I have so many vivid memories of foods from my childhood. My maternal grandma was a canner. My grandpa had a huge garden (they lived on a double lot in St. Louis) and it included peach trees. Every year, my grandma would can peaches and pickles and applesauce along with other things I don't remember quite so well. I remember getting furry hands from helping to pick peaches. I remember the sweetness of her sweet pickles. She was a stern woman, methodical, exacting, German, and not very affectionate. Looking back on it, canning is probably the best thing she could have done--it was everything she was. I don't remember her being a great cook, but her pickles were one of my favorite things. She'd can these amazingly small gherkin pickles. They'd be covered in sweet juice and she would bring them out for holidays.
Learning to can has been on my to do list for a long time now. Who doesn't love the look of food in jars? Seductive colors reaching out to you from clean glass; the shine of the lids. Maybe it's just me? I've read countless articles on canning and decided this year I'd make it a priority to can something. I got a great deal on a lot of organic peaches a few weeks ago and I decided to peel and freeze them. My friend Kelly came for a visit last week and had canned before. For some reason I felt more confident having a friend nearby. We put up a batch of peach butter and the rest is history.
In the past two weeks I've made peach butter, triple berry butter and sweet pickles. I found a recipe for refrigerator sweet pickles a few years ago that tastes almost exactly like my grandmas. This year I decided to try water bathing it so that they last a little longer. I'm hoping for the best.
Canning not only makes me feel like we're getting more out of our garden, but it makes me feel connected to the past. It's a beautiful way to do something ancient, to feel connected to so many women chefs who have gone before me. I often think back to the women in my family and what they must have been like. I try to find ways to honor their traditions in my daily life. I try to find ways to connect to them and continue their legacy. I've done this in other ways (my wedding quilt is a great example) and I'm happy to add canning to the list.
If you are new to canning, I've found these websites immensely helpful. Click here and here.