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Canning is communal

I learned to can from my grandmother. She was an amazing woman who could do anything with her hands. I remember preserving food was always a group effort with my mother involved and sometimes my great aunties. One person would prep the food, while another stuffed the jars and someone else would run the pressure canner or water bath canner and check the timer. This process is as old as time itself. We have been collecting and storing food as a community to survive the winter for centuries. 

Traditionally, food preservation was done by women but an odd thing for me was my grandfather helping. So to see him do what even he referred to as “women’s work” taught me the importance of how precious food is, especially good food. He would sit outside on the patio and snap green beans to the exact measurement my grandmother wanted: 1 inch. Or about as long as the tip of your thumb to the first knuckle. And he snapped beans happily. Grandpa was one of the oldest of 10 kids during The Depression and if those kids didn't kill it, they didn't eat. He knew what hunger was and hunted and fished until his arthritic knees wouldn't allow him to do so anymore. He didn't even like to eat fish much, but hunger is a strong, lifelong motivator. So, he gladly helped my grandmother prep outside, never inside and definitely never in the kitchen. They had very defined traditional roles.

When I teach canning or other food preservation classes I do my best to capture the moment the first time a student fills and seals a jar. It's always the same expression for everyone and it triggers a very old memory in our caveperson brains: survival and hope for the future. Canning is a leveler and a joyful process too. Leveler meaning it's an equal hierarchy. No one person is better than or greater than when it comes to food preservation. We all need to eat. And joyful because it’s a fantastic feeling of accomplishment when popping open that jar of food, preserved by your own hand and sharing the deliciousness with loved ones.

I hope you all have a very successful and joyful season preserving food and would love to hear about your successes and oopsies. Happy Canning!

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