Four boxes of cans and canning supplies have been gathering dust in our laundry closet for several months now. My mom handed them down to us in one of many bequethments. I don’t actually remember her canning much when I was young, but she must have. It just seems like something she would have done. Since canning in some way equals effeciency, the craft had some appeal to me, so I told her we’d take the stuff off her hands if she was looking to get rid of them.
They sat unused for a long time thanks to a seemingly laborious ramp-up time for learning how to can. Finally our curiousity got the best of us, we cleared off some Sunday time and, in what became part two of our craft-at-home weekend, taught ourselves how to can. (As well as how to make groan-worthy puns: Martha Stewart, a chorus girl and the Leaning Tower of Pisa are all talking. Martha says, “I can can.” The chorus girl says, “I can can-can.” The Leaning Tower of Pisa says, “I cant.”)
The books of canning recipes have scads of jams and jellies to choose from. Eventually I knew we’d get to those, once we felt more comfortable with the process. Jams and jellies aren’t terribly complicated, but they sometimes have multiple steps in their recipes, and even that seems like an awful lot of effort to submit to a canning process that may go horribly awry. My suggestion was applesauce, for a few reasons. We devour it an unusually high rate (combined with cottage cheese). The recipe is easy. We can’t get enough of our peeler/corer/slicer.
I’m not sure where we got this impression that canning was such a Sisyphean task, but it’s nothing of the kind. It’s easy, which bodes well for future projects, including our plan to hand out jellies as wedding favors. It’s charming, in a fifties-housewife-in-a-floral-print-apron kind of way. It’s even a little poetic, considering the participation of fire (on the stovetop), water (for the boiling), earth (from whence the apples) and air (the power of vacuum seals).
What it isn’t is instantly gratifying. After our applesauce had cooled for the required twenty-four hours, I picked a can up and peered in close. Inside sat a tan-green mass, speckled with black and little bubbles of air. It was like a really, really dumb time capsule, carrying with it no information more than what imported apples tasted like in mid-Spring ‘06. This jar would now sit on our shelves for weeks, months, or let’s face it—knowing our uncanny (har har) ability to forget about out-of-sight foodstuffs—years, and would likely come to save us on an afternoon in the far-off future. I can just see it, me hunting through a half-empty fridge with a sudden craving for a certain snack, and yelling out in anguish, “Don’t we have any applesauce?” before realizing how smart I was those many years before. Canning: give your future self a break. He’s a little forgetful sometimes.