Tuesday, August 20, 2013

It's Time For Canning!

Am I the only one who's kitchen perpetually smells like a giant dill pickle this time of year?

I learned the art of canning last summer, with much direction from my dad, and after reading as many books as I could get my hands on the previous Winter. Gardening and canning is a huge part of my family history, and I've done my best to carry on with it, and teach my son to appreciate it as well.  I remember how much I HATED gardening when I was his age (13), and how many times I told my dad I would NEVER have a garden when I grew up.  Well, today I have a garden that's as big as my house, as well as a bed of raspberries in the works, and many more strips of earth that my dad tills up for me every Spring. All of this is completely dependent on how many seed packets I've let "fall" into my cart, or how many fantastic seed sales I've found online.

While making pickles last weekend I said to him, "I bet Great-Grandma Ethel is sitting up in Heaven just laughing at us.", to which he responded, "I bet your grandma is really proud of what you are doing.  And I bet she and Grandpa are probably canning something themselves up there right now, probably some sauerkraut!"  I brushed away a tear, and continued to scoop pickle brine into the waiting jars.  I so wish my great-grandma had lived long enough to show me so many things besides canning.  She made bread every day, and was known for her homemade donuts, which I unfortunately was too young to remember. Thankfully I have most of her recipes, and I do my best to recreate them, even though none of them usually have any directions.  Back then you "just knew" what to do with your ingredients.

The options for canning are vast, and picking exactly what you want to do with each fruit and vegetable is, I think, the hardest part.  I have, however, compiled a list of favorites that I will continue to make for many years, some recipes handed down to me, some new and more jazzy recipes I have found along the way.

The joys of canning are many, except perhaps for it's lingering scents.  But I don't mind it when I see the bounty I have picked, cleaned, and canned, all lined up prettily on a shelf, their bright colors glowing from their jars.  My kitchen is overflowing with pints and quarts of raspberry jam, sweet and garlic dill pickles, corn relish, bread and butter pickles, and dilly beans.  The freezer is full of homemade pesto and shredded zucchini.  Soon I will be canning peaches and apple pie jam, and perhaps some pie fillings made from both of these fruits.

Perhaps the best part of canning and freezing Summer's crop is venturing into the kitchen on a cold Winter's day and opening up a fresh jar of salsa to serve with a warm plate of cheesy nachos.  Or tossing a bag of frozen pesto with a bowl of hot pasta.  It warms the soul, and makes all the hard work of month's past totally worth it.

I know that when I some day reunite with my great-grandma that she will have the jars all ready to go.

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