It has been one of my goals for the past few years to learn to preserve or "put up" canned goods. I consider it a positive sign for 2012 that a mere few weeks in I was able to reach one of my goals. I was aided by a very good book: "Canning For A New Generation" by Liana Krisoff (link here). It provides a very helpful overview of the process and a step by step guide in creating the spicy pickled carrots pictured above. As this was my first batch of anything, I will refrain from advice or a recipe and instead refer you to Ms. Krisoff's (in my opinion) excellent book.
Preserving the carrots was quite satisfying work. I have been mulling over why I should want to can goods and why it should prove such a pleasure. My grandmothers and great grandmothers canned goods because they had to. They lived on farms in the midwest and Eastern Washington. A family member recounted for me their recent visit to my great grandmother's farm house. She has been gone for a while now, but in the cool of the basement cellar, there is still a beam of wood on which her writing can be seen. On it she had jotted down and kept track of her canned goods- how many jars of one thing or another that she had from season to season. I picture her counting the jars of sauerkraut, jams, and pickles, all the while mentally adding up how long it would last, comparing it to previous years' yield.
When I came across this poem by Mary Oliver, I thought of the great women in my family before me. They had a grit and strength that I often wish I could find in myself. When I am in a challenging situation, I try to sum it up, but generally realize how ridiculous it is to even pretend that my challenges compare with what they conquered in daily living. I cannot imagine the commitment, ingenuity and perseverance they had to run their households. So little of my everyday life resembles theirs. Maybe that is part of why I enjoy learning the process of canning- it helps me feel connected to them in a small way.
If I envy anyone it must be
My grandmother in a long ago
Green summer, who hurried
Between kitchen and orchard on small
Uneducated feet, and took easily
All shining fruits into her eager hands.
That summer I hurried too, wakened
To books and music and circling philosophies.
I sat in the kitchen sorting through volumes of answers
That could not solve the mystery of the trees.
My grandmother stood among her kettles and ladles.
Smiling, in faulty grammar,
She praised my fortune and urged my lofty career.
So to please her I studied - but I will remember always
How she poured confusion out, how she cooled and labeled
All the wild sauces of the brimming year.