Week 40: Preservation

If you grew up in the Midwest in the 40s or 50s you will surely know about this type of preservation….canning food or as my Grandma Quist would say, “putting up”. All my childhood and most of my married life I was partly responsible for a garden and for the preservation of food.

As I’ve written before my parents had “5 acres and Independence” so we always had a large garden. In the 40s a garden was essential! It was a Victory Garden, a garden to grow food and help the war effort. My family depended on the food from this garden. It was not just a hobby. We had beans, beets, carrots, onions, cucumbers, tomatoes, potatoes, lettuce, cabbage, berries, and fruit trees. Many of these foods we could can or preserve. Canning means to prepare the food by peeling, sometimes cooking and then placing in jars and sealing them tight so the food would not spoil. How do you do that”

We had glass Ball jars that we would fill with the food, then place the flat lid in the metal ring and close the jar. Then the jars were lowered into a large pressure cooker or blue enamel canning pan and covered with water which was then brought to a boil so that the jar and the contents were very hot. Then the jars were removed (they were in a metal basket in the cooker) and set out to cool. As the jars cool a vacuum is drawn and the rubber ring inside the lid is pulled down and the jar is sealed.

OK…that is pretty complex! Sometimes some fingers got burned! I Never liked using the pressure cooker. I can’t even explain how that works. I was always afraid that it would explode. When I was in charge of canning is used the blue enamel pot, cooking 8 quarts at a time.

At the end of the summer the women in the family would compare how many jars the “put up”. I can hear my Grandma Quist bragging about her 60 jars of tomatoes and 50 quarts of beans. She had a root cellar on the farm in White Lake that was filled to the brim by the end of summer. I think she even canned soup sometimes. She also made jams and jellies that got poured into little jars and topped off with hot wax to seal the jar.

My parents had a root cellar under the front porch where the shelves were loaded with tomatoes, peaches, beans, applesauce and pickles. I never liked having to fetch the jars from the root cellar….cool, damp and creepy!

Our Lindenhurst Garden in 1974

In my Midwest married life we had a basement with shelves on the wall that we filled with our bounty from the garden, mostly tomatoes, pickles and applesauce. We didn’t grow peaches so we went to Michigan to buy big crates of the best peaches in the world. Of all the things we ever canned tomatoes and peaches were by far the best and absolutely worth the effort.

I wish my Grandma Quist had lived long enough that I could brag to her about how many jars I “put up”. I’m sure she always would have more than me!

Have you ever canned or preserved food? What was your favorite food to preserve?

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