One of D.C.’s finest food bloggers/home cooks/teachers Mrs. Wheelbarrow shares her secrets for easy canning in this week’s New York Times Dining section.
For those of you who think it’s all a hot mess and botulism waiting to happen, take a look at Cathy Barrow’s words of wisdom, and dig in to canning and preserving. ‘Tis the season!
On my canning list this spring and summer: pickles, giardiniera, tomatoes, peach preserves, and maybe an ambitious recipe or two from the Blue Chair Jam Cookbook my mom gave me for my birthday last year.
Hat tip to my NYT-readin’ friend Miss V. for emailing me this interesting article about Mason jars.
Sad that the inventor, John Landis Mason never benefited from his patent and died a broke man. Interesting that the article describes present-day canners as “locavores.” I think back to my grandmother Carrie, who grew up on a farm in eastern North Carolina and canned a host of fruits and veggies. She did it for practical reasons — I do it because it’s a fun tradition to carry on and I also like to preserve food for later use.
Is the term “locavore” passe? I wonder…
As I funneled hot strawberry jam into jars this afternoon, I got a little choked up.
Though I credit my good friend C.O. for introducing me to the world of canning, my first exposure to goodness in glass jars came from a dear family friend.
Peggy and her husband Frankie befriended my parents in the early ’80s, when we moved to Kannapolis, NC from Mills River, a mountain community just south of Asheville. My dad was the minister of Jackson Park United Methodist Church and Peggy and my mother sang together in the church choir. They became fast friends and I spent a lot of time as a young child and into my early teens at Peggy and Frankie’s house in Mooresville, NC.
They lived out “in the country” and I loved walking down their gravel road to fetch their mail, feeding the rabbits that would venture into their yard from the pasture out back, and picking grapes and wild blueberries in the woods around their home.
Peggy took advantage of all that fruit and canned tons of blackberry preserves, of which she was so generous. I grew up with those jars always in our kitchen, and I smeared it on toast and biscuits and ate it straight from a spoon well into my college and early married years. When my mom would visit Peggy, she’d always return with a care package of jarred preserves for me.
I haven’t had any for quite a while now. Peggy was diagnosed a year or so ago with Alzheimer’s and I don’t think she picks berries or puts them up.
When my mom first told me about Peggy’s condition, I couldn’t help but cry. This dear woman was the first person to buy me a bikini (against my mother’s orders) and a coveted Duran Duran folder for my school papers. She turned me into a lover of broccoli (smeared with melted Velveeta cheese, of course). Her husband loved to tell the story of the first time I spent the night with them at age four and they caught me sometime in the middle of the night, standing on their kitchen cabinets and shaking a green can of Kraft Parmesan Cheese into my mouth. (I had no shame even then!)
Peggy would play country music like “Don’t Mess With My Toot Toot” in her Nissan Maxima and we’d sing loudly together driving down the rural roads. She’d let me rifle through her closets and model her clothes and shoes for “dress up.” We would sit on her front porch and I would pop Impatiens flower pods while she smoked her long Virginia Slims cigarettes.
Peggy’s not much older than my mother, but she always seemed like a third grandmother to me — a cooler, more jovial, younger one. It absolutely breaks my heart to know she likely might not know me the next time I make it down to North Carolina to visit. And what’s worse, that I may never get another of her jars of preserves.
Had I only known the last jar would be surely the last, I might have savored it a little more. Certainly though, it would have tasted so bittersweet.
I don’t intend to be maudlin with this post; only to say enjoy who and what’s there in front of you now. Nothing gold can stay.
*Did you know you’re supposed to give canning jars back?
With the renaissance of home canning, and imminent holiday gifting, the rules of canning jar etiquette will surely be tested—perhaps re-written—and definitely broken.
I don’t expect friends and family to return them, but it sure is nice when they do. Canning isn’t necessarily a cheap activity, and I hope to the sweet God above that people aren’t throwing them away or tossing them in the recycling bin.
Any five second whirl on precious Pinterest will show you about 2,536 things you can do with a Mason or Ball jar. So give it back or make somethin’ special out of it. Upcycle, please, and thank you.
*Hat tip to WBEZ blogger Louisa Chu.