Friday, November 9, 2012

Yes, we can.

Two Saturday afternoons.  Steaming pots of water.  Mason jars.  Fresh produce from Kristen's farm and Sara Jean's garden.  The aroma of vinegar, fresh dill and cinnamon.  Jackie refers to her hand-written journal listing how to make her grandma's beets and dill pickles.  Kristen armed with her canning bible in hand.  For lunch: Kristen's beautiful fried squash and crowder peas.  Sara Jean makes a lovely leek, mushroom, Gruyere bread pudding.  We eat all these things.  And we get to work!

We form our amateur assembly line and embrace our sometimes "sweat shop" of patience.  Generous pours of Prosecco flow.  And hours, days, months later - we have jars of deliciousness to share with our loved ones...

Sometimes we have to "improvise" - like when I can't find cheese cloth bags at the grocery store.  A little cheese cloth and some thread will do the trick...
Beautiful tomatoes generously donated to the project by Sara Jean and Khud. 
Cin Cin!  Canning is always better with Prosecco!
Beautiful beets from the Lincoln Square farmers market.  Pre-roasted the night before courtesy of myself and Khud.
We place the tomatoes in the boiling water until the skin starts to pull away.
Then we peel the skins off and core... 
We simply squeeze lemon juice in the bottom of the jars and fill with tomatoes to the top!
Seal the jars... 
Processing begins...
While they process, Sara Jean starts to whip up some lunch.  We had to bring out the hot plate skillet from Jackie's camping gear because the entire stove was covered in steaming pots!

And after several hours...and hours...and well, days...Wallah!!!
Beets, Dilly Beans and Bread and Butter pickles. 
Grandma's dills.
Grandma's beets - spicy and cinnamon. 
Beautiful Bread and Butter pickles. 
The tomatoes soon after they start to settle...

All the while we were preparing, assembling and catching up on the latest in our lives I started to romanticize about the history of the generations of women who "canned" before us - I wonder what their conversations were like years ago - someone is newly engaged, another shares the exciting news of a baby on the way, or someone reminisces about their childhood cooking with Mom - all conversations seeming to touch on family, work, friendships and lovers.  I'm sure there was laughter and maybe even a few tears as they shared about their lives over seemingly simple ritualistic tasks.  

It is here that I am reminded that we are not too far off from these women in the kitchens of the past, getting together for a day of preparing food for ourselves and our loved ones.  Sure, we may run marathons, have iPhones, wear stilettos and drink martinis - but the conversations retain similar themes.  And, I couldn't help but feel Jackie's grandma smiling down on us that day as we ran out of sugar - Jackie reached into her cupboard to show us her Grandma's sugar jar, only to discover it still had sugar in it and, exactly the perfect amount to complete our recipe!

It's in these moments you feel the past winking at the future.  And it's in these moments that I realize there is something special about putting your heart and soul into cooking for your loved ones - rolling up your sleeves, throwing on an apron and creating something with love - from one kitchen to another's table.  


Dilly Beans and Bread and Butters courtesy of The Chopping Block (A fine Chicago institution)

 Jackie's Grandma's Sweet Dills (Good) and Beet Pickles


No comments:

Post a Comment