Is the art of old-time food processing a dying one

Published 9:42 am Tuesday, August 14, 2018



If anyone has been around in the last 50 to 60 years, there has been plenty of opportunity to have witnessed or participated in processing fresh fruits and vegetables for enjoying when the snow is blowing and the temperatures have dropped in the dead months of winter.

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But as time has come and gone, there is the great dread that food processing is quickly evaporating like sands in the hourglass as those who have participated in the art in years past are slowly leaving the realm of life and the younger generation has a hard time of getting their hands dirty in the art.

Many parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents can spin tales of how they have lent a hand to canning beans, pickles, tomato juice, beets, jams and jellies or spent countless hours peeling apples and cutting off corn to store in the freezer.

For many families, the art has turned into a way of getting together and working for the same goal of having fresh-flavored food to place before their family to provide sustainability.

Obviously for most today, the fact time has seemed to gotten shorter even though there are still 60 minutes in an hour and 24 hours in a day, has left any time to spend on processing freshly grown produce to meet the changing demands of life.

However, there are still small bands of those die-hard canners and preservers that yearn to continue on with the old-time traditions handed to them by their forefathers.

There is nothing like time sitting around a table with family stringing and breaking fresh green beans that will find their way to a good washing before being blanched and placed in a canning jar that has a teaspoon of canning salt awaiting in the bottom.

The beans are then packed down and hot water from the blanch is poured over the entire jar until it is level with the rim of the jar.

A new lid is placed over the jar and the ring of the jar is tightened hand-tight and placed in a pressure cooker along with six other quart jars. The cooker will then be put under 15 pounds of pressure for 20 minutes once the jiggler starts dancing on top of the pot.

After cooling, the beans are set out on a towel to cool further and the process begins once again.

It’s not always about the canning in this scenario as often family who haven’t had time to talk, use this as a prime opportunity to do some catching up.

Jack Gouge recently spent time putting up fresh peach preserves that he  had spent about a three-hour round trip to the area of Campbell and Chesnee, S.C., to pick up six bushels of peaches for his family.

“Yeah, there is nothing better than cracking open a fresh jar of peach jam and spreading it over a hot biscuit out of the oven,” said the retired gentleman with a spark in his eye and a chuckle in his tone.

“It definitely takes time to put food up, but you just can’t beat the taste. It’s definitely much different taste-wise than what you get in a grocery store.”

There are many more out there like Gouge who are willing to sacrifice a few days of time to fill up their pantry shelves with food that will carry their family through the winter.

For those who would like to see how their family existed years and years ago, the best way is to find someone participating in food processing, roll their sleeves up, get their hands messed up, and ask as many questions as possible to gain insight into the art.

While others bemoan losing out on old traditions, there is still time to learn canning and food processing and with a little luck, the proper technique can be learned and passed down a few more generations to come while enjoying the fruits of one’s labor.