My husband thinks I have a problem. He may be right.
Last year I was re-introduced to canning by my friend Kim. I’ve canned before, when my Gram was alive. Homemade dill pickles make me think of her. She also had a fabulous recipe for peach pie filling but my copy seems to be missing an ingredient or a step. I can’t throw out the recipe–it’s in her handwriting, and that is reason enough to keep it. It’s so special, and there are days when I let my finger trace her words.
That connection to my heritage is one of the reasons I enjoy canning so much. There is something about it that anchors me, that connects me to the earth and to God.
We go to the market on the weekends and pay a little extra to get food that hasn’t travelled across the planet. Every week I am blessed by this bounty but it doesn’t last all year. It makes sense then to treat it as best I can. Thus the canning.
I keep sending my husband out for jars, and he keeps obliging me. Yesterday, I had to promise to stop. Soon. Right after salsa and chutney and mincemeat.
So far–we’ve made lots of jam. Blueberry-lime, Cherry-berry, raspberry-peach. I’ve anticipating the burst of flavour as we put preserved berries over frozen yogurt later this year. Blueberries with a touch of amaretto, peaches with a hint of brandy, and a wee bit of wonderful syrup for the rare times we have waffles and pancakes. There’s a spicy peach applesauce that will easily transform into a sauce for chicken or pork. There’s another peach jam that didn’t quite set, so it will become the basis for other things when I open the jars.
Of course, there’s the savoury side too. Jars and jars of dill pickles, dill carrots, red onions in vinegar and yesterday, roasted red pepper spread. I’m not sure I’ll make that one again because of the crazy bubbles. It’s too hard to clean the ceiling. And the light switch. And the cats.
When the days are cloudy and grey, sometimes our moods are too. The fresh burst of berries or the tartness of the no-sugar jams is a reminder that there will be other springs and summers, even if they seem so far away right now. There’s something special about sharing that joy with friends and neighbours. The gloom goes away then.
Often when I stand at my counter slicing tomatoes or peeling peppers, I think of my family and friends. My parents are getting older, and it’s humbling some days to realize they won’t always be there. I hope they’ll like the mix of things I’ll send to them.
Preserving the best of summer’s bounty is a bit of a science–the right acidity, the right temperature, just the right amount of time in hot water. It’s necessary to pay attention to the task, to do all I can to make the conditions right, to appreciate the rewards from the effort. If all that goes well, the jar lids snap (a most satisfying sound) and bacteria is unlikely to spoil the mix. As long as that happens, the treasures will be preserved for the future.
Jam and relationships. Paying attention, keeping the good stuff. I think that’s what God intended all along.
Side note–in the spirit of preserving the good stuff, there will be some behind-the-scenes changes to my site this week. Hopefully it all goes smoothly, but if there is a delay, I’m sure it will be a short one. Just wanted to let you know.