The Perils Of Canning
Aug 27, 2023
Last week I did a history of canning jars. This week I will concentrate on what went into the jars. There were several trying times. I really cannot remember which event came first, although if I looked back in my diaries I could find out. I have kept a diary for close to fifty years with events that were important to the farm.
One year there was a sugar shortage. If you were going to can fruit and jelly you needed sugar. When I went to the store, I could only purchase so much sugar. I had to ration that to get my canning done.
The family had honey bees. We caught our first swarm in the pasture. My father-in-law and husband dressed up so as not to get stung and brought them home. They were found in an old tree.
Of course, we had no box to put them in. My father-in-law cobbled up a box from scrap lumber and dumped the bees into it. Since there was no wax for the bees to build on, they built all over the box. That made that hive very hard to remove the honey.
My husband and I went to Central Tractor because we knew they carried hives. Dick built a hive in the store and we purchased all of the parts including frames and wax.
That was not to be the end of the bees. We kept getting more and more equipment. Pretty soon we had a smoker to calm the bees. We also had a proper outfit so as not to get stung. We borrowed a honey knife to open the caps the bees put on each cell. We added to our hives.
Having our own honey was an asset. I used the honey to can. Obviously, there were no directions to do this so I winged it. By that time, I had been canning for years. When my nephew had some peaches down here, he commented about how good they were and told me they were not like his mother’s. The honey worked just fine. The taste was a little different, but the peaches, pears, and applesauce were delicious. Oh, and I forgot about the plums. I canned them with honey as well. At that time, we had a small orchard of prune plums. They were good to eat just as is and even better canned or frozen.
If you froze plums, they tasted like prunes when they were cooked up. If you canned them, they were sweet and a pretty shade of purple and tasted like plums. I put some of them away both ways and had two different desserts.
Another year, there was a limited supply of canning lids. You had to look all over to get the lids needed. I even bought a box of jars just to get the lids. That year I cut my fruit when I canned it so that more fit into each jar. I remember taking some of the pits to school and planting them with the children to take home for a Father’s Day gift. Since they were not cooked, they grew.
It is too bad that those plum trees got a black fungus. They are all gone now.
I used old jelly jars and baby food jars to can my jelly. That meant I did not need lids. That seal could be activated to reseal. I tipped my jelly upside down to be sure the lid was sterile.
When the lids were scarce, I also purchased some rubber rings to use on the all-glass jars. Pickles did quite well in those. I remember one night I was making mustard pickles. They were cooking on the stove when the minister showed up for a visit. He loved the smell of those pickles. When I got them done and sealed, I took a jar to church for them.
I entered canned goods in the Warren County Fair for years. I won several sets of Ball jars as well as a canning cookbook. That cookbook is nearly in pieces I used it so much. It had the times I needed to can things properly.
The first year we were at Hickory Heights my neighbor came up with a basket of grapes. She also brought some jelly jars. She asked me to make them some grape jelly. I could also have some for myself. I was cooking on a Home Comfort wood stove. I was not sure how to keep the temperature up to complete the process but said I would try. I made the jelly just fine.
Tomatoes were tricky. Those pesky seeds sometimes interfered with sealing. Pears were sticky. I really enjoyed canning the peaches, plums, and cherries.
Fruit was our dessert many nights during the winter. Nothing tasted better than canned blackberries when you did not feel good. We had a lot of them up on the hill after a big storm. Blackberries are the first things to come into an area. When a tornado went through the area we had a lot of blackberries to pick.
Ann Swanson writes from her home in Russell, Pa. Contact at [email protected].
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