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The Things Of Autumn

Now that I am alone, I do not can any more. I used to do a lot of canning. Canning was not something that I was accustomed to doing. I do remember helping a friend’s mother who canned tomatoes. She was an Italian lady who canned a lot of tomatoes for sauce and other tomato dishes. I remember slipping the skins. That part was fun.

By slipping the skins I refer to the way we prepared the tomatoes. First, they were blanched, then put into cold water. I remember watching the skins to see when they broke. Then they were ready. The next step was packing the tomatoes into jars. I think that is all she let us help her with.

When I married a dairy farmer, I was expected to can. We planted a large garden. My father-in-law prepared the soil, then we planted things. Some of the garden went in as seeds while other portions went in as small plants. My father-in-law always put in a lot of tomato plants. I am not sure why because we did not use that many tomatoes.

Planting the garden was fun. Weeding it was hard work – especially when I was bending over a baby bump. I could squat down some but that was not easy. I was excited. I could hardly wait to taste the fresh produce from the garden. I loved garden things and used as much as I could.

I was living in a mobile home. There was not a lot of room to do my canning. There was even less room to store the finished products. My mother-in-law granted me room in her basement to store my canned goods. When my jars were cooled and sealed, I put them into her basement.

I was new to the canning process. I had collected some canning jars from various sources. I also had a large kettle to use to can things. All of my canning was done by the water-bath method.

We had a lot of beans that year. I prepared the beans for canning following the guidelines set out in my canning cookbook. I followed the directions religiously. Although it was not the preferred method to use, I used the water bath method. I did not have a choice.

I put up about twenty pints of green beans as well as some dilly bean pickles. When I was finished with them, they went into the basement. The dilly beans survived just fine, but I was not as lucky with the basic beans. One day when I went down cellar, I noticed a lot of beans all over the floor. My beans exploded – I suppose because the cooking process was not enough to keep them. All of that hard work was for nothing!

I cleaned up the mess but was not deterred. I had other things to can. I had better luck with my tomatoes and my applesauce. Those canned just fine. I had a lot of jars to show for my work. I loved having my own stash of canned tomatoes. Now I could add them to soup, goulash, and spaghetti sauce. I even tried to make V-8 juice. That turned out just fine as well.

My days of living in the mobile home ended and I finally had a full-size kitchen to use. There was a table downstairs for me to store my canned goods. I got much braver now that I was on my own. I had a place to work and a spot to store things.

My favorite thing to can was pickles. First of all, I loved homemade pickles. They were so good as an accompaniment to my dinners. While the pickles were getting ready, they smelled up the whole house. Some pickles could be put into jars immediately while others had to set for a while. I especially liked the recipe for mustard pickles that was in my canning cookbook. I could use an assortment of vegetables so that helped me clean out the garden. I also made pickle relish. That was good on hamburgers and hotdogs.

Most of my canning experiences were positive. I bought a pressure canner before the next season after the explosion, so I was even able to can green beans without incident.

I remember taking a color photo to show off my canning. Those colorful jars looked so pretty.

Another thing I canned was fruit. We had our own prune-plum trees. I put some of them into jars with a heavy syrup and some went into the freezer. When prepared they tasted different so I had two different dishes to enjoy. The ones from the freezer tasted more like prunes.

I must admit that I do not miss canning. It was hard work. I do miss the quality of the canned goods though. Home-canned goods are so good. I especially liked the peaches and pears. Fruit was our dessert for most meals.

The last thing I froze was rhubarb. I love the fresh rhubarb to make sauce during the winter months. It is so easy. All you do is cut it into pieces, put it into a freezer bag, then put it down in the freezer. Since I learned to pull the rhubarb instead of cutting it my plants continue to grow into the fall. Guess I better check to see if I can find rhubarb to put down before we get a frost.

Ann Swanson writes from her home in Russell, Pa. Contact at hickoryheights1@verizon.net.

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