claudine's recipe, not because I miss the syrup, but because I miss her as she passed away in 2013.

My hope is that my children will take an interest in this tried and true form of food preservation; maybe they will want to learn themselves, but at the very least I hope they develop an understanding of the work that goes into things that can be so easily taken for granted. Most of the women before me canned out of necessity, knowing that there wouldn't be fruits and vegetables over the winter if they didn't. Truthfully I struggle to keep a garden alive at all, but canning isn't limited to what you can grow yourself; I am happy to put sale-priced produce to good use for months to come. For me it is the satisfaction that comes with seeing those lovely jars full of good food, the appreciation of learning something from my mother that she learned from hers, and taking the time to slow down and take in the beauty that comes with the season from the window of that overly warm kitchen. Most importantly, I hope that my kids will have happy memories of going to grandma's to can fruit and tomatoes; I hope that they will regard that warm, sweet-smelling kitchen as affectionately as I did as a child... as affectionately as I do as an adult. It is quite interesting to me that doing something so domestic can make me feel like such a rock-star.

 

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