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  Texas : Features : Columns : "It's All Trew"

Canning
remains popular throughout time

by Delbert Trew
Delbert Trew
Evidently, Old Mother Nature had been peeking into our freezer and cellar to check our fruit and jelly supply. We were out of fresh frozen peaches and apricots and are running low on pear preserves. We still had a supply of wild plum and grape jelly.

Seeing our shortage, she allowed our fruit trees to bear in spite of a late snowstorm and freezing temperatures in the early spring. I don't know the averages, but I believe that only about one in every four years we have fruit available for canning. Thankfully, the bounty provided this year replenished our shelves.

As long as I can remember, my grandparents, parents and kinfolk gathered and canned fruit of all kinds. Whether wild-grown or tame, whether canned or frozen, special efforts were always made to save and preserve these crops. Fortunately, I married Ruth who has continued the practice as she was also raised with this tradition.

One of my early growth accomplishments came when I was strong enough to carry a 10-pound sack of sugar from the car into our pantry. I felt like Tarzan as Superman had not been invented at the time. Boy, did we use the sugar during canning season.

Another of my chores was taking a milk bucket to the cellar and fetching empty fruit jars back to the kitchen. That was how I learned the difference in pints, quarts and half-gallons. I just missed the era of green glass jars with glass or galvanized lids. Every jar we owned had Ball or Mason written across the bottom. I can remember when every burner on our stove was busy steaming jars or lids or heating bubbling pots of fruit.

During hard times, Mother culled through the rubber rings that fit under the lids. Us boys got the culls and played "carnival," tossing them at the door knobs trying to make a "ringer." Later, the jar lids had the rubber gaskets made into the lids. They ruined our carnival games but provided many a wheel for a 2-by-4 wooden block.

Our community kept up with the latest canning and preserving techniques by attending the Home Demonstration classes held at various homes. As each type of vegetable or fruit came into season, recipes and canning demonstrations were held, teaching the women the latest.

When rural electricity came along, techniques for freezing food were introduced.

When locker plants were built, many rural people changed from canning meat to freezing and storing at the local freezing unit.

Seems like about the time "pant-stretchers" arrived, women started pouring hot melted paraffin over the top of jelly instead of using a regular lid. Even back then, the changes came so fast we could hardly keep up.

If you can remember cleaning off the dasher from a freezer of homemade ice cream, licking the cake icing from a spoon and bowl, sucking the last drop of juice from already-squeezed lemon rinds and licking the square papers that Jell-O powder once came packed in, you don't have to worry about the draft.


Delbert Trew

"It's All Trew"

January 18, 2005 Column
E-mail: trewblue@centramedia.net.

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