Wednesday, October 14, 2009

It's all in the Can!

If you have not figured this out yet, I am a participant in a fairly wide variety of heritage activities. In my public life I tend to get involved in an almost overwhelming number of heritage events. I thought about listing all of the odd heritage activities I take part in but a job description makes for very dull reading for everyone other than the person who has the job. If anyone would like to see part of the range of my heritage activities just flip through some of the older posts in this blog. Heritage makes its way into my private life as well. My wife and I own a 210 year old house which we are very slowly trying to save from its vinyl prison. Since food is quite often a part of my thoughts, I have been trying to plant heirloom fruit trees around our property. On the same food related note is the topic of today's post; canning.

I have been overjoyed to see the resurgence in home canning in the past few years. The reasons for the rebirth of this activity seem to range from belt tightening due to economic circumstances to people wanting to make a smaller environmental footprint. No matter what the reason, I am happy to see people canning. Growing up, canning was always a part of our yearly routines. I knew that strawberry jam season would be followed by peaches, pears, tomatoes and pumpkins all making their way into jars. To be clear, I am talking about growing up in the 1970s and 1980s not the 1890s or 1920s. Canning was something which was an expected part of the year and everybody in the family chipped in.

Today, I am still an avid canner. Minutes ago I finished my first batch of tomatoes for the year. The last group of bottles are in the boiling watter canner as I am writing this. I can hear the popping of sealer lids (perhaps my favorite sound) in the background. Tomorrow morning the bottles will go down to the basement where they will join this year's jams, pickles, chutneys and other preserves. Some time in the middle of the winter these cans will reemerge and give me the chance to remember warmer days.

The obvious question is why bother? In Canada we are able to purchase virtually anything we need at the store. Well, In addition to being able to control what my family is eating and eating locally grown produce, I like the heritage aspect of canning. This is an activity which was once passed down from family member to family member due to necessity. If you wanted to survive the winter you needed to preserve enough food in the summer. Today, that collected wisdom has been passed to our generation. I feel a responsibility to pass this knowledge to my children. Personally, I also take great satisfaction in finishing a batch of preserves. After all of the mess and fuss is over I enjoy seeing the wonderfully coloured bottles lined up on the shelf. I am glad that I do not need to survive off of my canning activities but I also am not willing to let this important part of our cultural legacy fade away.

All for now,

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