When I say I can, can it is not about high stepping and big skirts over my ears. Different kind of CanCan.
The canning I can can is the sort of stuff you put in jars and use over the winter. Something my Grandmother did and never taught me and something mother only did once.
The canning season began for me with strawberries and will continue through the summer with a variety of things including, zuchini relish, pickles of various kinds and maybe end with some grape jelly in the fall if the birds don’t eat all the grapes – I forgot, the frost got the grapes so I guess I’ll have to hunt for some from someone else’s vineyard.
I never knew how to can a thing until I was in my late twenties. My mother was raised by her father because he own Mother was in hospital with turberculosis from the time Mom was about five. Her Grandmother did much in raising the four children of the house but it did not include teaching my mother to can.
My paternal grandmother included me in some of the process of canning when I went to visit. I would hull strawberries and pit cherries but when you are little the real work of things that includes very hot dishes and pots of boiling water is left to adults. It is sort of a magical process that just happens in the night when you are asleep.
When I began learning to can it was with the help of three wonderful friends. I had been out picking strawberries somewhere that was actually almost giving them away. With two small children and not much money that was very appealing to me but I didn’t have a clue what to do with the four flats of berries we had picked. That is where Ina, Tena and Ann jumped in to the rescue. They came with some jars and sugar, a few boxes of Certo and a metal spoon and taught me how to make strawberry jam.
So began my canning career and from then on it was pretty much self taught. It was just a matter of reading instructions and remembering some of the tricks my friends had taught me. The new metal topped jars were a dream compared to the old ones with the rubber ring and glass top. You didn’t have to worry about whether it sealed or not because when they sealed the metal made a wonderful popping sound.
Aunt Jane taught me how to can spagetti sauce and tomatoes. Her recipes are written in the back of recipe books so I don’t lose them. Vinnie game me a great recipe for salsa. Theresa gave me hers for pickled beets and one of the ladies at church had a recipe book made up for her 90th birthday which is where I learned to make the zuchini relish (and the simplest tomatoe soup from canned tomatoes).
I don’t do as much canning now as I did when the kids were home. We grow lots of tomatoes but I’ve gotten a bit lazy thanks to an abundance of freezers and now the tomatoes get canned as I need them. In fact I just used up the end of last years crop the other day and put down four final jars of stewed tomatoes.
For the most part I am willing to try almost anything in a can although I still haven’t mastered packing all those peaches and pears in the jar. I always seem to end up with half a jar of fruit and the other half with syrup. The one thing I stay away from however is cherries. We have a cherry tree and I happily eat them when they are ready but I will not can them.
It’s not a long story. It’s just one of those childhood things. Once upon a time when I was about 15 my mother decided to try canning something. It was cherries. She used those old jars and was sure she had done it right. They were carefully tucked in the top cupboard beside the sink when she finished. All was well for her first venture into canning until one evening I was doing dishes. Without warning there was a noise like a gun shot above my left shoulder and the cupboard door flew open with glass, juice and cherries flying everywhere. Within a few seconds another jar exploded and before I could shut the door and hold it shut at third.
My mother, hearing the commotion, quickly came to rescue and between swear words and some self deprication about her abilities in the canning department, she grabbed the jars, took off the lids of all the remaining ones and stopped the onslaught of explosions.
My mother never canned another thing in her life but she did have some sweet hours over the following weeks sipping on some very good cherry wine.