My mother worked and, therefore, had little time available for teaching her daughter to do such womanly tasks as how to “can” food for the winter. But I really didn’t know what I was missing until I got married. That’s when I met Nana.
“The most important step”, Nana said, “is selecting the right peaches. They need to be sweet, and they need to be cling-free or freestones.”
“Why?” I asked.
Nana’s smile signaled her understanding of my inexperience. “Well, dear one” (she always called me ‘dear one‘), “it’s because the pits are easier to separate from the cling-free peaches.”
I thought, how hard can it be? But I found out that there was more to it then I thought.
My husband’s grandmother was a gardener, and growing her own fruits and vegetables to preserve for winter was her passion. She taught me everything she knew about “putting up“ food “for the cold months ahead“, starting with peaches.
The day arrived for my first lesson, and when I entered Nana’s kitchen, I was shocked! Boxes of peaches covered the counter tops, the kitchen table was full of jars and lids, and there was more sugar there than I’d ever seen before. And on the stove was this thing Nana called a ‘Water Bath Canner’. It was larger and deeper than an ordinary pot and inside was a rack for lifting out the hot jars.
I barely had time to take it all in before Nana handed me an apron and we began to work. We placed the peaches in pots of boiling water for 30-60 seconds, followed by a cold water bath for about two minutes. This procedure prepared the fruit so we could peel off the skin with ease. We continued by cutting them in half and removing their pits. That was the job Nana gave me to do.
“You are such a blessing to my arthritic hands, dear one.”
We packed the sterilized jars with the fruit slices and covered them with boiling sugar syrup; the trapped air bubbles were released by running a table knife gently between the peaches and the jar; then the lid was firmly and evenly tightened - but -
“Not TOO tight”.
The jars were cooked for 20-25 minutes, and then allowed to cool overnight. The next day, we tapped each lid to be sure it had “popped”. This proved that the jars were tightly sealed and had processed correctly. According to Nana, that was how perfect canned peaches were created.
Years after she died and long after I stopped canning (it wasn’t the same without her), I heard a sermon entitled, “Fruit-filled Jars“. It brought back joyful memories of us canning together, and it also evoked a spiritual image of peaches I never would have imagined.
I don’t remember word for word what was said, but the gist of the pastor’s discourse involved comparing the process of preserving peaches to the process God used to create fruitful Christians.
First, God would choose special ones that were ripe and ready for His helping hand. Then He would set about peeling away the outer skin of their former selves, removing the pits of sin from their hearts, and surrounding them with the sweetness of our Lord’s perfect love.
Some difficult steps were part of the process, too, like walking in sin through boiling water, or taking cold water baths to have faith in Him restored, and cooling off periods of time to repent and be reinstated by His grace. This part of the preparation was how God sealed the Holy Spirit inside.
Nana and God had similar methods for filling jars with fruit. But as I learned from that Sunday morning service, the end result of canning peaches Nana’s way, was a labor of love that was completed overnight; while God’s way of preparing fruit-filled believers, was a lifetime labor of love that was never complete.
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