I have invited Jean Brown to write a guest post for ‘that little voice’, and.. ‘ta da’ .. here is her first blog post. Let her know how you like it.
Once, decades ago, a kindly neighbor taught me how to preserve the left over produce from the commercial fields that surrounded our residential area; this was at our home in central Florida.
Her husband would go to a field [sweet corn, carrots, whatever] that had just been picked by mechanical pickers. That left a lot of produce in the field and he’d load up his small pick-up and the neighbors
would all shuck corn, sorta like a tail-gate party and then go home and create chutneys, relishes, etc.
My little kitchen was equipped with a 4 burner, electric Frigidaire range most suitable for cranking out fried eggs and a pot of Chili. I’d heat all burners up to ‘char’ and with the largest pots on the market, start steaming up the house. Garry, my long suffering spouse, said it reminded him of a scene outa Macbeth..”Bubble, bubble, toil & trouble”…the result was a decade’s worth of Corn Salsa. Garry had ‘labels’ made, just for me. Thoughtful man that he is. “FROM THE KITCHEN OF LUCRETIA BORGIA”, it read, along with space to identify the treat contained in the jar and, of course, an expiration date. I’ve never figured out if the expiration date referred to the contents of the jar or the person consuming it.
With concerns of burning down the house from overheated kitchen appliances and threats of lawsuits made by good natured relatives and friends [many of the jars ended up in gift baskets at Christmas], I determined this was not my path in life and I’d leave the canning and preserving to people named Smuckers and Welch.
This is not to say that I didn’t learn something from this adventure. Canning and preserving can be a rewarding experience, if you do it right.
I just wanted to be ‘Susie Homemaker’ like my Mom. I always respected her for her efforts at jelly making. For a woman whose main achievement in the culinary field equated to grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato [Campbell’s] soup, she always managed to create beautiful goblets [stemware] of grape or blackberry jelly for friends and family at Christmas. Each sealed with paraffin and a tasteful ribbon tied around the stem. [Daddy had a few ancient Muscatine Vines on his 7 acre farm and added 2 rows of hy-bred blackberries the size of your thumb – all planted in the west field.
Years after giving up on home canning, while visiting the folks on the farm in Arkansas, I ran into a truth that destroyed this long cultivated admiration for my Mom’s jelly talents. It happened at breakfast as I smeared half a jar of her special jelly on my toast. It was especially good that year and when I voiced my opinion, “the best EVER”, my Dad spewed his coffee all over the table and couldn’t catch his breath. When he had his breathing under control, he explained that the dry summer had wrecked the berries and grapes and there just wasn’t enough fruit to mess with. Mom got creative. Went to what was then the equivalent of a GORDON FOOD SERVICE and bought four huge jugs of WELCH’S grape jelly. She melted it all down in a huge pot, carefully poured it into waiting goblets and sealed the tops with paraffin, tied the bows and passed them out and the result? Dazzled family and friends and a NEW respect for my Mother based more on her creativity than her culinary skills.