Clark Hollow Ramblings: Canning Season

It’s that time of year, folks. I hope your canning is coming along as well as can be expected. Linda has made blackberry jam and black raspberry jam. And, with a little help from me, she has canned about 40 quarts of green beans, and just this week we started on the tomatoes. She remarked that the way our mothers canned was not much different from what we were doing, but they had it a lot harder.

We were in the kitchen, where the air conditioning was holding steady on about 78 degrees. We were using a pressure canner and an electric stove. When our mothers did this chore, there was no electric stove. They both used a wood-fired cook stove. While they were burning up with no help from anything unless it was a small fan, they had to keep the wood stove stoked to scald the cans and lids and to cook and seal the canned vegetables. I don’t know how they did it.

I cannot remember if my mother used a pressure canner. I doubt she did. Linda said her mother never had one. I get tired of waiting for the pressure canner to get up to the right pressure, which might take 15 or 20 minutes. Our mothers had to keep the wood stove going full blast for about 2 hours to do the job. I know they were both remarkable women, but where these types of chores were concerned, they were no different from a lot of women in the county. People canned to preserve what they could for the coming winter when there was nothing coming out of the garden, unless it was a turnip.

Speaking of preparing for the winter, I dug our potatoes the other day. We will have plenty to get us through. They turned out very well. I am hoping the sweet potatoes do as well. Speaking of how the potatoes turned out, I suspect I have told you this before, but when I was kid growing up here in paradise, the men-folk always used two barometers to tell how well they or their neighbors were doing. I can still hear visitors to our home asking my dad, “How many potatoes did you make, Moffett?” The other indicator was the amount of lard you were able to put away at hog killing time. Oh, the times, they are a’changing.

I do have to report on two more items. After getting a new driver’s license, stopping all my credit cards and getting new medical and insurance cards, Linda found my billfold in the bottom of the clothes hamper. I was very glad to get it back. I am trying to be more careful.

The final item I wanted to tell you about was the cantaloupes. The watermelons never quite made it to an acceptable level. I ate a few of them anyway, but that was mostly just for spite. The cantaloupes, too, were not looking very well, and appeared to be rotting on the vine. I pulled a couple that were still firm, but didn’t have quite the color I had hoped for, and put them in the refrigerator. While they were rather small, they tasted very good. I may try them again next year, but I think I will get my watermelons at Food Lion.

I trust you have been able to avoid the awful heat. We had a great day last Friday playing a little bluegrass for the seniors at the Fauquier Fair. Since then, the heat has been unrelenting. Stay well and don’t be canning anything on a wood stove until it gets a lot cooler.

Richard Brady
About Richard Brady 150 Articles
Richard Brady was born and raised within sight of Rappahannock Peak, as was his father, grandfather, great-grandfather, great-great-grandfather, etc. He graduated from George Mason University and was employed for 35 years with various agencies of the federal government. He retired in 2001, and he and his wife, Linda, live in Flint Hill, Va.