Saturday, September 15, 2012

preserving food and memories

     Lately I have been bartering with my farmer's market neighbors for produce to can and feed my family over the winter months or make more jams and jellies to sell and barter with the next time.  I'm grateful for my friends who share the bounty on their fruit trees with us, we've canned peach slices, apple sauce, grape juice and jelly as well as cherry, peach and apple pie fillings.  We picked fruit together as a family and gone home to wash and prepare it.  My kids won't eat anything but homemade grape jelly now that they've picked grapes and seen them become grape juice and then jelly over a couple of days.  They appreciate all the work that goes into growing and preserving our own food and they've learned a skill that will help us survive not only the current economy, but possibly future disasters.  When I open the cupboard that holds those glass jars full of fruits, vegetables, jams and jellies, I am reminded of my grandmothers and late evenings spent helping my mother.  The canning supplies and jars I have were passed down from these women along with the skills to use them and the pride of knowing we could feed our family even when the money was tight.  
     Every time I can food, I think of all the women before me who canned food and how the process of preserving food has evolved over time.  About 15 years ago, I purchased twenty-four dozen canning jars from a woman my cousin knew.  She lived on a small farm and had raised gardens and an orchard and relied on it to feed her family.  Her jars had been handed down to her, purchased new and even found at second hand shops.  I wonder how many families have seen these jars.  For women who can and preserve food as a means to feed their families, jars are reused over and over.  Purchasing new jars every time is frivolous and wasteful.  The bands are reused until the rust takes them over and only new seals are purchased each time.  It's a tradition, much like decorating the family Christmas tree.  The equipment is carefully stored in one place, clean and ready for it's next use.  
     My mother and grandmother's canned to save money.  I can to save money, but also because I know exactly what is going into the jars and eventually into my children's tummies.  I also like knowing that instead of a metal can with a sharp edged lid and paper wrapper going into my recycling bin, only a lid with a not-so-sharp edge is going into my recycle bin.  The jars and threaded bands are reused and this has to be healthy for our environment.  While recycling is noble, reusing and reducing is much better for our environment.  It requires more resources to recycle than to reuse or reduce.  
     Whether you can, freeze or dry food to store for later, you can benefit your budget and the environment.  Make it a family affair, what a great way to spend quality time with each other.  Quality time has be redefined in our society to mean spending money and doing things that used to be for special occasions or once in a lifetime.  Quality time has more quality if you spend it teaching your children a skill or lesson, rather than paying to be entertained.  

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