Molly Fisk: You Say Tom-AY-to

4904261150_2b260c8a17_zPhoto by Chiot’s Run via Flickr (Creative Commons License)

I saw a photo today that made me crack up. It shows a sidewalk chalkboard, the kind restaurants sometimes use, which reads: How to cope with the end of tomato season:

1. denial
2. anger
3. bargaining
4. grief
5. in big red letters, “CANNING!!”

Using Elisabeth Kubler-Ross’s stages of grief is part of what makes it funny, but the reality of the sentiment is also hilarious. I don’t know about you, but everyone in my town right now is harvesting things and canning them, or freezing or drying or pressing, etc. It seems every single person in the county has a garden this year, PLUS there are small farms springing up on every street corner, to supply farmer’s markets on Saturday, Tuesday morning AND Thursday night. Goat milk is everywhere. When I asked on Facebook what methods people liked for drying pears, of which I have a plenitude, no fewer than four loans of dehydrators were offered to me.

During World War II, Americans were encouraged to grow their own food in “Victory Gardens,” the idea being that factories and laborers who usually made food could turn their efforts to munitions instead, and the war might more easily be won. Back then, a lot of people grew their food already, or were only half a generation away from having grown it, so it wasn’t much of a leap. Nowadays, though, many  have forgotten how to do things our grandparents knew cold. I can cook and bake from scratch, having been raised in the hippie era. I regularly make jam and fruit preserves, but I have no idea what to do with vegetables other than freeze them. How to can food using the water-bath method is a mystery to me, and I’m a little nervous about it because I’ve read so many pioneer novels where people are killed by botulism from poorly-canned food. I love giving home-made edibles for Christmas, but not if they’re poisonous.

The other thing I noticed zipping around the net was a wry motto: “Knitting! Not just a hobby, but a post-apocalyptic survival skill. . .” This made my stomach hurt, touching, as it does, my new deep-seated fear that whatever the cause may be — global warming, the revolution against corporate power, or World War III — we’re going to be living very differently ten years from now, or maybe two years from now.

Part of my coping strategy is to put this fear aside, so let’s go back to tomatoes. Since I didn’t grow any, I’m going to buy them at the farmer’s market. I’ll slow-roast some, which don’t get saved but are eaten immediately, and make sauce out of the rest. A friend’s coming over to teach me how to can. In the winter, when I open the mason jars to use the sauce, if I boil it for ten minutes, apparently the botulism toxin is vanquished. I hope it works.

I promise, I’ll test this out on myself before I invite you for dinner!

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  • Peggy November 21, 2015 at 9:05 am

    Good luck with your canning lessons. We’ve been eating home canned tomatoes for years. Leave the lid off of the pan when do the 10 minute boil so the “bad beasties” can escape.