Every summer when I start to can my vegetables, I have so many wonderful memories. Why I can hear Momma right now standing at the bottom of the steps to the upstairs calling, "Sister, Bootsie get up and get dressed in old clothes we are canning today." We knew the order of business. We got out the work clothes she saved for us to wear and went downstairs to the kitchen. The wood stove would be rolling to heat the water in the tank behind the stove. Breakfast would be cooked, we would eat and start the cleaning. All of the dishes were washed, dried and put away. The sinks and drain boards were scoured with scouring powder, followed with lots of clean water.
Sister, began filling the sink with hot water, Momma and I would go to the basement to get the jars and lids. The jars would be washed in water as hot as we could get it, for today, we canning in the pressure canner. The jars were set on the drain board and the soapy water drained from the sink. In comes Momma with a bucket of tomatoes. Each one was looked at, if the stem was on it the stem would be pulled off and put very carefully in the sink. All of the good tomatoes were placed in the sink. You do not want to bruise any of the tomatoes. The sink was filled with water and the tomatoes were washed. We had a double sink so we could put them in the other sink after they were washed and the bottom was cut in two directions making a X.
Momma was putting a big pan of water on the stove to heat to a boil, the pressure canner was put on the stove with water in the bottom of it. I was being told to stay out of the way with all of the hot water being handled in the kitchen. When the pot of water started boiling it was poured over the tomatoes in the sink and allowed to sit for a few minutes, then the drain plug was pulled and the water went down the drain. Drain plug replaced and cold water put on the tomatoes.
Momma took the clean jars and placed the rubber on the neck of the jar. We did not can with 2 piece lids, we used the zinc lids and jar rubbers. She would have to stretch the rubber to get it on the jar. There were 7 jars with rubbers on them we were ready to fill them.
Momma fixed a pan with more cold water and put the kitchen stool by the drain board. Up on the kitchen stool I went and started skinning tomatoes and packing them into the jar. As I emptied the pan Momma would put more tomatoes in it as these were cooler than the ones in the sink my sister was working with. In no time at all the jars were filled. My sister would take a dish rag and wash off the outside of every jar. My, how pretty the jars looked with the tomatoes in them all lined up shiny and clean.
My kitchen stool was moved to where the jars were on the table which was close to the stove and I was handed a teaspoon and a bowl of salt. One teaspoon in every jar and this was followed by one tablespoon of sugar. The tops of the jars were wiped one more time and Momma began placing the lids on them. The wood stove needed more wood to vent and cook the tomatoes to pressure. So, Momma began adding the wood, putting the jars in the canner and moving my stool to sit in front of the canner.
Momma's canner had a band that was screwed the top on and yes, it could blow the top off. The thing was a little scary as we were always reminded to watch the pressure and be sure it stayed in the correct area. We told the story each summer about the lady who went outside for a few minutes and the top of the canner came through her roof before she returned inside. I really do wonder if this was one of Momma's tall tales or if it happened. But it worked, we never wandered off and left the canner.
We processed the tomatoes at 5 pounds of pressure for 10 minutes. and then we would wait for the pressure to drop, unscrew the vent, open the canner, take the jars out and Momma would finish the seal.
We canned a lot of vegetables and Momma was very proud of everything we put away. I really do miss the days when we all canned together. I started helping when I was small and have always canned. Momma's gift to me was my blue water bath and my pressure canner. The newest type on the market. My sister would not pressure can because she was afraid of the canner. I would do her pressure canning and it was always fun to spend a day with her.
When my sister moved to a senior facility, I cleaned out her house. What a treasure I found. Momma's canning books for so many years as she always purchased a book every year to learn what changes were made. But my greatest treasure of all was the Kerr book folded open to the page which had the instructions of how many pounds of pressure and for how long to process for tomatoes. It bought tears to my eyes, for there was Momma standing in front of the wood stove, wiping sweat off her brow with the apron bottom and checking, one more time, 5 pounds and 10 minutes.
Lunch time, Bootsie.
What do you want for lunch?
A bowl of canned tomatoes and a roll.
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