Saturday, December 11, 2004

the miracle of canning

Remember in Little House on the Prairie, when (I think) the Ingalls family was taking care of a clapboard house way out in the prairie, and they were having their dinner? I think it might have been Christmas dinner, but I'm not sure. In any case they found canned peaches in the pantry and had that for their dessert. They were all so happy to have the luscious fruit in the middle of bleak December. That's how I felt this morning when, for breakfast, I opened a small jar of ruby-red strawberry jam that Mum had sent with the food box. (We take advantage of friends driving this way to send boxes of goods, this time she sent tomatoes from her freezer, along with blueberries (!) and some hamburger, all preciously wrapped in newspaper and still cold when it got here.)

This jam was in a small Mason jar, and I popped the lid just as the toast popped from the toaster. I took a small amount of it on the tip of the butter knife, and licked it quickly. I closed my eyes and was immediately transported to the height of summer, when there are so many strawberries that people bring them in large bowls to potluck suppers and serve them with a side dish of whipped cream. There are so many strawberries around that your fingers, lips and tongue turn bright red from eating them, and they are eaten on ice cream, or with cream or simply by themselves. The days are hot and you wear shorts; you can leave the house in bare feet and walk down dusty dirt roads, picking your way along the smooth part of the road, until you get to the river and then you duck into the cool woods for a moment before emerging on the other side, where the river flows dark and slow.

(Bear in mind this is December and outside we got another 5 or 6 centimeters of sticky wet sludgy snow, and all the trees and the sidewalks and the sky and the yards are a wet white-grey, and you have to bundle up in boots, warm socks, scarves, hats, mittens and a well-zipped coat before venturing out anywhere.)

This is the miracle of canning.

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