It’s Fall. Pumpkins, scarecrows and other goodies are prominently displayed. The leaves have changed from green to bold reds and golds. The first major frost has arrived, giving us a chilling reminder winter is coming. Canning the fruits of our summer labor fills our homes with pleasant aromas. And memories.
This weekend I canned apple sauce. My son helped prepare the apples. He labored over the apple corer/peeler (my mother had no such modern convenience),and carted jars and other canning supplies up from the basement. I washed them, filled them with the seasoned apple sauce, and processed them in their hot water bath. The air filled with amazing aromas of sweet spices and idle chatter with plenty of sampling along the way.
I also made red pepper relish. The tears flowed as I peeled and sliced onions,putting them through the grinder along with green and red peppers. Next came adding the vinegar, sweetener and spices. As it cooked, my son remarked that it smelled like the fair – “The place with the sausages grilled with the onions and peppers.” Hmmmm. I think he was right. Soon jars of relish would hold their rightful place in the pantry alongside the applesauce.
As I was canning my mind wandered to memories of canning with my mother. My earliest memory is when I was about four. She would can anything God blessed her kitchen with! The critters of the wild along with the savory gleanings from the garden. Plucking partridge, shelling beans, taking my turn at grinding. The aromas of vinegar and spices mingling tickled your senses.
My father would importantly shuttle the results to the basement. Each delicacy had its spot. Vegetables were to the right. Pickles to the left. Fruit in the middle. A crock of sour pickles doing their thing on the cement floor. He took great pride in his city bride, making record every year of the spoils and bragging to everyone who would listen – and even those who didn’t. And when the folks from the city ventured north, he’d take them on a tour. As I stirred my pot of relish this weekend, I wondered if she was looking down and smiling at a job well done.
I posted on FB, the photos you see here. That sparked conversations and exclamations. My daughter out west exclaimed with delight, “AHHHH!!!! THERE IT IS!!!!!!!!!! THE BEST!!!!” Cousins scattered around the country asked for old recipes and was there some relish on the way to them? They remembered summering on the lake in Maine (before summer was a verb) scarfing pickles in “Ant Ella’s” basement, and memories of other goodies in that basement. “To a young city kid, it was like a Science Fair project!!!!” I can hear today their voices, laughter and cautions of “Don’t let Ant Ella find out”.
What went down in my kitchen this weekend, as it has many times before, was the canning of memories, the processing of which will take place over years and the forming of generations. Yes, I’m sure my mother is smiling with approval, even today as I write this and tears trickle down for reasons beyond peeling onions; satisfied in knowing she did well.
Canning memories. Kid tested. Mother approved.