Best of Show and Other Great Canning Stories
My great grandmother Smith was a short stout woman who wore sensible shoes, thin white anklet socks, sensible dresses, dark rimmed glasses and wore her hair in a bun. I can remember visiting her farm over fifty years ago. A wood fired furnace provided heat in the living room--always and warmest room in the house, and then heat radiated in various degrees from there. It was a plain, utilitarian place, but cozy and inviting nonetheless. Grandma Smith was a great cook, seamstress, and home canner.
She died when I was very young, but I grew up with an idealized notion of what that kind of life represented. Somehow it appealed to me to be so in tune with the land, your surroundings, and the needs of your family. I developed an interest in cooking, some early interest in sewing (although I was never really good at it), and nurtured a love of home canning. In my younger years, I canned more advanced things like lime pickles (a week long process), pear honey, chutney, and a wide variety of other things. Today I stick with more basic things like vegetables, fruit, and meat.
Needless to say, I was happy when Olivia showed an early interest in cooking (she is now a far better cook than I will ever be) and I was even happier when she started canning. Since she is a teacher and has the summer off, she has filled the specially built shelves in her basement with a huge variety of home canned goods from vegetables, salsas, fruits, meats, sauces, and herb concoctions. She wholeheartedly embraces the concept of capturing summer's bounty and freshness for another day--a day not so warm, not so glorious and relishing in the comfort that experience brings.
I encouraged her this year to enter some of her canned goods in the county fair competition. She somewhat reluctantly did so, but I told her it would be fun to just see what happened. Well, what happened was two first place finishes, a second place finish, and a champion Best of Show placement in the meat division. She was thrilled and I felt blessed that somehow and some way, a bit of Grandma Smith-- a woman born in another century--and maybe even a bit of myself, transferred our tiny spark to the next generation. I felt myself smiling with Grandma Smith (as I am sure she was in heaven).
Such tactile and basic connection to the land and our food is less apparent now than it was in Grandma Smith's day. Her connection was a necessary one. Ours is by choice and an act of love.
If you have ever thought about home canning, consider it well. The joys to be had and the memories to be made are priceless. Olivia and I have shared many hours prepping food, processing it, talking all the while, and listening later as each lid "pings" to let us know it is properly sealed.Who knows? You could start creating your own fair ribbon collection!
If you have questions about canning or would like us to share any of our recipes, please contact us. We love to share!
Canned Chicken - Champion in Meats Division & Best of Show
Canned Green Beans - First Place in Vegetables Division
Canned Pepper & Onion Relish - Second Place in Condiments Division
Canned Chipolte BBQ Sauce - First Place in Miscellaneous Division