Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Summer in a Jar

I want to can.  When I was younger and constantly broke, I made pints and 1/2 pints of blackberry jam every year.  Blackberries grow wild here and with a small amount of effort and organization it is fairly easy to pick large quanties when they are ripe.  Throughout the year, when I needed a small hostess gift or thank-you gift I gave away my jam.  I haven't done it in a few years, but I often make strawberry/rhubarb jelly or raspberry.  I like pickles and determine each year that I will make tons, but often life gets in the way.

Canning makes me remember the way summer feels.  It gives me hope.  It makes me smile.  Why don't I do it more?  Thank you mom, once again, for teaching me how.

When I was young, my mother and grandmother canned all summer.  They ended up with dozens and dozens of jars of beans, cherries, peaches, pears, pickles, relish.  They didn't have much money during those years.  Mom, my Grandmother, my sister and I went to U-pick fields.  We picked the product in the morning then went home to can it in the afternoon.  Many an afternoon, I spent belly up to the sink with a pairing knife peeling sinks and sinks of fruit.  To this day, I can peel an apple with a pairing knife faster than anyone I've ever known.  Really.  Try me.

Last summer, I made pickled three-bean salad in pints.  My husband won't even consider eating it, so it's all mine.  Here's what I have left. Not much.

When I make a sandwich, Husband gets potato chips and I get a scoop of this.  Crunchy and tart.  Colorful.  I bought the beans at a farmstand down the road from my house.  Green beans and wax beans.  There was an earthness in the air.  The smell of a working farm.  Fans were placed in the windows to keep air moving through her little building.  I dipped my hands into big bins of beans and dropped handfuls into paper bags.  I picked out leafs and stems and said, "The wusses.  These are machine picked bush beans.  In my day, pole beans were picked by hand."  Sorry, that's just what I said.

I went home and filled one side of my sink with water and poured the beans into it.  Beans float.  Or they don't.  But mostly they do.  Then I transferred handfuls into the other sink.  Let out the water and fill the sink with clean and back into the pool again, boys, for bath number two.  Then, set a colander into the second sink and deposit the now clean beans to drain. 

And I snipped.  Between thumb and first finger, twist off the stem and tip end.  Break them in two or three to get a uniform length.  A satisfying sound when beans snap.  This is what food is people.  Real food, Real life.

Pickled Three-Bean Salad from Kerr Kitchen Cookbook   

3 cups (2 to 3 inch) fresh green bean or yellow beans or a combination
2 (16 oz) cans red kidney beans, rinsed and drained.
2 (16 oz) cans garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
1 cup sliced onion
1 cup sliced celey
1 cup sliced green bell pepper
2 1/2 c. water
2 cups white vinegar
3/4 c. sugar
1/2 c. bottled lemon juice
1 t. Kerr Pickling Salt.

Wash and snip the beans.  Blanch in boiling water for 3 minutes, the cool in ice water.  Drain well.  In a very large bowl, combine beans and remaining vegetables.  Set aside.  In 4 quart saucepan, combine water, vinegar, sugar, lemon juice and pickling salt. Bring to a boil over medium - high heat.  Pour hot vinegar mixture over vegetables.  Mix well.  Cover and refrigerate overnight.  In saucepan, bring vegetables/vinegar mixture to a boil over medium-high heat.  Immediately fill hot pint jars with vegetables, leaving 1 inch headspace.  Pour hot vinegar mixture into jars leaving 1/2 inch head space.  Wipe the jar tops.  Place lids and bands.  Process in a boiling water canner for 15 minutes.  Remove and cool. 

You know they sealed when you hear that lovely deep popping sound.  I remember lieing in bed at my grandmother's and hearing that sound every so often after a day of canning peaches.  Also, you know a jar has sealed if you press with your thumb on the lids and there is no give.  The lid of an unsealed jar will pop in when pressed on.

Remember to put a dated label on each jar. 

And remember to enjoy the process and feel good.

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