The Sweet Art of Preserving
I have fond memories of September afternoons. I would walk home from school and find my mother, grandmother, and aunts sitting around tables in the back garden with baskets and buckets full of garden spoils. My grandmother would slip me a slice of the peach she was dicing or spoonful of stewed tomatoes. I would take off my backpack and grab my apron and join the fray.
There were always lots of jobs to help in the canning process. Moving up in age was much like moving up in rank. I started as a produce washer. I would wash buckets of pears, tomatoes, green beans, peaches, apricots, and apples. As I got older I would help fill jars with water and sugar—stirring until certain all the sugar had dissolved and be the one to check to make sure the lids had sealed before taking the rings off. Around the age of ten, I was given a paring knife and my own tray of produce to peel and prepare. Joining in with this circle of women whose knowledge and collective strength still inspires me.
It seemed that that the months from August to October were filled with regular canning sessions as each harvest reached its zenith. Apricots are the earliest. Green beans were a favorite—done in small batches as we harvest them each week during the summer and all they need is snipping and snapping and a dash of salt. Tomatoes are messy but nothing can beat them; diced or stewed. Peaches and pears had a hard time making it into the jar—one slice for me, one for the jar. Apples were last, waiting for the autumn frost, but warm homemade applesauce made winter mornings bearable.
Those memories are distinctly sweet to me despite the sticky floors and fruit flies. Home canning is certainly becoming a lost art; one more thing that is becoming resigned to the past. But really this post isn’t really about canning—its about preserving. What in life is worth preserving? I have been thinking about this question for several weeks now and there are a few things that are worth the effort of keeping and preserving for future generations.
Food is love and recipes are one way in which love passes through generations. Whether it is a special holiday recipe or a certain way of making raspberry jam, I think that taste is a powerful reminder of people, places, and happy days. I love seeing my mother's and grandmother's handwriting on old recipe cards. The best loved recipes are stained with use; a leftover dollop of butter or a sprinkling of sugar.
Alongside the recipes are the dishes that we use to serve them in. My grandmother was a connoisseur of beautiful dishes. There were a set of dishes for each holiday. The apple dishes at Thanksgiving and the florals at Easter. I learned to love setting a table and having special dishes made the holiday feel different from the everyday. Every time the dishes come out, the happy memories emerge in fragments and daydreams. Stories begin with "Remember that Christmas when...?" Try adding one of these special dishes for birthdays or holidays into the mix at your house and see how they inspire memories.
Stories & Memories:
If food is love, then stories are the thread that holds families together through decades of living. There are many different ways to preserve the memories that make up our lives. How do we record the people we meet, the experiences we have, and the places we go? Photographs are one of the ways that we can capture a moment. I love seeing the photos of my parents and grandparents as children or in the early days of their marriages. It is a version of them that I am familiar with while yet seeming a stranger.
Taking a photo is so easy now, but it seems that we have a hard time getting the photos from our phones to some place where we can enjoy them. We have this frame that I love because it makes changing a photo in and out so easy. We also have these lovely Italian gilded frames that are so simple and stunning.
When I take the photos out of the frame, I like to put them right into a photo album. My personal favorite is this rustic leather photo album; it is sort of cathartic to place the photo corners and each photo and write a little about the memory. Each captured moment is a story that is worth remembering and they are not all rosy moments; sometimes the important ones are the moments when your world was in chaos. Keeping a journal is another way to keep the stories alive. My relationship with journaling is a bit like a roller coaster. Some years I am really good at it, recording memories and stories multiple times a week. Other years, a single journal entry is all that I write; but some stories are just too important to be forgotten.
By heirlooms, I mean the ephemera: the physical manifestations of your history. The objects, imbued with meaning and sentiment, that will pass down through the generations. Some are the ones for which you are just a passing vessel. My engagement ring belonged to my husband's grandmother. My wedding ring originally belonged to my great-grandmother from her own wedding in 1917. For both of these, I am humbly honored to share their history and hope to continue to pass it on.
However, one of the things that we here at Heirloom Art Co. have found to be important, is investing in the things that will become the heirlooms that you will pass down. Objects, while rarely inherently meaningful on their own, become attached to the memories of your daily life. What things do you have or want in your home that your children will remember being special? Perhaps its a painting that they see everyday in your hallway? Is it a Japanese or Scottish wool blanket because your ancestors came from those places? Is it a silly walnut dish for surprises or cookie jar shaped like a mushroom? Or perhaps it is a beautiful copy of your favorite book?
To see some of our favorite heirlooms and things that help us keep memories and stories alive, shop this collection.
Instructions for Homemade Applesauce
All apples have a different sweetness, so the type of apple you use will change the amount of sugar you will want. Also this is not a smooth applesauce, it has larger pieces of apple in it.
peel and cut apples into bite sized pieces.
place in a pot of water, just enough water to cover the tops of the apples
bring to a boil then simmer and stir until apples turn clear
add a dash of salt
add sugar to taste (a good reference number to start with 1/4 c. per 10 apples)
add teaspoon of vanilla (per 10 apples)
add cinnamon to taste ( I like lots of cinnamon and usually do 2-4 teaspoons)
add nutmeg to taste
optional: add a little freshly grated ginger for a kick