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Every summer & fall was canning season at my house. We grew a large garden & got regular fruit deliveries from my grandparent’s orchard. Spaghetti sauce & applesauce were big production events.
In case you’ve never attempted canning before, let me paint the picture for you. Canning spaghetti sauce in the summer starts with rototilling the garden in the spring. Then came rock picking. No matter how many times we pulled rocks out of the garden, they seemed to reappear the next spring. Had to be those darned garden fairies- or maybe garden trolls! Grrr.
FOR PREPARING THE GARDEN SOIL:
Some things we planted from seeds & others, like tomatoes, we usually got or made starter plants for. How do you make a starter plant? My maternal grandmother was well known for this. She saved seeds from each years harvest & in the early spring she started the seeds in small amounts of soil (usually in cups or egg cartons) in her window sills. When they got 4 inches high or so they were transferred to the garden. This allowed her to get the plants started while it was still too cold to plant outside- & I imagine gave her a longer harvesting season as well. I think we usually bought starter plants at a local market. Mom just didn’t have the time to do the starters herself.
Gardens need to be watered every day or so & ladybugs + other beetles need to be picked off the plants. Some years we dusted the plants with lime (I think) to keep the insects off, other years we went over each plant meticulously & picked them off. I remember being grossed out by this & my grandmother telling me not to make a big deal about it!
You have to pick the tomatoes & start your canning before they become too ripe. If you leave them on the plant for too long they will drop off & begin to rot on the ground. Typically when fruit hits the ground it becomes bruised & either has to have that part cut out or is more than likely no longer good for use. So- that meant keeping a good eye on the garden & making sure that we got the fruit & veggies when they were ready. You couldn’t wait until you felt like it or had a free day to work on it. You had to get & can the fruits of your labors when the plant was ready to deliver them. That sometimes meant hard work in the garden when I wanted to be watching a TV program or climbing a tree & I have to say that it was good for me. Later in life such discipline meant good grades & success in a number of fields.
So- when you want to make spaghetti sauce, you pick the tomatoes, spend some time washing them off & we typically cut them into quarters after cutting out the spot where the stem connected to the vine. (The vines will continue to produce after several pickings; so don’t break the vine off- just pick the tomatoes gently.). Then my mom boiled great vats of tomatoes with a little bit of water. This softened the tomatoes & helped the skins to peal away easily. (You can use soup pots for boiling the tomatoes or the Granite Ware canning pot that you’d use for water bath canning.)
THE EXPLODING PART…
Once the tomatoes had boiled for a little while, my mom poured the kettle of steamed tomatoes into the top of an hand-crank food strainer. This is a device that clamps to your countertop. It has a funnel on the top that the boiled tomatoes or apples go into & a crank that pushes the fruit through a screen separating the sauce from the skins. Nobody minded picking, washing, quartering or boiling the tomatoes, but cranking the machine was alternatively boring/abhorred & fascinating. I actually didn’t mind it at times… Everybody had to take a turn though so that no one got too tired.
My dad really DID NOT LIKE this job & one day he decided that there had to be a faster way. Apparently, he had disassembled & attached the motor of an electric screwdriver to my wind up swing when I was a baby &, while he wore out several drills keeping me swinging- the project did prove successful. He decided that he’d do the same thing for the food strainer!
It did work. For a moment or two, the sauce flew through the machine. Without a lid on the top of the funnel however, it also blew the tomatoes ALL. OVER. THE. CEILING. He was promptly banished from the kitchen- & never asked to help with THAT again. Lol. That may have been his design in the first place! At any rate, we learned that some things just have to go at a slower pace & be enjoyed.
What’s there to enjoy about standing around hand-cranking dozens of jars of spaghetti sauce? It’s a great backdrop for many a mother/daughter/grandmother talk. There were stories to tell & memories to make. I wouldn’t have had it any other way.
You might ask the same thing about hand quilting, hand sewing or embroidery work. We have machines that can do it faster today. Why waste time doing that? As women, I think we have a unique ability to enjoy the process of making something by making memories together. We can fruits & veggies together, have sewing or quilting bees, get together for moving & packing parties & find all sorts of ways to go through something that could be time consuming and tedious and make it fun & memorable instead. So go ahead & pick up something old fashioned. It’s always a good time to make a memory!
If you’re interested in canning- below are some recommended products & books to help you on your way. I am an Amazon Affiliate; so if you purchase any of these products through my link I will get a small commission off the sale.