• Peach and mint preserves, using the final defrosted batch of summer peaches.

    Peach and mint preserves, using the final defrosted batch of summer peaches.


  • 2 years ago
    2 years ago
    2 years ago
  • Memories in a Jar

    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.


  • 2 years ago
  • Homemade applesauce in my favorite canning jar (Taken with instagram) - recipe is from Sherri Vinton’s Put ‘em Up

    Homemade applesauce in my favorite canning jar (Taken with instagram) - recipe is from Sherri Vinton’s Put ‘em Up


  • 2 years ago
    2 years ago
  • Pickled some okra tonight, as the summer season for produce is winding down and I managed to miss the last of the cucumbers. A $6 basket of okra from the Baltimore Farmers Market on Sunday made it home with me instead.

    I’m discovering that pickling is different from preserving in that 1) It’s faster. 2) It’s less messy. 3) There are less dishes to wash. 4) Typically there’s less chopping and preparation to do.

    It’s nice to try something out of the jam, jelly and fruit butter realm. I love sweet stuff, but I know that come Christmas time and we hit gifting season as per our tradition, it will be nice this year to have some savory things to add to our goody baskets. Hear that, little elves?

    I first tried pickled okra at my mom’s house last year at Christmas. They are a great little happy hour snack, or any hour snack. They’re not slimy, as you might expect if you’ve eschewed okra for that very reason. They’re just crunchy enough, zippy with vinegar, and perhaps a bit kicky with spice if the maker likes a little heat. Give them a whirl if you get a chance - I know they’re commercial sold as this brand, for one example.

    I tried this recipe, which I found thanks to Google. I’ll let you know how they turn out. Hopefully I’ll enjoy them with a nice Manhattan or Jack & Ginger cocktail very soon!


  • 3 years ago