Sunday, September 14, 2008
I don't like that question. Because the answer is they do. They just don't talk about it. (Except me and the other bloggers canning like fiends, snapping photos and writing away.) And because they don't and instead go for convenience and availability and really, affordability. Canning isn't always the most frugal thing, especially if you don't grow your own food. I wrote about why I'm preserving food at the beginning of this series. But what I'm really enjoying are the conversations with family, friends and neighbors, especially older people, about their memories of canning.
This is Rudy. He's 95 and lives down the street. AdRi and I are good friends with Rudy, and he tells great stories. He grew up on a farm in Washington, lots of kids. His dad worked the farm with horses, and every summer his mother would can 100 quarts of peaches. And every winter they'd eat all of them. When he told me the number "100" I about fell over. That's a lot of work.
On the other corner lives Hazel. She's lived in her house in this neighborhood for over 50 years. She's how we found out about the farm to pick sweet corn out on Sauvie Island. She still cans her pears, though she can't lift the big water bath pot anymore. She just does single jars on her stovetop, but she still does them every year.
My mom always canned. She said we kids swore we could smell her chili simmering when she was canning, as soon as we crossed the street on our way home from school. My sister remembers mom making her own ketchup, and I remember the hot Southern California days when she'd be canning salsa, tomatoes and sauce. And of course, the peaches. All home grown. My grandmothers canned too. My mom recently told me the story of my grandma, canning green beans when the cooker exploded, sending beans at record speed straight up at the ceiling, ricocheting all over the kitchen. My grandma swore she had a burn on her hand in the shape of a green bean.
Today's Oregonian features a top-knotch obituary, and one I read with a smile. The subhead read, "The matron saint of food storage traveled often and almost always slept outdoors." But my favorite line is a caption with one of the three photos: "One year, Esther put up 165 quarts of apricots, 78 quarts of tomatoes, 12 quarts of peaches, and 30 quarts of grape juice. In a dehydrator, she dried 12 quarts of corn and 5 1/2 pounds of figs." Wow. I don't think I'm quite into it that much, but I can imagine the stories she told.