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I was in the grocery store yesterday and browsing the local produce…much of it not so local, being shipped from Chile, Spain, Costa Rica, California, and Mexico, but fresh nonetheless. Fresh watermelon and cantaloupes year around!

It is January and there were fresh beans, peas, broccoli, cauliflower, lettuce, asparagus, squash, cucumbers, cabbages, snow peas, avocados, apples, pears, oranges, tomatoes. We take so very much for granted in this global economy. I am not talking smartphones, computers, and tablets, but simple luxuries, like fresh food.

My grandparents had a huge farm, and they had a garden that covered three acres. They taught me about gardening and harvesting.

When my own children were growing up, we had an acre and a half that was garden space.

I can’t say that we grew organic, because pesticides and herbicides were used. I can’t say it was better or worse for us, but it was fresh and local. There will never be anything tastier than that which comes right out of the garden.

We also had fruit trees and grape vines. Blackberries, blueberries and muscadines grew wild.

When my grandmother was a child, they only had whatever was in season unless they stored it during harvest time. Meat was salted and smoked, chickens were fresh killed, some foods were dried, and some were canned…not in tin cans, but glass jars.

I remember my grandmother canning vegetables, fruits, jellies and preserves. She washed the mason jars and set them in the bath to sterilize them, removed them, filled them meticulously, as this was an art form, capped them with lids, screwed on the rings, and returned them to the steaming bath to seal them. She worked for hours preparing and canning over the stove in the hot, humid kitchen all summer and into the fall. She taught me how to process foods and I did the same on our farm.

One year, we had a bumper crop of tomatoes and we canned 175 quarts of tomato sauce.

These colorful jars of vegetables, fruits, jellies, jams, pickles and relishes would sit on the shelves in the pantry, sometimes for years. Some, she would show in the county fairs to win ribbons and prizes. Some were opened and consumed before the next harvest season.

All through the winter, when there was no fresh produce to be found, we had canned veggies and fruits.

They tasted so much better and fresher than what you could get in tin cans from the store, when you could get to the store. They lived far out in the country and went into town about once a month, where they could buy staples like flour, sugar, grits, meal, and fruits and vegetables that were in season that they did not grow on the farm.

Grandmother got an upright freezer in the early 1970s, and learned to freeze most of the produce. Frozen was better than canned, both in flavor and nutrition. She still made canned pears, tomatoes and peaches, other things that did not freeze well.

Now, we can go to the store on any day of the year and get whatever we need fresh. How convenient is that? There are things that are in or out of season, flown in from all over the world, if need be.  It is a lot easier to eat fresh everyday than it was back then. It is more costly than frozen or canned, but it is available.

This year, my daughter put together homemade cookies in a mason jar.

cookies in a jar 001

Now that is just too convenient!

41 thoughts on “Canned

    1. They were good old days. We worked harder in many ways, but it was a different sort of stress, that left you tired at the end of the day, but not a mental basket case.

  1. My wife told me that her great-aunts used to make tomato sauce and put it in mason jars. There are empty jars all over her mom’s basement, but they never had a farm to do more than that. I’d love a fruit tree and berry bushes though. If not for me than the squirrels who continually thwart our gardening attempts.

  2. I remember my grandma, who had a city house in the Los Angeles area, with a large hill in her backyard with a variety of fruit trees. The neighbor across the street had a big avocado tree. We were almost always eating fresh fruits. Didn’t realize what a treat it was at the time.

    1. Seriously. There are times when they are simply not affordable in the stores.I am amazed at what I find in the grocery store in the dead of winter. My husband teases me when I buy pine nuts, though, imported from China. He says that there are poor Chinese children picking over the cones to retrieve the nuts. He has heard how hard we worked on the farm as children.

  3. You know that this post is right down my alley, Susan, and it comes at a time when I just finished reading the engrossing story of a young writer from Manhattan whose life intersects with a New York state farmer during an interview assignment, and they later labor together to transform his Essex Farm in New York into a CSA, community supported agriculture. (The Dirty Life: On Farming, Food, and Love by Kristin Kimball). There is lots of toil in the fields, canning, and freezing, and sharing with others. Even a love story!

    I’m going to re-blog your blog today and tie in a reference to this book–okay?

  4. I remember talking to a lady who had grown up on a ranch in eastern Washington state. She recalled how, when she was a girl, it was a fulltime job for her mother (plus assistants) to provide the food for the large crews necessary to work the ranch. It was an incredible organizational feat that involved growing and canning their fruits and vegetables, trading with others for the things they didn’t grow themselves, planning huge meals that would no sooner be done than the next ones would be in the works. As farming became more automated, the crews disappeared. She said that she, like many other farming women, took jobs in nearby towns in order to get medical benefits, and bought their food in grocery stores.I asked her if she ever missed the old days and she laughed. “It was a LOT of work.” Then she said, “We didn’t have the variety, but I think the food was better.”

    1. My grandparents did the same, putting out food from sun up to sunset for the hired hands. She got up and started cooking before sun rose, and lived in the kitchen all the day long. I do think the food was better…tasted better, more flavorful. I don’t believe my 4 yo granddaughter knows what a “real” homegrown tomato tastes like

  5. Reblogged this on Plain and Fancy and commented:
    I have just finished reading The Dirty Life, On Farming, Food, and Love by Kristin Kimball. And today my blogger friend, Susan Nicholls, has posted a piece entitled “Canned” complete with appetizing photos of the canned goods, stored on shelves for savory eating on wintry days like these.

    Kimball’s book describes how she trades a life in the publishing world of Manhattan for growing vegetables, raising pigs and cattle on the farm of a man she had interviewed just months earlier. The story is told with the backdrop of the old/new movement toward local food, community-supported agriculture, a network of consumers and farmers who share the benefits (and risks) of food production. Consumers pay at the beginning of the growing season for a share of the anticipated harvest and then receive honey, eggs, meat, and dairy products, fruits and vegetables, whatever is in season.

    Susan’s blog post “Canned” is a reminiscence on the stored wealth of nourishment in the cellar of her childhood. In her post today she recalls her grand-parents’ farmland and the “garden” of one and one-half acres her own family cultivated when her children were little. She reminds of so much we take for granted in our land of abundance. Read it here!

  6. Canning and freezing were major productions on our farm in the summertime. I can’t say I always enjoyed the labor, but I did like that it was always done with a crowd, the more the merrier. And the jars of fruits and vegetables looked so beautiful on the arch cellar shelves!

    1. It was a very social event at grandmother’s also. Often her sisters who lived nearby joined in. The labor was certainly intensive, but it was of the sort that promised a good night’s sleep.

  7. Great story. I had ten acres once and raised all the food we ate including the beef, poultry, and dairy products. The only thing we needed to buy was beer, wine, toilet paper and freezer bags. Was a fine life until I ran out of time since I was also working and that part got real serious. Enjoyed the story. I liked the picture of the pantry. Looked like mine (not)

    1. I get all nostalgic sometimes. I think my daughter’s cookies did that to me, along with my trip to the grocer.

      Self sustained living is a lot greater challenge than most realize. Labor intensive and time consuming.

    1. Thank you. I am being reminiscent. Writing novels about the past, I frequently recall those simple things that I remember fondly from my own youth, even when my topics are more serious.

  8. Wonderful memories. I remember canning in the early 70s when I lived ALONE in an apartment. Gosh, I loved all that. Now, our lives are busier with other things and yep, we go to the store and buy what we need. All that fresh air and exercise…I mess all that now.

    Thanks for this lovely post.

            1. Hahaha! Florida here. I forget about the seasons sometimes. It is green year around here. Good luck with school. Keep doing your culinary magic. I have to try the hummus recipe, because I can only find tahini in the very large jars. I would never use that much…even as much as I love hummus.

              1. I used to live in Fla. I rememeber it .Golden Bridge my dad and brother would fish .My dad was in the Air Force .Yes Fla does stay green:)Thanks about school. Good luck with the recipes ,You can change it as well if you wish. I had Hummus in class that’s where I learn it from. . I like Hummus. it’s good with NAAN (middle Eastern bread I believe):0)

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