The kinds of food we eat have changed during the decades, and how we prepare these food has also changed. Consider the fact that home canning of fruits, vegetables and meats was how foods were not only prepared but saved for future use. Then as these items became available at the grocery stores and later the super markets, because of preservatives, people cut back on growing these items themselves and bought fresh at the markets. But in the last few years, researchers are telling us not to buy these so called "fresh food" but rather grow organic in your own backyard or buy organic at a farmers market. And now there are classes out there, sponsored by the Extension Service, that teaches young and old women how to can again. "What goes around, comes around."
Growing up on a farm I was taught how to help plant a garden, care for it and finally pick the items when they were ripe, and finally can them. The canning part happened always in the hottest part of the summer - when there was also harvest taking place. So not only did we have to feed the harvest crews (three times a day - along with morning and afternoon lunch) we had to keep the wood/coal stove going all day in order to also can the vegetables and fruits in the cruel heat.
I also remember that when peaches came into season (we could not grow them of course) but we would buy at least one crate at the grocery store. We were not really allowed to eat this fresh fruit - it had to be saved for canning. No air conditioning back then - we could only open windows wide, which only brought in the hot humid air. And the flies covered the screen door because of the inviting smell of foods cooking. When my mother open the screen door for guests she had to take a big white dishtowel and swat it vigorously as she slowly opened the door for the people. This was repeated again as they left.
The canning of meat was a bit different, as it could be done during the other seasons of the year. First of all, when the Agricultural Service introduced additives into the feed for cattle, which increased their growth and which in turn readied them earlier and more often for market, my father always separated a young steer and hog from the herd and did not give them additives and later butchered them for the family use. Chicken was another animal that we canned - although we more often just readied a chicken for Sunday dinner.
Although we raised sheep - they were never slaughtered for family use. I have always wondered about that. Then when I visited Norway last summer, I realized that lamb is considered a meat for rich people, and of course, our ancestors who immigrated to America were not rich, so they probably had never eaten this meat.
Fish was not canned - only eaten fresh. But since we did not live near a river or lake we never grew to like eating fish on a regular basis. I remember one time a neighbor brought a live walleye to our house and gave it to my mother. She did not know how to kill the fish. She had a 22 rifle with which she killed chickens for canning but using the rifle on a fish would destroy must of the meat. So instead, she packed the fish in ice until it died by freezing to death.
When I married and set up housekeeping, I was given lots of Mason jars from family members, in which to can meat and vegetables. Well, since I could buy fresh in the grocery store, I stored these jars away on a shelf in the basement. Also, I never enjoyed canning, which was a lot of work - and always had to be done on the hottest days of summer. I felt so relieved and fortunate that I could just go to the store and buy what I needed. And, most of all, I enjoyed eating all the fresh fruit I wanted without having to save it for canning. Finally, on one especially hot day several years ago, I boxed up all the Mason jars and dropped them off at thrift store.
In today's world, those Mason jars are sought after by young, and not so young, women who are being taught by the Extension Service, as well as other agencies that by growing and/or buying organic grown fruits, vegetables, and meats and canning these products is the healthiest way to feed their families.
Good for them - and I applaud those of you who have chosen this path. But as for me, I do not intend to go down that road again. I've put in my time and effort on that route.
(Continued next week)