I assure you that canning is NOT in my genes. I once asked my Mom's mother, Grandma Frieda, if she had ever canned. She told me that she had only tried it once, and that her canner exploded and left glass and tomatoes forever stuck up in the plaster ceiling. Well now, doesn't that sound like fun? Grandma Frieda was not a domestic goddess, but she was indeed the sweetest person I ever knew. The only thing I saw my Mom preserve was strawberry jam, and even then she merely covered the jam with parafin wax - there was no "hot water bath" to seal the jar lids. Then suddenly, I found myself surrounded by women who have been canning all their lives. My friend Delnice provides my biggest inspiration, and she is always happy to take a call from me with a canning question. Delnice puts up a lot of food for herself and her small family. She buys produce from local farmers, grows some of her own food, and then prepares it and puts it into jars at the exact right time. Delnice doesn't do "small" either. If Delnice is going to can, by gosh she is going to do it up right. I'm talking 73 quart jars (those are the big ones) of green beans in one weekend. Delnice exclaimed to me one day when she stopped by to see my work, "girrrrrlll....you got the BUG!" Apparently there is a canning bug out there that will get you! Aunt Brenda is another significant influence in my canning career, as she is the one who got me started. Brenda called me up one day and said, "Okay princess, if you want to learn how to put up tomatoes, then come on over and help me today." Over I went, and she taught me everything she knew about canning tomatoes. The whole process was fascinating, and from that moment on I was hooked.
I started canning late in the summer as a final act of self defense against the endless 5-gallon buckets of tomatoes delivered by my Father in Law, "Big T". Big T lives alone, but grows enough food every year to feed a village. He is a talented gardener and a generous man who loves to share his hard work with others. For many years we have tried to use up the "groceries" that he brings by eating them right away. This effort tackles about 1/10th of the bounty - we would chop up the remaining 9/10ths and put them into freezer bags for later use. I have completely lost my freezer space to an endless army of little bags stuffed with reds, greens, and yellows. The dates on those bags go all the way back to 2006. I just can't seem to use them all up before I get new ones, and after awhile, the stuff inside starts to taste like freezer burn. I hate to throw away food, and this fact was probably the final straw that broke me into canning submission. I mustered up some courage, got out my big pots, canning utensils, jars, lids, and salt, donned my apron, and began to attack the mountain of tomatoes with the skills I had learned at Aunt B's house. SUCCESS! I was now the proud owner of eight quart jars of scarlet beauties, and I loved them all like they were my children.
I learned some very valuable lessons along the way, and each batch provided me with wisdom that could only be gained by doing. I will share my knowledge with you next time. For now, I will sit back feeling victorious, yet longing for warmer days ahead when I can get my Southern hands on some fresh veggies to call my own.