Herald and Journal
Herald & Journal, August 17, 1998

Canning, once a way of life


Canning (or preserving) foodstuffs years ago was a very important duty of the homemaker. Today, there is some canning being done by some housewives, mainly fruit and pickles.

Yesteryear, women spent seemingly endless hours preparing the garden soil, planting, weeding, watering, harvesting, and eventually canning. The heat of August was augmented mercilessly by the cauldrons of boiling water necessary for sterilizing the jars and rings and lids.

Canning the vegetables took many hours at the range or stove, often an iron monster that the housewife needed to stoke with chunks of wood that she had the children gather and carry.

Nor was cooking and preserving food done in less than enormous quantities. Families used to be far larger than today, and households frequently included grandpa and grandma. There were no nursing homes or senior housing back in the old days.

Row upon row of Ball or Kerr jars filled with tomatoes, beets, corn, cabbage, and green beans were the reward. Fruits were another source of commodities to can for desserts, jams, jellies, and preserves of every sort, to "put up" in jars and seal with paraffin wax.

If the family could afford it, they'd buy peaches, cherries, and pears from the grocer who always got a large shipment from out west. Housewives still put up fruit today. My wife does. It's a real treat during the winter.

The work wasn't done when the veggies and fruit were canned. There'd be the potatoes to dig up and put in a dark place in the cellar. You'd have enough until spring. And how about the carrots. You could leave them in the ground all winter. Squash would also be stored in the basement.

I have many memories of the canning days. The kids had a lot of work to do, too. Shelling peas, snapping beans, pulling beets, gathering potatoes.

I don't think anybody cans today like they did in the old days. It's much easier to get your vegetables and store them in your home freezer. But many supermarkets still stock jars, lids, and fruit in season for those who still can. It's becoming a lost art.

I remember how good it all tasted during the cold dreary days of winter.

Dust ­ mud with the juice squeezed out.

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