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The dictionary defines canning as “the act of preserving cooked food by sealing in jars.” What an incredible process! The fact that I can grow my own vegetables and fruit and eat these foods months or even years later is amazing. Preserving foods in this way is not a new invention. In fact, it’s been around since 1809 when Nicolas Appert, a Frenchman, developed a method of sealing food in glass jars. But I find there’s so much more to this than preparing foods for future meals. In doing so, it becomes an act of care – a nurturing of family and friends that sit around my table. There is pleasure in knowing that the small seeds I planted in early Spring have been tended, harvested, and prepared for times of connection where stomach, mind and soul are fed. To look down at my plate and know that everything on it was grown and prepared by my own hands brings such delight to me.
Canning is a family tradition passed down through the generations. My great grandmother, Sallie Whitlatch was born in 1876, married in 1902, and began her family in 1903. Since household refrigeration was expensive and not available until the early 1900’s, canning was a crucial summer activity if her family was going to eat during the winter months. With six children and a husband to feed, this duty fell on her shoulders. My grandmother, being the oldest daughter, would have been taught this skill at an early age. They not only canned vegetables and fruit, they also canned meat, soups, jams, jellies, pickles, fruit juices, and relish.
Sallie Baucom Whitlatch
I remember watching my grandmother and aunts break beans for canning while they sat around the kitchen table and visited. My grandmother was proud of her work and displayed her canned goods on rows and rows of shelving. Her mother had taught her well.
So I continue the tradition, but with electricity and pressure canners and air conditioning. I have many grocery stores nearby where I can purchase anything I need to feed myself and my family. But like the women before me, providing for those I love brings me joy.