Our house is in the midst of putting summer in jars. I canned apple butter today, which had been in the slow cooker overnight. I awoke this morning to the scent of cinnamon and apples, and officially made the switch into fall. I’m no longer craving cucumbers, but have changed my craving to butternut squash.
Putting Food By
All winter my family will recall the sights and scents of summer as we open jars of home-canned fruits and vegetables. “Putting food by” is much more than just filling the larder for winter consumption. It’s an elixir for the soul. Not only is the food good for us, but one of the best prescriptions available for keeping the winter doldrums at bay is homemade strawberry jam on warm toast.
I Learned from my Mother and Grandmothers
Preserving from the garden fulfills my need for a connection with my past. My mother taught me to put food by, and always used everything from the garden. After canning tomatoes, green beans and squash, the leftover vegetables went into chow chow or green tomato piccalilli. Fresh apples and pears went into the root cellar while the overripe fruits were made into musky butters or tangy chutneys. I have many of my mother’s canning jars and they are used over and over again, occasionally finding their way to someone else’s home in the form of a holiday gift.
Our kitchen is now a canning kitchen, with the canner taking a position of prominence on the counter, surrounded by canning lids, freezer bags and various utensils for lifting, tightening, pouring and straining. We put up tomatoes, green beans, beets, pickles, hot peppers, relishes, pear and herb vinegars. I’ll make pickles out of just about anything, some of which have become favorites while others end up on the compost pile the following spring.
As I made my evening stroll of the neighborhood the other night, I took a different route than usual and came upon a magnificent garden nestled in an empty lot between two houses. It was divided into six plots, each bursting with cabbages, tomatoes, cucumbers, pole beans, beets, carrots and Swiss chard. This community garden was obviously producing plenty of vegetables for preserving. I trust that those gardeners are gaining the same pleasure from their harvest as I am from mine, and I’ll bet that they will all have cupboards full of summer’s bounty as they roll into a frigid winter.
Even though fall is approaching and bringing with it the bittersweet feeling of losing our long days and warm temperatures, the smells of ripe fruit and vegetables and the bright jars of pear butter, tomato sauce, tarragon vinegar and green tomato pickles make this a luscious time of year.