"Following where my camera leads me!"

"Following where my camera leads me!"

Thursday, January 21, 2021

I remember canning

 When I spotted these glass jars of chow chow, it took me right back..............

Do you can? Can you can? LOL Did your Mom or Grandma can?
This picture is pretty much identical to my Grandma. There was a large closet right off the little dining room, filled with the bounty of the canned goods that she worked so hard on.

Canning was done in the summer. It always felt like the hottest day of the year! LOL There was no air conditioning back then, so all the windows had screens and were open to the country breezes. Any breeze that came in was most welcome! Grandma always had on a freshly ironed and starched day dress, and a clean apron, ready to go.
 Sometimes an un-expected summertime thunderstorm would swoop through, leaving some cooler air in it's wake. That little kitchen would heat up so fast with all the hot water sudsing, water boiling and canning cooker raising the temperatures, plus several ladies each doing her job.
As a child, on canning days I had little "jobs" which made me feel important. I got to help wash and rinse the all important glass jars in hot soapy water.

I scrubbed hard, rinsed well, and carefully set them to dry on fresh clean tea towels.
After that, the jars and lids had to be boiled for about ten minutes or so, completely submerged in the hot bubbling water.

Then I got to help locate and set out the precious ingredients. There was ginger, celery seed, mustard seeds,  large jars of white sugar, ground mustard, turmeric, coriander,  and lots and lots of vinegar, all kinds of exotic and strong scents. Depending on what was being canned that day, the delicious aromas of cinnamon, pepper flakes, and cloves might mingle in the air as well.
Grandma canned everything!--peaches, tomato sauce, soup, applesauce, corn, some meats, apples, tomatoes, relishes such as chow-chow, green beans, and pickles, many many pickles! 

I remember the pickles vividly because to this day I love pickles! I remember helping washing the big heavy green cucumbers and watching my Grandma mix up the magical liquids to put into the jars. She made hot pickles, sour pickles, dill pickles, sweet pickles, bread and butter pickles.

I remember watching her chop cabbage, onion, green peppers, red peppers, to make the good chow-chow. She would chop up green tomatoes, red tomatoes, or both, depending on what she had picked from the big garden that morning. I liked to help add the ingredients such as the sugar, salt, celery seeds, vinegar, and the other goodies.  Her little canning closet always had many many many big jars of chow chow which we would take out in the cold of the winter and enjoy tasting SUMMER!
 Chow chow could go on anything I suppose--we always had it on top of a big bowl of delicious hot pinto beans, along with some more good diced up white or yellow onion, and piping hot homemade corn bread, made in a big old black iron skillet of course! Chow chow was also on the table with hamburgers, sausage, store bought hot dogs, and just about anything else.

I helped with ALOT of green beans as well! I didn't usually have to help pick them. Grandpa would bring a big mess or two or three of green beans and we would sit on the summer hot porch, in lawn chairs or in the big swing on a patchwork quilt, with our white enamel pans,...the radio would play...... and we would set to work.
 I learned at a very young age how to string green beans, and how to "snap" them into little bite size pieces. I loved bean snapping! It was work, but such pleasant work! We were out in the fresh air, flowers were blooming in the big porch planters, birds calling, and most important---we women, and me, a "little woman" bonded over conversations as we worked, enjoying each other's company and learning about each other. We all knew that the quicker the beans were canned after being picked, the better they would taste and last once canned. Beans that didn't snap easily or that had big dark spots would be rejected into a seperate pan and not used for the jars.

 After washing them up, and a good blanching, which took about five minutes I guess, we put them into the clean boiled jars, carefully "it is SO important!"---- said my Grandma, to leave an inch of space from the beans to the top of the jar. I watched from a distance as Grandma poured the boiling hot water over the beans and then gently pressed them down into the jars. Sometimes I got to help press air spaces out, using a big tall spatula. The lids went on the jars and they all went into the huge canner pot with water.

As they "cooked" we would get a big aluminum tumbler with ice cold sweet tea or a bottle of Co-Cola or Dr. Pepper--- and take a break! Ice was a treasure!--and made in those old aluminum ice trays with the hand lever you cranked to make the big ice cubes release. The big old Kelvinator icebox would only fit a couple of the trays at a time to freeze, and freezing TOOK TIME...so ice cubes were a closely guarded and precious item! LOL!

 Do you remember the aluminum cups?--they came in all colors and would be freezing to hands, and they kept your drink so so nice and cold!

After the beans had "cooked", they were taken out of the big pressure cooker and set to cool, which took a long time. We would usually hear the jars "ping" as they were taken out of the water, a sign that they had sealed properly. I liked listening for the "pinging". LOL
My grandparents farmed and kept a root cellar full of potatoes, onions, carrots, apples, and sweet potatoes.

My Grandma made and sold delicious homemade butter, yes--she churned it!--put it into little glass dishes and it was highly sought after at the little local grocery store.
 She also made and sold jellies and jams, blackberry, apple, strawberry and blueberry when they could find or grow blueberries. She also made apple butter.
 They also had wild honey right there on the farm, I loved honey on biscuits when I was growing up. It was in big big jars, with big chunks of honeycomb inside, those were a special treat!--so sticky, waxy,  and messy, but so so good!

Meals served in the dining room were delicious. The room had one window and electric fans were used in nearly all the windows, trying to keep a cross-breeze going. We ate so many good and filling meals at that gleaming red chrome table with the shiny leatherette seats! The big Kelvinator with the huge front handle was in the dining room, as there was no room in the tiny galley style kitchen. 

There was also the white china closet where the pretty dishes and tea cups were displayed on delicate starched lace runners. A painting of a man praying over his supper hung on the wall.

"Grace" by Eric Enstrom-originally a photo taken in 1918 by Mr. Enstrom, and later painted in oils by his daughter Rhoda. The man is Charles Wilden, a peddler who sold foot scrapers. There was later a companion piece called "Gratitude" with a woman praying.

Families all ate supper together, sharing their day. It was a special time with most all of the food grown and prepared right there. It was summertime, so we might get lucky and there would be a big yellow bowl of Grandma's delicious creamy and cold cole slaw on the table!
 Meals were simple but you know, they were probably SO MUCH healthier for us!
(well, EXCEPT FOR frying!! ha ha LOL. Folks in the South do fry lots of things like chicken and "taters" and pork chops LOL. Lard was used freely to make pie crusts and biscuits and a big coffee can of bacon grease was ALWAYS on the stove) 
People were so self sufficient and knew how to survive. My people knew how to hunt and fish, smoke a ham, build a home, a fireplace, or a barn, birth a baby, sew a quilt, and shoot a rattlesnake.

Time for dessert---My Grandma made the most wonderful homemade butterscotch and chocolate meringue pies. She always made a butterscotch for me, my favorite.
I tagged along for after-supper chores. There were pigs to slop and cows to take care of. I helped carry buckets of scraps for the pigs and then busied myself chasing all the cute little barn cats and their kittens.
 Back on the porch we watered the hostas and the red geraniums and the climbing morning glories.

Summer nights came late as daylight hovered 
longer, but people on farms are READY to get into bed early. Outside workers---They are tired from a long hard day of working scorching fields and gardens, livestock, equipment, fences and barns. Inside workers--they are tired from canning, cooking and baking, washing and hanging out clothes to dry, ironing, making beds, mending clothes, washing dishes, etc. Even more if you had children to care for.
Time to sleep....the chickens will be up early and give us fresh eggs.


  1. You are gifted as a writer:) I loved your reminiscing and what wonderful memories you have. I share a few of your memories like the metal ice trays and the metal glasses but not canning and living on a farm.

  2. And now, kids sit around on their smart phones, checking all their social media, while they wait for the microwave to ding with their supper ... or more likely, the doorbell to ding with their delivered takeout. God help us. The idyllic days you describe ... my family did not can but I can feel, taste, smell, and enjoy what you are talking about. The abundance of delicious home-cooked food, the camaraderie of the women, the summer breezes, the smell of the house in summer and the slap of the screen door. Days filled with work, but it was good, soul-satisfying work. We've lost so much with our gleaming suburbs ... thank you for this reminder of simpler and better times. xoxo

  3. Oh, Debbi, this is so wonderful!! You have described it so wonderfully, makes me wish I was on a farm and doing all of that. Where did you grow up? I am assuming in the south, but are you still close to where you lived (or where your grandparents farm was?) I never really learned how to do all these things. I was born on a farm, but we sold the farm when I was 5 and moved to Florida and my mother went to work in an office and my Dad became a postman, so we never farmed again, even though our house was in the country. I missed out on all of that. I love your story. You did bring some memories...the refrigerator and ice trays and metal glasses...we definitely had those! Even though that life was a lot of work, it sure was a happy way to live. I wish we could go back...

  4. My mom and I did more freezing then we did canning. I did not live in the same state as my grannies but I am pretty sure they did not canning. Pretty sure my great granny did. I made pickles once and that was it. haha....my sis in law on the other hand makes jellies, squash relish and other stuff. My granny made the best choc pie. When we would be going to Ga. to visit as a kid around my bday she would ask me what I wanted. That is what I requested. Oh how I have missed those.

  5. I am in love with this post and will be reading it more than once! My Granny made chow chow......
    I wish we could have been childhood friends during these memories of yours!!
    I loved every word......

  6. Lots of memories here -- reminding me of all the helping of I did with my grandma in her kitchen. Mom canned too -- but not like grandma!

    That painting -- we used to have a key cupboard -- a small framed hinged picture with that image in the middle and inside hooks for keys. I wonder whatever happened to that... I love the image.

  7. Thank you for sharing your sweet memories of your Grandma. I remember my Grandma also canned peaches, applesauce, gooseberry jelly and other things. I was scared of the pressure cooker and the hissing sound it made. We had several mishaps where the lid blew right off. When she got that thing going, I would go outside and sit on the back steps, snapping the green beans, sometimes sampling the ones I snapped. lol

  8. my mom did not can, but my favorite aunt did. my sister cans and i always admired that!!

    when my kids were young, we always ate dinner together. it was my favorite part of day, and a great memory from the past!!