Commonplace Book: M.F.K. Fisher on canning

canningWith us, for the first years of my life, there was a series, every summer, of short but violently active canning.  Crates and baskets and lug-boxes of fruits bought in their prime and at their cheapest would lie waiting with opulent fragrance on the screened porch, and a whole battery of enameled pots and ladles and wide-mouthed funnels would appear from some dark cupboard.

All I knew about the actual procedure was that we had delightful picnic meals while Grandmother and Mother and the cook worked with a kind of drugged concentration in our big dark kitchen, and were tired and cross and at the same time oddly triumphant in their race against summer heat and the processes of rot.


In spite of any Late Victorian asceticism, though, the hot kitchen sent out tantalizing clouds, and the fruit on the porch lay rotting in its crates, or readied for the pots and the wooden spoons, in fair glowing piles upon the juice-stained tables.  Grandmother, saving always, stood like a sacrificial priestess in the steam, “skimming” into a thick saucer, and I, sometimes permitted and more often not, put my finger into the cooling froth and licked it.  Warm and sweet and odorous.  I loved it, then.

From “The Measure of My Powers” (1912) in The Gastronomical Me

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