Usually I use this spot for talking about all of the food I grew up with that I love. Today, though, I’m going to talk about one of the things that come to mind when I think of summer. Canning!
My parents, grandparents and neighbors always had a garden. In fact, folks that didn’t have a garden in our area were rare. Even if it was a tiny plot for tomatoes, it was something you saw in every back yard or empty field. When I was young, I remember my dad hired a neighbor, Mr. Gibb Mills, to plow the area marked off in our back yard for a garden. Usually, I think my dad and grandfather shared the expense. Their gardens were side by side. Later, when gas powered roto-tillers came on the market, that was used, but I still remember sitting in the yard watching that old man with his mule (or maybe it was a horse) as they plowed straight rows.
I also remember the canning. Just as my parents and grandparents shared expense in plowing, they shared the work, too. Hoeing, weeding, seeding and fertilizing, all of the chores were shared, usually in the evening when the air was a bit cooler and the day’s work was done. My grandmother and mother also shared the canning duties. I remember, again when I was pretty young, when my grandmother would have my grandfather build a fire in their gravel drive, where she’d set a big zinc tub. In it, the beans, pickles and beets would steep and boil, being kept watch over by Mom and Ma, and sometimes other relatives. I’d play nearby and yes, be intrigued by the whole thing. I never got burned by the fire, amazingly. I guess one of the things they kept watch over was me. In later years, we’d can inside with big granite-ware canners and then with a pressure canner that my mother finessed.
As I grew up, I helped with picking, cleaning and preparing the veggies. We’d have beans, pickles, beets, tomatoes and vegetable soup mix (usually done with the last of the crops in the late summer). I’ve always loved the taste of home canned foods much more than store bought. Still do.
Today, I still can, but on a much smaller scale. I grow tomatoes behind my house (I live in the suburbs now) and this year grew squash and cucumbers (my beans and okra met a rabbit fate). I also canned some veggies I bought from some neighborhood farmers. I still love the act and when people question me about it, I have to tell the truth. I love the taste and I love the tradition. Below is a photo of the small batch of pickles, beets, tomatoes and tomato juice that I canned this past weekend.
What about you? Do you remember the days when you spent your evenings in the garden? Did your family can foods? And what about now? Do you can?