“Canned tomatoes are like summer saved- all that deep sun kissed flavor ready to be enjoyed.” -Better Home & Gardens
As the summer sky turned dark, stars burst overhead with pinpoint lights. Crickets strummed their tunes with the rhythm of bullfrogs as bass. Traffic noises all but disappeared in the sleepy town of Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin. In the relative cool of the evening, Mom dragged out a bushel of peaches. Or beets. Or tomatoes. Or pears. Without air conditioning, canning produce was relegated to after nine o’clock until midnight.
My job in the process remained constant. Wash the jars thoroughly, paying attention to the inside corners and bottom. Check the rim for nicks. Look for cracks. Rinse in hot water and dry each jar. When that task ended, and it did, the next one for my skill set included prep of the produce.
In the case of tomatoes, skinning them. Peaches, sliding off the peeling. Beets, pushing the outer layer off while avoiding the crimson stains. Apples involved using a paring knife to make one long spiral peel. It took some practice, but is a skill used over a lifetime.
The rest of the canning process was accomplished by my mother and big sister. They filled jars, screwed on lids, maintained the proper temperature on the water bath, and lined up the finished product on the counter to cool. The “pop” of a canning jar lid is a joyful noise.
Later, as a newlywed, I read a correspondence course in home canning and set up my kitchen for basic recipes. With three preschoolers tucked into bed, the lure of the night canning resulted in nutritious meals in the cold of winter. My husband worked the second shift, so he arrived home after midnight. Just in time to smell the scents of sunshine in a jar.
Over the years, my husband has maintained urban gardens that overflow with organically grown vegetables. Together, we ladle the fruits of our labors into jars. Salsas, tomato soup, jams and sauces fill retirement with creativity and expressions of loving labor. We have learned skills worth preserving.
There is only one change in the canning routine that I learned when I was a child. My husband and I can in the morning. Never at midnight. It is just too late for this retired couple.
“Canning is not a hobby. It’s an obsession, an occupation, a fascination, an addiction, self-expression and a way of life.” -www.ArtOfCanning.com
Photo credits: https://www.pexels.com/photo/blur-focus-jam-jars-48817/