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Canning with children

Preserving Canning Wisdom: Diana From Washington

[Editor's note: This one in a series of essays by winners of our "Preserving Canning Wisdom" giveaway.]

Photo by cafemama

Photo by cafemama

I am a member of a federally recognized Native American Reservation in Northwest Washington. On the reservation is a residential school for youth. The students get to direct their experiences and have recently asked to have a canning class to make use of all the blackberries that have taken over the woods near the school. Talk about local and community-driven! The students want to use the jam in the wintertime when berries are just a memory in the gray and rain that make up our landscape. I am happy to help make things happen for them and share the process of putting summer in a jar.

CAA Contributor Diana Bob cans in Bellingham, WA.

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Preserving Canning Wisdom: Kimberly From Washington

[Editor's note: This one in a series of essays by winners of our "Preserving Canning Wisdom" giveaway.]

Photo by Kimberly McKittrick

Photo by Kimberly McKittrick

Growing up with siblings is an experience, to say the least. When the age gap is close to 15 years, and you’re the oldest, you develop the special bond of watching your younger sibling grow up. When he was 10 years old, my younger brother decided he wanted to help me can strawberry jam. He squished the strawberries with a grip that only young boys have. As he did so, he looked at me with delight and amazement. I took sisterly pride in his sense of accomplishment when he put jam on the toast. He was grinning ear to ear and so was I!

CAA Contributor Kimberly Leinstock cans in Gig Harbor, WA.

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Preserving Canning Wisdom: Leslie From Illinois

[Editor's note: This one in a series of essays by winners of our "Preserving Canning Wisdom" giveaway.]

Photo by Amy Artisan

Photo by Amy Artisan

I have started canning as a new tradition for our family.  In the spring we started with making violet jelly.  My children have had so much fun with the whole process.  First they gather lots and lots of violets.  They we make the jelly.  The whole alchemy of turning violets into jelly thrilled them!  Then we moved on to grape jelly.  And now, we are making applesauce.  Of course, they no longer want store-bought versions.  I think there is no better way to bond with children than through their stomachs!

CAA Contributor Leslie Postin cans in Canton, IL.  You can read her blog at Comfrey Cottages.

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Preserving Canning Wisdom: Kathi from Washington

[Editor's note: This one in a series of essays by winners of our "Preserving Canning Wisdom" giveaway.]

Photo by Lelonopo

Photo by Lelonopo

The best way to convey the arts of preservation are to live them. My kids have watched me can (and dry, freeze, pickle…) food since before they could talk. This is just the way it is. In our house, it’s not something amazing or weird or magical. We grow food in our yard and we don’t waste any of it. This is how I was raised and how my mother and grandmother were raised before me.

Now that my mom and grandmother are both gone, it’s more meaningful to me to “put by” (as my grandmother used to say). My oldest is old enough to handle a knife, so he gets more responsibility in the process. And, for now, my youngest’s main involvement is to eat the half-sour pickles that he loves so much. He has a pickle dance, that we make him do every day, to earn his pickle.

CAA Contributor Kathi Jenness lives in Renton, Washington. Read her blog at Rocky is a Sick Raccoon.

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Preserving Canning Wisdom: Patricia From California

[Editor's note: This one in a series of essays by winners of our "Preserving Canning Wisdom" giveaway.]

Photo by Chiot's Run

Photo by Chiot's Run

I first learned to can when I was about eight years old back in Texas. Four generations of women–my Great-Grandma, Grandma, Aunt Katie, Cousin Lisa, Mom, and I–would gather together in my Grandma’s kitchen to can the freshly picked bounty of Grandma’s garden.

Grandma lived in the country and she grew the most wonderful vegetables in her garden. I remember as a little girl wandering through row after row of corn, lettuce, okra, beans, tomatoes, onions, squash, carrots, potatoes, beets, and more. What fun it was to stop and pick a bean or a fresh tomato and eat it right off the vine!

I remember a particular day when we canned green beans, peaches, and tomatoes. My jobs included snapping the green beans and peeling and pitting the peaches. I also had the task of stirring the jam. Because I was so small, I stood on a stool in order to reach the stove so I could stir the jam. Grandma cautioned me not to let the mixture stick or the sugar would burn during the rolling boil. It was the best of days learning from all those great southern ladies.

Sadly, those first two generations have passed on–leaving my mother and me to teach my daughter this lost art. My daughter’s favorite thing to can (and eat) is strawberry jam. I so enjoy sharing this precious family tradition with my daughter so she will be able to teach the next generation.

It is so wonderful on a cold winter day to open a jar of home-canned vegetables or preserves. Opening a home-canned jar is like getting a double dose of joy: eating a wonderful treat and remembering the days of canning in the kitchen with family.

CAA Contributor Patricia Cogliandro cans in San Jose, California.

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Preserving Canning Wisdom: Patty From California

[Editor's note: This one in a series of essays by winners of our "Preserving Canning Wisdom" giveaway.]

Photo by Lelonopo

Photo by Lelonopo

I love canning with my little daughter! She is almost 4 years old and really can’t do that much to help–but she watches.  I absolutely believe that having her watch, and help me with the little things like washing the fruit is the first–and maybe most important–step in helping her learn to can by herself someday.

Canning is in my family.  My Irish born and raised grandmother used to can jams. During a time when frozen vegetables and TV dinners were the rage, she still served fresh vegetables and home cooked Sunday night dinners. The only regret I have is that I never canned with her.   It wasn’t something my mom ever did, so I learned it on my own, as an adult, with help from my sister-in-law.

We grow tomatoes and lemons and plums in our backyard and my daughter  picks those with me.  And I think that just letting her see me canning and involving her at her ability level will encourage her to want to can someday.  Of course, she loves to eat our homemade strawberry jam on our homemade scones.  I hope that this is the start of something we can always share together.

CAA Contributor Patty Ogg cans in Lomita, CA.

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Preserving Canning Wisdom: Kiva From Maryland

[Editor's note: This is the first in a series of essays by winners of our "Preserving Canning Wisdom" giveaway.]

3882473918_d70f489be0When I first discovered canning, I felt that a part of my childhood had lacked something very crucial–putting away our abundance for another time.  My great-grandmother canned but my grandmother and mother did not.  I was determined that my kids would know the importance of keeping our pantry stocked.  Not only is it important that they know how to stock a pantry, but also that with a few ingredients and no preservatives, you can have delicious items made with your own hands.

When I am canning, my children run to the kitchen to help me make jams, pickles and sauces. They are at the age now where they don’t want the mass-produced items because they do not taste as good as Mommy’s.  My children are instrumental in the planting of and harvesting from our garden, and are eager to help me make purchases from local growers.  They jump at the opportunity to do things like go strawberry picking–because they love strawberry jam.

We often share our canned items with others. Through giving, my children see first-hand the joy that comes from receiving a delicious jar of canned jam, relish, or pickles.  It is a joy to know that this time-honored tradition will be kept alive by my children. I must say that I feel for my son’s as-yet-unknown future wife–I hope her mother is teaching her to can, because Smucker’s and Mott’s come in a distant second and third to the taste of home-canned jams and sauces.

CAA Contributor Kiva Slade cans in Upper Marlboro, MD.  Read her blog at Farmstead Lady.

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Can-A-Rama Prep: Tips for Canning With Children

The Can-A-Rama weekend starts tomorrow and goes through Sunday (Aug. 29-30).  Are you ready?  If you’re canning with children, check out our Tips for Canning With Children by Emily Paster.  Kids love this process and it’s fun to include them!

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Blueberries (and Raspberries and Apricots) for Zoe

Zoe and her canning projects

Many of us have fond memories of Blueberries for Sal, the classic Robert McCloskey picture book about a mother and daughter in 1940s Maine who head out one summer’s day to pick blueberries to can for the winter.  At the beginning and end of the book is a wonderful illustration of Sal and her mother in the kitchen, wood-burning stove behind them, pouring blueberries from a pot into a canning jar, with several filled jars – and several more yet to be filled – waiting on the kitchen table.  For me, this image evokes a world that has all but disappeared, but one that holds tremendous appeal: a world in which a mother could walk out of her door, pick the freshest, tastiest berries and then preserve them, in her own kitchen, so that her family would have homemade blueberry jam to sweeten a cold February morning.

My daughter, Zoe, at 6, is a few years older than Sal was when she and her mother went out to pick blueberries on that summer’s day in the late 1940s.  But this summer, Zoe and I have had our own version of that scene in the kitchen filling glass jars with beautifully preserved fruit.  We began making jams and pickles with fruits and vegetables from our local farmers’ market.  Unlike Sal and her mother, we live in as urban a setting as you can imagine, only a few miles from the Chicago Loop.  But Chicago is close enough to Michigan’s wonderful fruit orchards that, thanks to the farmers’ market, we can still get fruit that was picked only a day or two before.

For years, Saturday morning at the farmers’ market has been a ritual for our family.  Zoe and her father–and now little brother Jamie–go for the blueberries, the cherries and the peaches. I go for the heirloom tomatoes, the corn–picked that morning or I am not interested, thank you very much–and those delicate and unusual items (garlic scapes? squash blossoms?) that challenge the ambitious cook and that you can never seem to find any place else.  For some reason (and I truly don’t know why), this spring, I decided that I wanted to learn how to take some of this fleeting farmers’ market bounty and preserve it.  My only goal was to have fun trying something new and perhaps to come away with some homemade gifts for the holidays.

Canning is a wonderful activity to do with an elementary-school aged child.  From the moment I first suggested it to her, Zoe has been an enthusiastic partner in my canning endeavors.  She loves going to the farmers’ market and helping me decide which fruits and vegetables to can that week.  By noticing what the farmers have for sale each week, and how it is different from what they had the previous week, Zoe is learning an important lesson about growing seasons.  So far, we’ve made apricot, blueberry, sour cherry and mixed berry jams, and this week, we tried our hand at pickling grape tomatoes.

There is quite a lot that a young child can do to be helpful during the canning process.  Zoe has pitted cherries, crushed all kinds of fruit, peeled cloves of garlic, pricked grape tomatoes (so the skins don’t crack), squeezed lemon juice and measured out cups of sugar.  With close supervision, and a kitchen chair to stand on, Zoe can even stir the fruit as it reaches the gelling point.  And once our jars are processed and cooled, Zoe helps with the labels. One of her favorite tasks is coming up with the names for our products, such as Zoe’s Very Berry Jam. 

For Zoe, canning is something that she and I can do together–without her little brother around–and it makes her feel extremely competent.  Plus, just like me, looking at those gleaming jars she feels the pride that comes from making something with your own two hands.
jam 008

I knew I had a convert when Zoe rushed into the kitchen after a birthday party that had taken her away during the middle of a canning session, and asked breathlessly, “Did you hear the jars ‘ping,’ Mommy?” (Of course, if I knew more about science, I would use this opportunity to explain to Zoe about vacuums. As it is, we are just relieved that our jars sealed properly.)  Zoe and I also feel a special connection to the past by participating in this traditional domestic art.  Blueberries for Sal aside, we’ve noticed references to canning in some of our favorite books, including the Betsy-Tacy series by Maud Hart Lovelace and Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House books.  Even Zoe’s American Girl doll, Kit, who lived during the Great Depression, is shown in the accompanying books canning peaches and tomatoes. 

For Zoe, there is perhaps a special reason why canning is such a joyful activity.  Zoe has many food allergies, including to such basic foods as wheat, milk and egg.  As a result, cooking can be a touchy subject.  My husband and I had to tell Zoe that she could not participate in the cooking activity at her day camp this summer, and last spring, when her Hebrew school class learned how to make matzo, Zoe and I stood in the back of the room, away from all the flying flour, watching sadly while the other kindergartners pounded and pressed the sticky dough.  But canning is an activity that perfectly safe for Zoe.  And the results are delicious, even on wheat-free bread. 

As I mentioned, this is the first summer that Zoe and I have canned fruit and vegetables, so I don’t know how it will feel in December to give away a jar of our homemade pickles, or crack open a jar of our homemade jam.  I am hopeful, though, that, in the dark days of winter it will help us feel closer to the warmth and abundance of summer, much as it must have for Sal and her mother.

CAA ContributorEmily Paster is a passionate home cook and novice canner who lives outside of Chicago with her husband and two children.

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