August 2, 2011

Preserving Summer


Two weeks ago, on one of the hottest days of July, I got out of work a little bit earlier than I had expected. At nine o'clock the sun was going down, but the air outside refused to cool off. The weather would not deter me -- even before I got home I had plans for the extra hours I had gained. The raspberries I had picked up at the farmers' market earlier in day couldn't wait, they had to be jam.

The kitchen was steamy even before I put my canning pot on to boil. Ray gladly kept to the slightly cooler parts of our apartment, but then I realized I didn't have quite enough sugar. As Ray went out to get some more, I sighed as I was reminded of how lucky I am to have my heat-averse husband indulge my obsession with preserving. I felt a little crazy to be boiling water and making sticky jam that night, but this summer I am doing my best to seize the moments that are available.



Summer can be so busy and there are always so many picnics, bike rides, sunsets, ice cream cones and recipes that I try to fit in as I am able. So too with canning and preserving projects. If my schedule allows I'll make a day of it, but usually I am pouring summer into jars for a few hours in the evening or an afternoon when there is time. I made cherry and black pepper preserves after work last Sunday. As I write, half pints of apricot rosemary jam are in their water bath. I like to think that the time I am taking now, in hours here and there, will mean cozy winter afternoons with plenty of full jars and no need to leave the house.

I can't quite explain my love of preserving. It goes beyond the logic of wanting to save the bounty of summer and gets intertwined with my need to be deeply connected to my food. Though I will give many of these jars away, I also suspect that my canning is a bit selfish and greedy. I want to snatch up the colors and flavors of summer and keep them long after the ground is frozen and branches are bare.



At its simplest, I am making fruits and vegetables last longer than they ever would in the field. But, I've realized that preserving connects to two things that I often come back to in life -- creating (and through creating, transforming) and potential. A perfect ripe tomato is an amazement and needs nothing more. Yet, combine it with peppers, onions, garlic, cilantro and spices and this salsa is something else entirely. A jar of tomatoes is more than just a full jar, it will be part of meals months after the fruit reached perfect ripeness. Tucking away these full jars is, for me, making the most of summer while knowing that some of this vibrant season will still be there in the months to come.

P.S. August 13th is Can-It-Forward Day. If anyone local wants to join my in my kitchen to learn about or practice canning, email me!


  1. Oh, I would like to join you on August 13th, but I'm not local:(
    Preserving is a new part of my life and I obsessed with this part very much that sometimes I think I'm crazy.

  2. I love canning too, you know and I don't even mind the heat when I do it. I suppose I just know that I'll be grateful for all those jars of summer come February...

    Yum and yay you!

  3. Kathie - In winter, we'll remember (perhaps with longing) the steamy summer days canning in the kitchen. But, as you say, we'll at least have a jar of something tasty no matter how cold it is!

  4. The cherry jam looks heavenly. The stains on the stove? LOL. I recommend Bar Keeper's Friend. Seriously, it looks delicious.