...sometimes even a single feather is enough to fly. (Robert Maclean)


thoughts on canning

The process of food preservation has always entranced me.
Especially canning. 
The steam.  The bubbling pots. 
The shiny jars all lined up in rows.

It's a magical alchemy of sorts, invented in the kitchen laboratory. 
(I am a mere assistant, as with all things in the kitchen.)
I pit and peel, hull and husk.  
I gather jars, fetch tools, prepare shelves, write labels. 

The finished jars are like time capsules, full of the relationship
between earth, sun and water.
A given plot of land, and the seed that was tended there.
The hands that did the tending and harvesting. 
The flavor of all of those things,
culminating in that moment. 

I get sentimental when I walk down into the basement in the barren months. 
I look at the jars, all those little moments in time,
wishing I could step back into those moments, just for a little while.  

(I wish I could do that with non-food things, too... 
If it was possible to preserve the best moments from every day,
I'd indeed become a hoarder.  I'd fill every available surface with jars!)

Not that I don't love to be in the present moment. 
But everything is precious.

I may not be able to go back into those summer days, sticky with juice and freedom...
But I can do the next best thing.
Open them, savor them -- eat them!

And while I'm eating, I imagine those days in the hot sweaty kitchen,
and know that they will come again.

And when we're preserving food in the summer, I imagine the days in the winter,
when I will be so grateful. 
And that I am. 

I love most of all how things transform. 
There's something about the process, between point a and b...
it's like there are wings involved, some sort of flying.


turns into this
(the middle row = applesauce)

and this:

turns into this: 
rows and rows of tomatoes, suspended in time. 

This past year was transformed into juice + plain tomatoes +
'Geneva sauce' (tomatoes from the Geneva farmer's market),
+ puttanesca sauce and shiitake marinara.

San Marzanos make the sweetest sauce, we all agree.

See, we have a little bit of a problem.
We love to stock up for the winter. 
We fill up the shelves, like chipmunks hoarding a store in their underground units.

We are nutty about it.
So nutty that I'm embarassed to show you how at the end of the winter season
we have three full freezers,
and more rows than this of still very full shelves.

Clearly we overestimate how much we need.

The kids always joke about coming here to do their grocery shopping and
if there's any disaster involving food shortage and survival, this is the place to be.

I think they think we're crazy and we probably are.
If craziness is measured by how many pickled things you have...

we might be certifiable. 

 But hold onto your horses for the jam:
Quite a situation.
We should plead temporary jamsanity.
Who needs this much jam?!
Probably no one. 
Certainly not us. 
Apricot, blueberry, cherry, elderberry, peach, plum, raspberry, strawberry...
These shelves go 3-4 jars deep and are stuffed with jams, jellies, and chutneys.

But that doesn't seem to stop Bootsy from making it. 
Maybe she is addicted to the magic of preserving, giving food wings. 
All I know is that when fruit ripens this season,
I'm going to have to hide the canner.