I have a love/hate relationship with canning. I love the scent of cooking fruit, I love sight of jewel coloured jars lined up in rows on my pantry shelves and I love the feeling of accomplishment I get when I’ve finished my work. I love the sense of connection it gives me to my grandmothers, and to countless other women around the world who put food by for their families. I don’t love the tedium and repetitiousness of canning prep, I don’t love standing in one place for hours and hours, I don’t love how hot my kitchen gets, and I certainly don’t love cleaning up the mess.
This year, canning poses some special challenges and rewards for me. An on-going health problem is causing my muscles to spasm. It’s kind of like having a full body charley horse, all the time. The looking-downward, hands-low-and-forward posture required for cooking is painful to me. At the same time, I really do need to put food by this year. My recent health problems have been a hard hit for us financially, and the fruit and vegetables I put by now will help us to make ends meet during the winter months.
Yesterday I bought forty pounds of beautiful Okanagan peaches. They were things of beauty: carefully packed, unbruised, perfectly ripe, shaded from pale orange through blush red, and velvet in texture. They smelled heavenly. I made some into ice cream to enjoy today and set aside a few for a pie tomorrow. The rest I preserved.
Canning was a long process. It involved regular doses of pain killers, frequent breaks to go for walks, and lots of distraction. I strung an extra long cable and moved the TV to a spot where I could see it while I was working. My visual focus was mostly on the task at hand, but I listened to the TV as I worked and the distraction made the task less onerous.
I got it done. I have to show for my efforts some jars of peach and red jalapeno jam, and many pints of peach pieces canned in simple syrup with a little lemon added. The last of the jars are on the counter right now; the lids making reassuring pops as they cool and seal. I’m happy with the results.
When I count my blessings this winter, I’ll be thrice grateful for these peaches: First, that I had the means to buy them when they were in season, second that the nutrition they provide will help sustain us during the lean winter months, and third that I was physically able to do the work required to put them by.
It’s funny how an illness or setback can make us stop and appreciate the little things. I’m a fortunate woman. Maybe I’ll can some cherries tomorrow.