The Conservo

My mom would be belly laughing out loud if she knew that once again gardening and preserving produce was the rage.  She grew up during the Depression and since we lived in the rural Midwest, and lived off the land….. gardening and preserving was not a fad. It was just what you did to feed your family.

I can still picture Mom standing in a hot, steamy, kitchen.  Washing tomatoes, blanching, peeling, using a colander and wooden pestle to mash the tomatoes into juice and ketchup.

colander and wooden pestle

No food processors made the job easy, no microwaves to speed things up a bit, no air-conditioners or even fans cooled the house while you worked.  If you were lucky there was a breeze blowing through the kitchen window or the back screen door.   Sometimes she would shed her house dress and wear just a slip with an apron.  My job was to make sure no one came to the door and caught her unaware.

During the depression, most women, used big open tubs or kettles, or smaller pots to can their produce.  The heat from the constant boiling water was oppressive and it was no doubt a tough job.   My Mom was lucky enough to share a Conservo with her three sisters.

The Conservo steam canner was made of heavy tin and was a simple tool out for home canning. It was designed to fit over one single burner of any type of range, gas, oil, coal or wood. The copper bottom held several quarts of water to provide steam. It was so well insulated that only the slightest heat escaped into the kitchen.

Better yet, you could process 16 quart jars or 32 pint jars at the same time!  That was a vast improvement on the smaller kettles or canning pots that most women were used to.   It amazes me that not only garden produce but meats of all kinds were also processed and preserved this way.  I guess I understand a little bit better now why my Mom was so excited when we bought our first freezer.  No longer would she have to “can” everything.  The freezer made life so much easier.

Yeah, I think she would be laughing now watching us all get excited about making our own pasta sauce from (gasp!) home grown tomatoes.   She longed for the day when she could afford to go to the grocery store and buy “store-bought” spaghetti sauce.

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About Life in the 50's and beyond...

Welcome to Life in the 50's and 60's and beyond .... where I write about my childhood memories, music of the 60's and about life in the country. I am a mother, grandmother, farmer's wife, business owner, and retired teacher.
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8 Responses to The Conservo

  1. My maternal grandmother had a conservo. She did the canning for both her daughters families too. They never thoght twice did they?

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  2. Never heard of a Conservo…but, have seen many a jar of preserved veggies and fruits…The steaming in a big pot was my Mom’s way…I’ve resorted to making a few things…but, it’s usually far and few between the urge… Pickles… jelly… mainly…
    I am glad to see people coming back to such things…I would hate for these skills to be lost…mkg

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  3. My mother didn’t can; she did a lot of freezing (corn and strawberries mainly), but my husband’s parents did a lot of canning. I’m kind of clueless about the process, but my husband does know how to cold-pack peppers, strawberry jam, salsa. I think that’s what he calls it.

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  4. My mom laughs too, then agrees that it is healthier and still cheaper to do it this way. So, the hard way it is. It makes me feel good too – a sense of accomplishment.

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