Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Home Canning in America

  While I was growing up we always had a large garden. For a family of 6 this was a way to provide our family with healthy food at a very small cost. The cost being, new canning lids and our efforts. We had a supply of jars already. I am the oldest of 4 children so I learned early, at the knee of my mother, how to "put up food". She and my Dad came from farm and ranch people who knew how to preserve food in many ways. The goal of the summer and fall was to raise enough produce for a year’s supply, until harvest time the following year.
  In the fall we knew we'd be busy canning and freezing all our produce. Whole days were dedicated to canning fruit and vegetables. If we had a large harvest we would can and freeze for days in a row. I can still see all 4 of us kids at the kitchen table, each with a duty. Mom would keep us on task, demonstrating how to do each action, and man the water bath. We all worked hard. The younger ones peeled off as they wore out. Leaving my mom and I to do the last of it. I loved working side by side with her. She knew so much and I wanted to learn everything.
  I've learned a lot from her. She inspired me to do the same for my family. I've also learned from the many books I own. The Internet has been invaluable to me as well. I've learned so much in the last few years. I've picked up so many skills, really useful skills just by watching videos and reading about what other people have done.
  My parents were raised to also have meat in the freezer. I remember many summers, getting a half beef delivered. It filled up our chest freezer and lasted a long time. My mom loved the thought of only having to buy milk, bread and eggs all winter.
  I remember the year my dad planted Jerusalem artichokes. None of us really liked them. You eat the bulb, which is miss-shaped and hard to peel. They don't have much taste. They kind of took over that garden. Thank goodness dad made a separate garden for them. Every year they would come back even though we didn't want them anymore. We sold that place about 30 years ago. I'll bet there are still some that come up there. Stubborn buggers.
  Dad and mom put in berry vines one year. We got some great jam from them. I still love berry jam and try to make it when I can find cheap berries. Any kind of berries will do.
When I lived in CA we had blackberry and raspberry vines. I used to make a triple berry jam that was to die for. Strawberry, blackberry and black raspberry, OMG it was so good! I've never come close to that jam since then. It was absolutely the best jam I've ever tasted. I lived in Ca for 30 years. Raised my kids to be gardeners just like their mama.
  I've always tried to have a garden as a grown up type person. I'm 51 now so that's a lot of gardens under my belt. When my kids were tiny I started my first compost pile. I simply dug down about 2 ft in a flowerbed in a corner where nothing was growing. I layered my kitchen scraps with dirt from the hole and leaves. It took a few months to fill it up.  I kept moving down the flowerbed, digging the new hole right next to the old one. I left it alone, no turning, no effort and in a year I had black compost to use in my potted plants. It was a shady backyard so no garden there. But the next house we had a great garden. The kids got their own row to tend and loved it. It was their choice to grow what they wanted. Kids tend to want to eat veggie’s they grow themselves, so it's a win-win situation. Now my kids are grown up but don't have kids of their own yet.
Fortunately, my new husband has 2 kids just like me. Kym is his oldest and just had a baby girl 4 months ago and we're very excited to be grandparents. We're very actively involved with babysitting and many trips to bring food the first 3 months. Now we have a granddaughter to spoil, and we are doing just that! I can hardly wait to buy her her first set of child size tools. She has already come out to the garden with grandma to water.
Good times ahead!

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