Each June of my childhood, daddy carried my sister and brother and me outside in our jammies in the middle of the night, to return to sleep in the back of our fifties Plymouth station wagon. He and Mom would sip coffee from a thermos as we headed east from Southern California to try to cross the Arizona desert before worst of the blistering heat, then north to Moab, Utah, where daddy’s mother lived. My paternal grandmother and my aunt and uncle, plus a passel of cousins, were all Mormons. They were also farmers and both life-shaping pursuits meant that summers were spent churning butter, whipping cream, picking fruits and vegetables, canning and preserving all that could be processed as each season peaked. While it was never much of a vacation for my mother, who was expected to pitch in with the work while the men sat at ease at the end of their days, for me it was glorious. I loved the wonderful, heavily laden table we sat down to for every meal, the seemingly unlimited quantities of whipped cream, the homemade ice cream, the fruit right at hand in the fields if I wanted a snack when I hid in a haystack reading hot afternoons away. We always took home boxes of canned tomatoes, carrots, venison, okra (which I still hate to this day), pearly baby onions, and an assortment of pickles and relishes. Those gleaming, filled Mason jars seemed like art to me and their memory still shines so many decades later. They were a symbol of rootedness, of the land, of bounty, and even of love as those were happy times for me.
Today people don’t can so much, but it’s all there to be done and not as hard as one might fear. Sterling Publishing has a new book out in their Homemade Living Series that is filled with simple step-by-step directions, tips, and cautions—from tools of the trade to ingredients and resources, plus how to create a range of pickles and preserves, jams and jellies—and recipes, of course. CANNING & PRESERVING: All you need to know to make jams, jellies, pickles, chutneys & more by Ashley English is the ideal roadmap to keeping summer’s vibrancy alive long into the cold, stark months.
Take the challenge—you’ll love the results!