The other day I was busy in the kitchen making MORE blueberry jam....26 jars of it!
As I was doing so, I found myself listening for the little "POP" of the jars as they cooled. It is such a satisfying sound. Lots of hard work goes into the jam and with each pop, I'd smile. I didn't even know I was counting the jars but with each "pop" I would know just how many were left to seal.
As I was working away, I got to thinking about how I wish I had learned canning from my parents. They were wonderful cooks but took forever to explain something (can you say circumlocution?) and I have a bit of a focus issue (just look at how many crafts I do and you'll know its true!) As it was, they'd start explaining and I'd go "yeah, yeah, got it...." and move on. Foolish but I've always been a little quick on the draw.
Thinking of that led from one thought.... to another....to another. Soon enough, I was thinking back to my parents' specialty canned goods. Daddy always made pear preserves using sand pears...a hard pear used in canning. We put them on pancakes, over ice cream....so good, even straight out of the jar.
But as good as daddy's pears were, momma's specialty beat his. Mother always made pickles. No one could compete with her pickles....they were FAMOUS. Seriously y'all. Coveted is a word we used in discussing these pickles. They were THAT good.
Momma perfected a dill pickle recipe over several years. She took it from a basic dill pickle to a garlic-infused spicy but not TOO spicy pickle for which people clamored. EVERYONE wanted them. People wanted to buy them but she refused. Instead, she hid them away and used them as Christmas gifts.
As the years went by and we all moved out and into households of our own, we couldn't WAIT for the pickle jars at Christmas. I was the pickle maniac in the household (to my detriment as a child) and momma always gave me more jars than anyone else. She made no bones about it. I got more. Period. She even let me have jars IN BETWEEN holidays! (Thank you momma!)
These pickles were such a hit that she had to create a pickle list. On that list were names of friends and family that would get pickles for Christmas. This helped her know how much to buy to make enough jars for everyone. But you didn't want to piss her off.....God help you if you did because she would STRIKE YOUR NAME OFF THE PICKLE LIST!
No lie. Momma was quite spunky and she would take you off that pickle list in a heartbeat. Then you'd have to earn your way back on it for the next year! The horrors!
When momma got older and stopping pickling, we would raid the pantry looking for a lost jar...she hid them all the time and sometimes would lose them (yay!) Sadly, we eventually quit finding them. By now, momma was in a nursing home and her pickles became the thing of legend.
Working in the kitchen brought all that back in a flood of tears and memories and more tears. Daddy's pears, momma's pickles...but mostly love. That is the way Southerner's show their love for you. In their food. And, in the hard work of cleaning and prepping and cooking on a hot summer day in a hot kitchen.
All the while, listening for the pop, pop, pop as one more jar seals...and smiling when it does.