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Cooking Up Sweet Memories

Although we live in the middle of the city we were blessed to move into an amazing house with an unusual backyard.  We have several incredible fruit producing vines and trees.    There are several large concord grape vines along with an apple tree and a pear tree.  This has provided us with great produce each year for more than a decade.  When we first moved in to our house 13 years ago my mother was extremely excited by the possibilities of canning and “working up” the great varieties of fruit.

Sweet memories (and items) left! My mother's canning equipment.

Growing up I have many fond memories of going with my mother to gather produce.  We also had a HUGE garden for several years when I was growing up.  These all gave my mom plenty of opportunities to hone in on the fine skill of canning.  My grandmother would also come each summer and can a variety of produce (the one I remember the most was sugar beets because they made the house smell terrible=) and their hands would be bright pink for days afterward.)   I also remember my mother going to other people’s houses to teach her friends her skill of canning.

Of course as a child I had no interest in helping with the hard, labored, and usually hot work that was involved in the canning process.  However, when we purchased our house, that all changed.  I was a wife now and that meant that I now had a great desire to learn all that I could from my sweet mother on homemaking and life in the kitchen.  So began our journey of canning.  I learned to can, and can and can.  (We also had a pretty good sized garden before kiddos.)  So when Fall came each year we canned and it was such a blessed time of sitting around the table/kitchen for hours and hours.  It was a precious time for me and my mother.  We canned tomatoes, and salsa, spaghetti sauce, strawberry jam, pear jam, grape jam and apple butter almost every year.  When I lamented about the buckets and buckets full of produce that needed to be processed and canned I would often times feel absolutely overwhelmed.  Not my mother.  She would smile and say, “Let’s just get it done, Tiff!  We will be done in no time.”. Or,  “Many hands make the load light! So I am here to do just that.”.  And many other encouraging statements.  Funny thing, she was right.  Before long we were done and had stored up a great amount of fabulous treasure for later in the winter months.

My dear, sweet mama helping me cut up apples to can. Miss her hands and her incredible encouraging heart!

Since my mother has died, canning is one of those tasks that are still really difficult for me.   My wonderful husband and children went out and picked the grapes almost a week ago.  Then they did my least favorite part (removing the stems, there are usually spiders in there and I really DISLIKE spiders) and put them in the refrigerator.  There they have sat for almost a week.  Every day I have looked into the refrigerator and felt that pull of sadness and knowing that my mother’s encouraging words were not going to come.  Finally tonight I knew that either I needed to can them or throw them away.  I have a huge problem with waste so I bit the bullet and began getting my canning stuff out.  Tears were at the surface quickly.  Something about those old canning pots, jars and strainer bring back vivid memories.  So as I began to get the jars prepared the tears began to flow.  Grief is such an odd thing.  Some days I do just fine and then some days with weird things like canning, the emotions are so raw.  The sadness was  intense!  I just longed to have my beautiful mother by my side.  My wonderful husband noticed and understood my heartache.  With a sweetness that only he has, he said, “Now it is time to pass that legacy on to our girls.”.  So, wiping the tears, I called my sweet girls into the kitchen and asked if they wanted to help.  Of course they did (even if it made me a bit nervous with all of the hot jars, and juice) and they did great.  It was a great blessing.  Hopefully they will remember these precious moments like I do.  May it be a way to drawn our hearts together for many years to come.

Ready and willing to "squish" the grapes.

Rachel was the first to want to help. Look at that smile.

Nathan couldn't resist...it looked like too much fun.

Shiloh was not to be left out!
Precious moments!

Joyful times.

Hey, by the way the grape jam is the best I think I have ever made.  (Might be because it was almost wine in the refrigerator by the time I actually decided to can them =), not really, but they may have had a bit of fermentation to intensify the concord flavor. )  Each year the grapes have a different flavor, kinda fun to taste the differences.  This year they made fabulous jam and juice. Let me know if you want to try some =0!

Finished product. Comes with so many special memories, and now, some new ones.


One Response

  1. Beautiful, Tiffany! I wish I could’ve known your mom. She is being honored in the way you are doing life, my friend!

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