It’s hard to believe the idea of canning fruits and vegetables came from Napoleon Bonaparte.
Yes, it’s true. With concerns looming as to how to feed the troops in eighteenth-century France in the winter, Napoleon offered a reward to anyone who could come up with a way to preserve food without spoiling. The French modeled canning ideas after winemaking and the rest is history.
As for me, I don’t think of Napoleon and canning. Grandmas in white-winged aprons and front porch swings come to mind. I imagine rows of lovely labeled jars holding sweet memories and delicious treasures of the season. Canning brings up the dreamy and wonderful, but not for me. It is reserved for people who have actual grandmas, sharing long-held heirloom recipes passed down for generations.
I never knew my grandparents; they had all passed away by the time I was born. Friends would speak of going to their grandparent’s home or taking vacations with grandparents. For me, it felt like an empty void. The legacy of my grandparents would never be something I knew personally.
Standing in the grocery store many summers ago, I saw a beautiful canning magazine. Usually, I would look at those glossy covers and take a deep sigh. Instead, I bought the canning magazine and decided I would learn. After so many years of homeschooling, I knew I could learn literally anything, even canning.
That summer I was on a canning mission. My mom, my son, and I spent hours in the kitchen preserving tomatoes and every imaginable jam. We made strawberry jam, peach jam, blackberry jam, and apple butter. I learned how to freeze and preserve corn and sun-dried tomatoes. Those long days in the summer gave way to a sweet satisfaction of rows of bright-colored jars and the fruits of our labor.
I felt like I had reclaimed something. Canning felt like a nurturing thing to do, both for my family and myself, but I think it was more than that. There is something completely surprising about opening up a jar of jam that was made on a gorgeous summer day. For me, enjoying summer corn in January reminded me that splendor is always available if I only take the time to choose it.
Since that first summer, I have canned on and off as time and interest allows. My mom has gone on to heaven and I have lost my canning buddy. From the first canning season, I saved one jar of peaches we preserved together. Honestly, there is something in me that can't bear to part with it. I guess I like knowing that a little bit of that sweet memory will always be there if only to remind me when I see it.
What About You? What Is Something You Can Savor or Reclaim This Summer?
As summer reaches its peak, what do you need to capture? Maybe canning isn't your thing or you don't like a good sun-soaked peach (said no one ever). But there is always something good to preserve and reclaim in each of us that will definitely sustain us in the days ahead.
Summer is the perfect season to preserve and reclaim something good
to sustain our hearts for the days ahead.
PS If you are interested in learning about canning, check out my favorite website, Food in Jars. I spent countless hours on this site reading, asking questions, and checking out neat recipes. It is a canning treasure for both the experienced and the novice alike.
Note: This article was adapted from a post that appeared originally as "Summer Splendor" and Nurture Your Soul Devotion Series from the Classical Conversations Writer's Circle Website.