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.
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.