Last canning day!
I guess we’re “locavores.” We try to eat seasonally, organically, and locally.
We eased into this – as anybody must, I imagine. I am to the point where I attempt to preserve as much as I can for the winter.
I try to be flexible about it – often still buying the faves I just can’t give up like lemons, bananas and ginger. Other times, I get a little out of hand, like the time I brought a bushel of black-eyed peas in a yard-sized trash bag to my niece’s birthday party and made my kids sit on the deck and help me shell them—our fingers turning a dirty purple while everyone else munched on salsa and cheese dip. Since then, I try not to act so much like a desperate squirrel.
We eat local and organic food to address a variety of practical concerns that include oil consumption, pesticide use, and the quality of produce shipped over long distances. Storing food for the winter, however, also hits on some sort of DNA-imbedded hoarding instinct of mine. There’s something so satisfying about a cupboard lined with brimming jars. They assure me of our potential to survive the winter—even if there is a grocery store less than 2 miles away.
It’s a good thing canning hits on this ancient nerve, because quite honestly, it’s a pain in the neck. And I’ve done my best to make it even harder! A few years ago, I renovated my kitchen and made a big fat goof. I bought a stove with a horrible cooktop that will not accommodate a canner. Consequently, I have to use my camp stove in the back yard, monitor it constantly to be sure it hasn’t run out of fuel, and run my jars in and out of the cold air (which could cause them to crack).
To prevent the propane from running out before I can finish, I heat the water on my electric stove inside. So I also run frantically back and forth with boiling pots of water yelling “out of my way!” and “get the door!”
To make it worse, it rained almost every time I canned this year. When it rained, I moved the stove to the carport which, conveniently, floods with little provocation. On one occasion, I had 14 quarts of spaghetti sauce bubbling on the stove when I looked up from my cauldron to notice that it had been raining all day. Somehow I missed that forecast. With more sauce than I could ever fit in my refrigerator, I had to forge ahead.
So there I was, carrying pots of boiling water through the cats and dogs, hunching over a huge stubborn and unboiling pot, standing in an ankle-deep river, listening to thunder roiling all around, and trying not to think about lightening.
I was hot from the canner, cold from running through the rain, and sweating from both – my hair a soggy mat. And I usually look so ravishing!
Yesterday, at least I had sun. Under pressure to get Olivia to her soccer game on time, I shoved heaps of pears into jars, slung ladles of syrup over them, threw them in the canner and proclaimed the season complete. Finis!
Now, with everything “put up,” I feel incredibly relieved, but equally satisfied. It’s time to eat!
Or…perhaps to just sit back and relish.
During the fall, I tend more toward the hoarding than I do toward the eating. I guess you could say I have trouble letting go. I hesitate to open jars in case we need them for “later.” In early spring, however, I’ll behave like a true schizophrenic and start zinging jars off the shelves, ordering my kids to “eat more peaches!” because God forbid we have anything left when the first strawberries come and we start all over again.