I remember my mother and grandmother teaming up in the kitchen for several days to can tomatoes when I was just a little tyke. They may have canned other vegetables, but I remember the tomatoes.
This was up in the Cleveland, Ohio, area before the first oil crisis. The roads leading west from Cleveland stretching along Lake Erie had clusters of greenhouses by the score. The smell of a greenhouse filled with tomatoes is one of my favorite childhood memories.
Bags and bags of hothouse tomatoes were brought into the house and occupied chairs and lined the dining room wall next to the kitchen while Mom and Grandma put together their theater of operation.
Once they got started, we knew to go outside and play and leave them to their work. Tomatoes got dipped in hot water and then plunged into cold water so the skins slipped off. The Ball jars were cleaned and packed, and the jars of tomatoes were cooked in a boiling water bath.
Mom showed me how the vacuum in the jar pulled the lid down. That was the sign of a safe jar of tomatoes.
After they cooled, the jars went onto the shelves in the basement. All through the following winter, I remember Mom sending me down into the basement to get a jar of tomatoes for dinner.
Home canning largely has fallen by the wayside since women entered the job market. Now with Mom holding down a full-time job outside the home and still having the full-time job inside the home, the focus on food preparation has been timesaving and convenience.
A lot of the knowledge about home canning has not been passed down from parent to child. That knowledge still survives and is available in the University of Georgia’s Bulletin 989 called “So Easy To Preserve,” a 376-page manual with 185 tested recipes on how to can, pickle, jell, freeze and dry fruits and vegetables. It does have less than three pages on making meat jerky.
Interest is growing in home canning as indicated by sales of Bulletin 989. UGA printed 3,000 copies of the fifth edition of Bulletin 989 this year, thinking that would carry them through the year. All 3,000 copies were sold by early July. Another printing has been ordered and should be in by September. “So Easy To Preserve” sells for $18, but orders of 10 copies or more have been available at a discount.
I sold our last Bryan County copy of “So Easy To Preserve” last week and have one standing order. If you would like a copy, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call me at 653-2231 so I can compile one larger order and save you some cash.
All I need to do now is figure out how to keep the deer off my plants long enough to get enough yield to can. Harvesting the deer might help, and UGA has a website with good information on ways to preserve venison: www.uga.edu/nchfp/tips/fall/venison.html.
It also has an updated process for making deer jerky that will improve food safety. Judy Harrison’s deer jerky guidelines can be found at www.uga.edu/nchfp/publications/uga/prep_safe_jerky.html.
More than just deer meet can be preserved at home. Another UGA link to the National Center for Home Food Preservation, www.uga.edu/nchfp/publications/nchfp/lit_rev/cure_smoke_fs.html, is a good starting point for understanding food safety when curing and smoking meats.
A good way to introduce children to home food preservation is by making homemade fruit rollups. It is an easy process and children can experiment with different fruits and mixtures of fruit flavors. If you want to have confidence in the food you eat, nothing beats “I grew it and I made it.”
Gardner is the extension agent for Bryan County and can be reached at email@example.com.