August 7, 2013 | Volume 100 / Number 32

Canning And The Material World

The flies are biting. A sure sign of harvest. For a while now, those who garden have been harvesting the abundance of their work. And many of them have been busy canning and freezing a colorful array of vegetables.

All the while I was growing up, we had a huge garden. The first session of canning was sweet peas and green beans. Dad always planted about four rows of peas because he knew my brother and I would raid them as soon as there were some to eat straight off the vine.

Tomatoes were far from safe from me. When the tomatoes were ripe and my mother wanted me to help her, she first checked to see if the salt shaker was gone. If it was, she knew I was in the tomato patch.

During June and July, and sometimes into August, we filled jar after jar with strawberry jam. Black raspberries added their rich purple hue to the shelves.

By the time canning season was over, jars containing tomatoes, tomato juice, sweet and dill pickles, carrots, corn, peaches, red and green sweet peppers mixed with onions and garlic completed our fruit and vegetable rainbow.

When winter arrived we were prepared. Large wooden boxes held potatoes and long braids of onions and garlic hung from nails in the rafters in the basement. Along the wall were cardboard boxes filled with pears individually wrapped in newspaper. What a treat they were along about Christmas.

Not only did canning give us wonderful tastes year round and help the budget, it provided much more. Working alongside my mother, it gave us a chance for long talks and a deepening of our relationship. Canning also gave us an appreciation of how hard we all had worked to produce the food. When we took stock of our summer's work, we were thankful for the abundance of food we had. Thankful also for being able to raise and harvest what we planted.

After I was married, I added beef and chicken to my canning routine. Many of my tomatoes, peppers, and onions went into making a basic sauce that was used for spaghetti, pizza, chili, and barbecue. Depending on what I was cooking, I added extra ingredients.

Having jars filled with vegetables, fruit, and meat was my version of fast food. I could have a full meal ready in half an hour or less. And it was food that contained no artificial preservatives or color or chemicals to enhance the taste.

Yes, you can buy anything already canned. But it doesn't give you the satisfaction you get from raising and canning the food.

In the dead of winter, I still think there's nothing tastes better than home canned peaches.

Hopefully canning will not suffer the fate of being lost in what seems to be a material world.

Sandy Laumeyer is The Courier's Nashua correspondent.

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