Saturday, August 30, 2008

Canning Time

Ron and I canned peaches yesterday with relative ease. Hot water came from the tap or was heated on the cooktop that is just steps from the sink. Lots of ice instantly cooled the blanched peaches. Hot jars, run through a rinse in the dishwasher were quickly filled, and then taken to the garage where Ron had removed the vehicles, and set up the cooker with water heated on the camp stove. Comparatively easy!
Remember when canning (and freezing) season began with green peas in mid-July, and ended up in mid-September with apples? Green beans, corn, peaches, pears, apricots, beets, tomatoes, even chickens, etc. Labor Day always seemed to be tomato canning day - we truly labored. Canning was a full family affair, with only Dad (who had other farm worries to take care of), escaping from the tasks of bringing in buckets of water from the outdoor pump to heat on the stove to wash the bottles and lids, clean the vegetables, blanche the vegetables on the wood-coal kitchen range, and all the other tasks that took place before the finished bottles could be put in either the copper boiler to water bath them, or into the old pressure cooker to be sure the produce would be safe to eat. Most of the food we ate was produced on the farm. The work was hard, the kitchen hot from the fire in the stove, but we got through it.
It was always a feeling of great satisfaction when the many shelves in the root cellar were full of newly canned produce, the potatoes in one corner, and the carrots covered with sand next to them. Cabbages were saved (one year, Mother borrowed Grandma's sauerkraut knife and made a crock of sauerkraut), as were all kinds of winter squash. We never had pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving, but the squash pie tasted just as good. Eggs would be saved in crocks of a glutinous liquid called water glass, because when the extreme cold weather came, the hens would quit laying eggs. Going to the cellar in the winter time was never fun. There was a pull-back door at the top of the stairs, wooden stairs going down to the cellar, and another door going into the cellar. We carried a lantern or a flashlight to quickly spot the desired items, and then scooted out. Sometimes the spiders would spin their webs, including the hated black widow spiders with their red hourglass stomachs. Then we would call Mother and she would come and dispatch them. We worked hard to preserve our food, but it was reassuring to know that we would not go hungry.
In the early 1990's, I tutored a family who had escaped from Poland before the Iron Curtain had fallen in that country. They lived for a time in West Germany, and then were sponsored to come to Olympia by a family who lived there. The father had been a veterinarian on a collective farm, his wife taught Russian, and they had three children. The mother told me that the first time she was taken to an American grocery - variety store, she was left standing with the grocery cart while her guide went to look for something. Standing there, surrounded with the plenty that is in our grocery stores was so surreal to her, that she came close to having a panic attack. We take so many blessings for granted in our daily lives!


Judy said...

Canned fruit looks like jewels in the light. You are so good to keep the tradition alive...Your writing about storing food ala Penrose, brings remembrances to us all. Food in the cellar was definitely a huge part of our feeling of security.

Ann said...

I can almost taste/smell the peaches. And how good they will taste in the middle of the winter when a treat is called for. The canning and freezing days at Penrose provided a great sense of security. There was always something to eat, and it tasted better because of the hard work. I think that is a lesson for us today - have something stored up for the cold days ahead. Now - the cellar is another story. How I hated going down in that dark place for a bottle of something. I just knew there were very scarey things hiding in the dark corners of the cellar and I always was thankful I would live to see another day as I safely escaped back into the sunlight. The big old frogs that would jump out from under the bottom step didn't help me any - they were huge and would appear without warning. The day I conquered that fear was a milestone for me. I still struggle if I have to go out in the dark and cannot see what is around me.

Judy said...

Also, do you remember how the celler smelled?

Steve Blood said...

Going for spuds or carrots was the worst, they were at the very back....ohhhhh