August 31, 2015

Canning hope

Every once in a while I get to spend the day cooking. I live in wonder of those days - they come along only a few times a year. Last week I had two in a row. For the first time in my life, I spent the better part of Thursday and Friday canning. The sun came in through the bay window, I turned on my 'fun' playlist, and I canned. And I canned. And I canned. And I got more and more tired...And happier and happier.

st. jacobs market haul
For a couple of days, sitting on my floor were huge plastic bags of loot - the haul we brought back from St. Jacobs Farmers' Market...carrots, potatoes, radishes, beets, leeks, peppers, plums, blueberries, pickling cucumbers, garlic, dill, and of course peaches and tomatoes. A half bushel of peaches. A bushel of tomatoes. And not just any tomatoes. San Marzanos.

I felt the urgency of getting going - before the rot set in, and on my floor. For the first time in a long time I fell into a planning frenzy. I bought a canner, a jar lifter, a funnel, and a dozen jars. A whole dozen. Yes, they were wide mouthed (you only buy the others once - unless you're making jam). I bought 12. And right now my kitchen table, counter, pastry worktop are covered with 23 jars - and that's just the tomatoes. So while I was up to my elbows in tomato skins, Steve made a midday run to the store for two dozen more.

Starting Thursday with my Mum, and continuing Friday on my own, I washed, blanched, peeled, stuffed, and processed 23 quarts of tomatoes. Nine litres of peaches. Five litres of dill pickles.

There is something about preserving food at its best. There's an optimism, a resilience, a sense of self preservation, a sense of being capable, a sense of independence, of worth, a sense of capturing something at its peak of life and suspending it there - a sense of magic.

Yes. Sometimes a tomato is just a tomato. But I wouldn't have a blog if I couldn't find meaning in it all, would I?

I have wanted to put up tomatoes on the shelf for years. And I've always let the chance slip by.

Even this many days later I can't actually move them downstairs. The jars are sitting on the kitchen counter because I am marvelling at the beauty of them.

Maybe I'm asking too much of the preserves but they feel like they're filled with hope. The art of the possible.

Here are some of the things I learned that I didn't expect:
I have a lot of dishtowels - and I'm glad.
I am glad I have a big roll of plastic and cut a piece to cover our dining table.
I am glad to have had my big cutting boards out to let the hot jars rest on.

I used more pots than I expected - the canner, the stock pot to blanch the fruit, another pot to sterilize the seals and rings, and another with spare water kept on the simmer in case the canner didn't have enough water once I put the jars in.
I also filled the electric kettle and boiled that.
I LOVE my dishwasher's sanitize setting. It meant sterilizing a pile of jars all together. And once they were done, I just left them closed in the dishwasher until I needed them. 

This was also about grit. I took a personality test once that determined your grit score - and I didn't do very well...and yes I think I'm fairly gritty...and yes, I think we can fade in and out of our gritness - and perhaps that was a low point. But looking at the bags on the floor I knew I had to follow through. They hadn't been alive and grown and blossomed and matured, only to rot on my kitchen floor. True grit. And I paid homage to buddhism too - When I peeled the tomatoes, I just peeled the tomatoes. When I stuffed the jars, I just stuffed the jars. I was in the moment. I did it with joy. And I hope that comes through whenever we start opening those jars. 

1 comment:

Suzanne Houwen said...

Bravo!!!!!!!!! Wish I had the energy but alas I do not have enough heart to work that hard! :) I make Strawberry Jam every July and that's it! Then again I have a daughter-in-law who lives for canning and makes such delicious preserves that I do not need to ;) Check her out at TKPreserves.
Every time you open a jar all winter you will be able to remember those special days of canning! Well done!!!!!!!!