I started canning recently, which is later than my mother would have liked. She really wanted to pass this knowledge along to me while I was still at home, most likely so I could help her when the gardens started producing and needed putting up. But to be honest, I resisted. I even resisted learning how to cook. That was a crash course once I left the house. But maybe that was for the best. Ever notice how the things we cherish most are often those things that remind us of home? Maybe it’s walking in the livestock barns at the state fair, or the smell of fall leaves, or the taste of home raised pastured chicken eggs. We get homesick sometimes so we do or make those things that bring home to us. Cooking and canning do that for me. It didn’t take me long after I went off to college to realize that other people didn’t eat like we did. Some college kids are naïve about drugs and alcohol; I was naïve about other peoples’ kitchens. I thought everyone knew where meat came from, or how to grow a tomato. I was so wrong. You know that one person that asks the question, “Why would you raise cows? Just buy the meat from the store so animals don’t have to be killed.” I went to college with that person. When I told people that we raised our own meat, they looked at me like I had sprouted horns and was telling them we practice ritual sacrifice. Once I started really cooking for myself, and I mean real meals with food, not just warmed Ramen noodles, I started to really understand what it was my parents had been trying to tell me all those years. Food is just better when you know where it came from, what work went into it, when you do some of that work yourself. It tastes better, but there is also more appreciation.
Pressure canning green beans from the garden.
I finally came full circle when my husband and I bought our first home together. We have a couple of acres and we planted our first garden together this year. We don’t have chickens or cows yet, but it’s in the works. Plans are being drawn up and scheming how to sneak home some chicks and keep them in the garage until we have a coop is practiced daily. My husband fears every time I tell him I’m going to Rural King for canning jars; after all, that’s how we ended up with a house rabbit. I can’t do everything I want to yet. We are still getting settled. But the canning and the cooking, well that’s in full swing. I have discovered the complete joy that canning can bring; the sound of the jars sealing, the looks on people’s faces when I come to work with jars of goodies. Mom tried to teach me the art of canning when I was younger, but like a typical teenager, I blew her off. Nothing my old hippie mom could tell me would come in handy. No way, I’m too smart. But it’s in my blood. Resisting the call of the earth to turn the soil and cultivate my own food worked about as well as resisting a wave when it crashes on the shore. Can’t stop it, just let it move you. My mother is in Florida for a week. But every time in the last few days that I have pulled out my canner, water bath or pressure, I think of her. Carrot cake jam, pear butter or chicken stock, she is there with me. Canning makes me feel like I’m home. My toes in the dirt remind me of my parents and my childhood. Gardening, canning, cooking, it all takes me home. It’s in my blood.
Homemade jam fresh out of the water bath.