Monday, September 22, 2008

You know you’re addicted to canning when...

It starts innocently enough. You cook up a batch of apricot jam and are pleasantly surprised to find the process easier than you had imagined. And deeply satisfying. But what you don’t suspect is that apricot jam is not as sweet as it seems. It is, in fact, the gateway drug of food preservation. Soon you find yourself buying Mason jars and then other, more serious, paraphernalia: jar lifters, tongs, funnels, giant steamer pots and stacks of lids with rubber seals. You bottle some cherries. You do a few jars of tomatoes. Your grocery budget spikes from spending obscene amounts of cash on white powdery substances like pectin and sugar and Fruit Fresh. You put up some peaches and pears. One day you try a cocktail of peaches and pears diced together. Then, when simple fruits just aren’t giving you the same high, you move on to heavier stuff: tomato sauce and salsa and pickles. Still you deny you have a problem. “I can stop anytime,” you say. “Just let me finish this batch of plum-raspberry-pear jelly and I promise I’ll lay off.”

Let’s face it. You’re hooked.

As a public service to those who may be suffering from a compulsive food preservation, or to those genetically susceptible to a canning addiction, I’m offering my own story as a cautionary tale. Don’t let this happen to you. Be proactive. Get professional help if necessary. Be on the lookout for the following signs of a serious canning addiction...
  • Since mid-July you’ve had boxes of empty Mason jars and bushels of fruit all over your back porch.
  • You are still buying more boxes of empty Mason jars and bushels of fruit.
  • You wake up in the morning thinking about blanching peaches.
  • You believe the words blanching, de-seeding, and rolling boil have a musical quality to them.
  • You have a tell-tale track of tiny scars running up your arms from stirring spitting-hot jam.
  • One Saturday you spend the entire afternoon making spaghetti sauce—a process that begins with a truckload of tomatoes and 15 other ingredients like “one cup of dried basil” and after several hours of slicing and mixing and simmering and submersing in a boiling-water bath leaves you with a grand total of three jars—and you feel this was a half-day well spent.
  • You begin envying your neighbor’s pressure canner and consider breaking into her kitchen just to “try it out.”
  • You think of every batch of dishes as another chance to heat up some jars.
  • You hang out with friends who say things like, “there’s no sound in the world more satisfying than the pop of a hot jar of jam sucking in its lid”
  • And you totally agree.
  • In your parents’ new beautiful 4,000 square food home, the thing you covet most is the cold storage room under their porch.
  • You know that all Mason jars are not alike and you find yourself caressing the ones from the 1970s with stars on the front.
  • Your new most prized possessions—after the kids of course—are the antique Mason jars (the ones that once belonged to your grandma) that you appropriated in a late-night raid of your mother’s basement.
  • You deny the obvious reality that, given the proper case-lot sale, you could buy all of this food for less money than it’s costing you to bottle it yourself. Instead, you insist that it’s good for the environment, better tasting, and makes you really really happy. And you mean it. Because you sense—as you lift those jars out of their water bath, set them in a row on your kitchen counter, check the seals, and admire the fruits of your labor—that you are participating in some kind of age-old ritual. That you are your grandmother’s granddaughter. That you are preserving more than food.

11 comments:

Nan said...

Ooooh, can I be your next-door neighbour? Or a distant cousin? Will trade fudge.

Tangent Woman said...

I have to admit that after our little cinnamon pear jam bottling session last week that I have been seriously thinking - "Hey! that wasn't so hard - I should do more of this."
And here's the REAL justification - I've never seen jam like this in the store, nor tasted anything better.
Thanks!

jennie w. said...

Mason jars? Whatever! I'm totally hooked on the fancy Weck jars that I have to special order directly from the company. They are so darling they are worth every penny. I love to just stare at them lined up in my pantry.

I also have 6 gallons of berry puree that are screaming my name. Once I start with that stuff I won't be able to stop.

Aubrey said...

I spent all of Saturday evening and most of today bottling tomatoes and peaches with my sis-in-law. And there is NOTHING more satisfying than hearing that "ping" of the jars!!! (We did nearly 90 pounds and I am wishing I had gotten more of that Utah fruit that comes our way every fall! I envy you Utahns right now.)

But I'm not addicted! I can stop whenever I want, I swear!!

Anonymous said...

Beautiful post. You really have a way of wrapping up the package with a lovely bow on top.

SB

tjhirst said...

I just finished lining up my jars on the counter filled with my second batch of salsa and I had to steal some canning rings off my pickles to make it through.

Bethany said...

I have not taken canning too seriously before...and suddenly I am thinking to myself, "well, maybe a couple peaches..."

Dangerous Post! Remove before it's to late!!!

allysha said...

so, this may be one addiction that really pays off, what with all the financial turmoil going on- can away! If only I had this addiction...

Michelle said...

I just had the same epithany; that canning isnt hard. I bottled seven jars of grape juice last saturday all by my self.

The cool thing for my family is that the peaches and cucumbers were from our garden and ther grapes were a freebie at the post office. So even if the jars and tools cost money they are reusable and the fruit was free.

I bloged about canning on my site too.

Michelle

An Ordinary Mom said...

I need to borrow some of your addiction to canning genes.

Rachel said...

And now you are canning. You continue to inspire me. I passed a blogger award onto you. Come and see.