When I was about 10 or 11 years old, my family moved from town to a 20 acre plot of land with a big, old farmhouse on it. The selling point was not so much the house, which needed some work, but that it had a large yard and more importantly, a huge garden space. As my Mother's arthritis continued to wreck her body, the medical bills continued to grow accordingly, and it became more important to garden as a way to feed our family without the outlay of so much cash. In Minnesota, getting through the cold winters is a priority.
As Mother became more ill, she could no longer do the canning as she had in the past, so as the oldest child it fell to me to help her. About the time we moved to what we called 'the farm,' I learned how to can vegetables and fruit and how to properly freeze some of the garden's bounty. At the time I complained bitterly about having to spend so much time working when I would rather have been playing, but in later years I was grateful to have learned those skills for they were used to keep my own family fed.
We canned the standard vegetables along with dill and sweet pickles and several kinds of relish. We froze the garden fruits of strawberries, raspberries and rhubarb. In addition, Dad brought home cases of peaches, pears, apricots and cherries. Some of these we canned in a sugar syrup to be used as a dessert sauce. Some we froze to use in various recipes like peach cobbler, or to use over ice cream as a treat. And some of the fruit from the store as well as from the garden went to make jams.
The cellar had a large bin for potatoes, and another where we kept squash. We canned half the carrots and stored the rest in a third bin, to be eaten raw.
There was a small apple orchard just southwest of the house. It was an old orchard and some of the trees no longer produced fruit, but there were enough apples in the fall to make lots of jars of applesauce. And there was one crab apple tree that had the best tasting crab apples I have ever tasted. We ate many of those fresh from the tree and we used many of the smaller ones to make crab apple pickles.
When we had as many jars of canned fruit on the basement shelves as we needed, we started making pies, using peaches and apples. We kept a stack of those foil pie tins and used them for the freezer pies. We made the pies the same as we would if we were going to bake them, wrapped them in tin foil and stacked them in the freezer. I don't know how many pies we made each fall, but I do know there were at least two stacks of each kind in the freezer when we were finished, just waiting to be baked for a dessert treat or for when company came for supper.
We didn't can meat back then. I don't know why, but I never heard of anyone doing so. We bought chickens from a farm neighbor. Dad had a small field on the property and the neighbor rented it to plant corn or soybeans and paid with beef he raised on his farm. I think we got the better of that deal.
Food preservation wasn't just a trendy thing to do as it seems to be now. It was a way of life. It was the means by which you fed your family. I fear that these skills will be lost. I do hope that enough people will learn them for a time when we may need them to survive.
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