I came across a photo of a woman showing off her precious and beautiful jars of freshly canned fruits and vegetables.They were all in the jars that had rubber seals to protect the food, instead of the two part screw-on lids that are the going thing now. They have to be the going thing because you cannot buy replacement jar rubbers in the United States any more. Our government decided that to prevent us from risking our lives with an occasionally badly sealed jar, there needed to be a law forbidding the rubber seals. Dad says last he knew you could still get them in Canada, but you’d have to smuggle them in. Of all the federal crimes I can think of, smuggling canning jar seals seems pretty darned petty. Some families spend decades hiding their shameful pasts from ensuing generations – I can so imagine my great-great grandchildren looking in awe at their great-great grandmother who had committed the dreadful offense of smuggling canning supplies. All the dangers she encountered and the back road routes she used to avoid apprehension… what a black sheep!
Well, I didn’t smuggle any jar rings. And I wouldn’t, simply because I don’t do any canning anyway. I’m sure that seems strange, with all of the wonderful memories I have shared of times past and times rural. On Facebook I see lovely photos of delicious appearing food the young people I know have put up, as well as the bounties my brothers and their families put by, and sometimes I may be a bit envious. But along with my useful qualities I am also subject to great bouts of anxiety and I figured out long ago that if I canned anything I would have a panic attack and throw it all away before I poisoned the children with a bad seal or any of the other things I could imagine. (People with anxiety often have great imaginations!)
My anxiety is now somewhat under control some of the time, and the kids are on their own, so the only person I might damage is myself these days, but having spent most of my life avoiding canning (I have made jelly, but that doesn’t count), I don’t see any particular benefits in beginning now, no matter how the jars are sealed. I love seeing other people’s results, and I remember with a kind of awe the translucent beauty of my grandmother’s jars against the background of the gray stone cellar walls, I just am not the person to take it up.
I remember Gram helping with the haying all day, and coming in and canning late into the evening on July and August days. It was always hot. The stove had to be kept going for all the time needed to preserve the food. She seldom sat down – while one set of jars was simmering away, she was washing, peeling, stoning, stringing, removing from cobs, shelling, skinning, or whatever was needed for the batch coming along next. As soon as one crop of something was ripe and canned, the next one came along. Actually, that sounds pretty doable. In fact, several things all came ready at once, though some would wait longer than others. Aside from what she grew every summer she would order a bushel of peaches and can those, too. Oh, and the quarts of blackberries Gramp picked. The pressure was constant, and the heat nearly unbearable.
So if you do it, I admire you, and if you don’t, I get it. I have decided after all this time to stop feeling guilty that I don’t. Real Vermonters don’t have to can food! My mother didn’t do much of it (except for jelly). I don’t do it. My daughters don’t either. And that’s okay. We don’t shear our own sheep, either!