09 November 2008


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We picked a lot of apples last Sunday afternoon. We remembered the time change and were still surprised by the low sun in the grey colding sky, patchy blue with bits of ragged cloud and leaves falling, leaves. Bare limbs and boughs, harbingers of mortality, home before dark.
Apple smell in the garage all week, sweetening. Friday night Meaghen and the girls went out and Henry and I made applesauce and put it in jars and on Christmas we'll pop a lid and all that summer growing will pour out and cover a pork chop or turkey leg and maybe we'll sprinkle a little cinnamon on it and eat it for breakfast, too. Canning all Friday night with Henry is why we don't watch television.
A big bag of apples - an old 50 lb rice sack full - bulging and tipping nearly. We dumped them into the sink and there they bobbed until cored and quartered, tossed into the largest sauce pot - the canning pot already claimed, of course. They cooked and stewed and softened, and when soft enough we put them into the old garage-sale chinois with a solid cherry pestle, Henry pushing round and round, the slow ooze of sauce seeping through, hitting stride as the pot fills and fills, warm apple rising fragrant in the kitchen steam. Then pint by pint and quart after quart, filling, sealing and boiling, pulling them out with tongs and resting hot jars on the dining room tablecloth, a chessboard of pink jars.
I loved canning as a kid, and still do; it's always a slightly monumental task to look at a few bushels of apples and imagine them all in jars. The bulk diminishes slowly, and every window is fogged; the world beyond the kitchen fades, and jar by jar we transform a season of growing - from blossoms to frost - into food, nourishing soul, body, family.


  1. A beautiful post! I love to can as well but have been freezing my applesauce so far this year. When you can, you really feel like you have accomplished something--so different from all the virtual work many of us do.

  2. Mary, I agree - windows covered in steam and the sweet popping sound of seals being formed on canning jars assure me that non-virtual work still has a place in a day's work. Thanks for writing.

  3. Canning is the best! We make Granny's Killer Dillers (mil's recipe), many jars of varietal tomato sauces, salsa, etc. Our son also cans-unusual for here in the SF Bay area! - mary-anne