Learn about canning
Riding horses, fishing and camping were all important touchstones from my childhood, but another fond memory is the time I spent with my mom in the kitchen toward the end of the summer putting up vegetables and fruits to enjoy once the growing season ended. We had a large vegetable garden that provided for our dinners and more, and my mom would find a way to preserve the bounty so nothing would go to waste.
There was an old mahogany bookcase about 10 feet long in the basement of our house, left there by the previous owners when we moved in. It was the perfect place to store our concoctions. By September, the shelves would be teeming with mason jars of all shapes and sizes, a rainbow hodgepodge of peach jam, stewed tomatoes and dill pickles. As winter progressed, each jar would get emptied, one by one. By the time the first snap beans were twining vines up the poles in the garden, the shelf would be bare, rows of gleaming glass jars ready to be filled again.
I wasn’t very interested in canning as a young adult. Cereal or soup was a perfectly acceptable dinner back then, maybe a cold beer to round things out nutritionally. But when I was pregnant with our first child, the nesting instinct took ahold of me. All of a sudden I was struck with the urge to start filling our china cabinet with jars of food created with my own hands.
This foray into canning started with a water bath canner, jar lifter and a copy of the Ball Blue Book. I read the book cover to cover and watched a few how-to videos online. I thought I was ready. But little did I know how hard it would be to measure sugar, time the jars sterilizing in boiling water and cut open a pouch of pectin and pour it at the exact right moment (while continuously stirring) all by myself. So I recruited some friends to help and we’ve been getting together to can every summer for the past decade.
I still have the original water bath canner from that first summer of canning, but since then have added an extra-large Dutch oven, the indispensable magnetic lid wand (two are better than one because you need a backup in case you misplace the first) and the most amazing food strainer recommended to me by a local Amish family. These items, while not mandatory, make the process a whole lot easier and more pleasant.
My friends and I are all old pros at canning now. We’ve taught friends, sisters, even 4-H groups the delicate art of making the perfect strawberry jam. Each of us has a few blue ribbons from the county fair to prove our expertise. Last year, my friend’s daughter won the grand champion ribbon in the junior division.
The upcoming Labor Day weekend is the perfect time to get started or reacquainted with canning. It’s getting toward the end of the summer and farmers with