Sue is canning tomatoes this week.
Last week it was pickles and beets. Soon it will be applesauce. You can't move in the kitchen for the kettles and the jars. That was my first question: Why do you call it "canning" when you're putting the stuff in glass jars? Shouldn't it be "jarring"?
"Get out!" she helpfully explained.
It seems like she's been canning for months. Our basement is full of canning jars. The mudroom is full of canning jars. The pantry has boxes of canning jars. The living room, the front hall and the back porch are full of canning jars. Who's going to eat 48 quarts of pickles? And what goes better with pickles than pickled beets? We only have 18 jars of those. If Atkins came out with a preserved tomato diet, we'd do OK. Sue has canned whole tomatoes, spaghetti sauce, salsa and tomato water.
There is so much food in the kitchen right now that there is no room to cook meals. We have to eat out until she's finished canning. The irony is lost on her, even though I've mentioned it several times.
It's not as if we don't already have canned food from last year. And the year before that. And the year before that. Some people have wine cellars; we have a canning cellar. There are shelves of pickles, jam and relish from years past, all getting dustier and less appetizing by the day.
Here's a jar of pickles. I blow the dust off it and see "Bread and Butter, Aug. '95" marked on the lid. I hope beyond hope that it's from 1995 and not 1895.
I know better than to ask Sue why she doesn't put a little stamp on it like they do at the grocery store -- a simple message like, "These pickles best if consumed on or before August 2100." I know what she'll say if I mention that they seem a little bit dated.
"Just eat it, will ya? If the first bite doesn't kill you, the rest of the jar is probably good." That seems so ... iffy. So chancy. So unscientific. Maybe there's a better way to tell if they're deadly -- say, mold on the top? A bad odor? An unappealing color? Squishy texture? Feed it to Jabba the Cat first?
Well, I haven't died yet. Besides, we've been out of her tomato sauce since May and we could use some more. All winter long, we ate pies made from the apple pie filling she'd canned last fall. She calls it Apple Pie in a Jar. Unlike the pickles, she never makes enough of that. I can't find any more of her applesauce, either.
It's funny that you never see the women in the fashion magazines canning vegetables. They're always on the beach. Or rock climbing, kayaking, skiing or snowmobiling. You see them enjoying all the things they can't do in the city where they buy all their clothes. It's as if city people like everything about the country, except living there.
All serious gardeners have more tomatoes, peppers and cukes than they can ever eat, and canning and pickling them is fun and easy. Well, it would be fun and easy if you had an assistant to blanch and skin the tomatoes, to pack the jars and pull them out of the hot, steaming canner and make sure all the lids are sealed. At the end of the day, the assistant would scrub the pots and pans and clean the kitchen.
Unfortunately, Sue's just got me. And she says it's quicker to do it herself.