I wanted to share with all of you a short story sent to me by a new friend and roller derby teammate after she discovered I am The Canning Diva®. She shares her experience with home canning as a child and her later attempt at preserving salsa and spaghetti sauce as an adult. Please enjoy this fun read by Ann Kuipers.
I’ve never been a canner. In fact, I’ve actively avoided canning for most of my life. When I was young, my mother would take us to the farms in the summer to pick. Blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, apples, peaches, green beans. Green beans were the worst, so low to the ground and hidden amongst the leaves. I’d come home sun burnt and covered with dirt and residue of green that lurks around beans and tomatoes. The earth and green would settle into my skin as I sat most of the afternoon with my sisters snapping stems off the beans. We’d laugh, carve a few beans into spirals for my sisters who would wear them as earrings, stems wedged somehow into the holes pierced in their lobes.
It wasn’t all pain and work. Nevertheless, I dreaded those outings every summer. I never liked canned food either, the peaches always too mushy, the applesauce dotted with stray bits of seed pockets, flesh cut too close to the core. The pickles too never lived up to my standards, soft, bland things drowned of all life.
When I first felt the pull to pick fresh produce in the summer, I froze my bounty, mostly berries. When I found myself confronted with boxes of excess tomatoes, I froze as well, with good results. But my freezer filled and I was forced to confront the downfall of this method.
It happened last year. The idea of salsa crept into my head. And salsa, after all, belongs in a jar. Certainly salsa would be safe. And canning salsa isn’t REALLY canning. Once I opened myself up to the once scoffed at idea of canning, I considered the situation. True, I never liked the product of canning, vegetable or fruit. However, I never liked my mother’s cooking either, and that certainly hasn’t driven me to a life of packaged and carry out dining. It was possible, I decided, that my mother’s kitchen expertise and not canning might be to blame for the less than savory products of canning. So I set out carefully, albeit with little forethought, planning or preparation.
Let me clarify. I decided to only can salsa and spaghetti sauce, two foods that seemed safe against the canning process, infallible. I did not, however, find or borrow a canner or appropriate and useful equipment such as canning tongs. Nevertheless, I made my sauce and salsa and canned them effectively with only two blistered burns on my torso from splashing boiling water about. And moments after I had the first batch out of the hot water bath and onto the counter, I realized the draw of canning.
It’s not about the food, it’s not about the storage. It’s the ping. That soft, crisp ping of metal soothes and calms me. It reminds me that the world still works; that science is stable; that the relationship that temperature has with volume and pressure is not pulled or strained by busy schedules, disagreements, finances, or psychology. It just is. And always will be. And with that ping, suddenly the world seems less random and less strained.
So this year I branched out, made a little cherry salsa, even experimented with pickles. Inside I suspect that I won’t like them, that they’ll be too soft, won’t have enough garlic, or will be too garlicky. And I suspect that when it comes down to it, I’m not saving any money by storing these pickles instead of simply buying my favorite brand on sale. But I know now, that it’s not about that. It’s about the ping.
Written and submitted by Ann Kuipers,
Freelance Writer & Kitchen Enthusiast