Six Generations of Home Canning

Our six generations of canning began in the early 1900’s with my great grandmother LeFevre. (Seen in the photo above with my mother and me in 1947.) The mother of twelve children, Grandma was also busy with growing a garden and home canning. Her son, Marion, proudly once declared in an interview, “She canned everything.” The tradition has passed down six generations and is truly enjoyed by Elliewellie . (And is clearly evidenced by the photo of her with her shelves of preserves and the wall above displaying utensils used by her great grandmother O’Keefe.)

My memories of canning go back to the 1950’s. Acquiring fruit was a major event. On a Saturday morning, a picnic lunch for the seven of us was packed in the basket. With dad’s wallet full of cash (there were no credit cards and out-of-town checks were not accepted), we all stuffed into the Plymouth Station Wagon, leaving the third seat open for bushels of fruit. Back then, children were allowed to sit on the bench seat in the front of the car, so we fit perfectly for the three hundred mile round trip from Seattle to Yakima on I 90, or to Tiny’s Fruit Stand in Cashmere, Washington on Highway 2. (Decades later memories of this flooded my mind as my husband and I were driving down a canyon in Utah and saw a sign nailed to a tree, ” TINY’S Fruit of Cashmere, Washington . “)

Once there, we would stop at several different fruit stands for my parents to compare prices and quality. By the time we completed our purchases, it was time to find a park and eat our picnic lunch.

After our trips to Yakima, we always looked forward to stopping at a certain drive- in on the return trip in North Bend where they served soft chocolate dipped ice cream cones. It was the only time we ever had an opportunity to enjoy this treat. To this day, if I hear about dipped cones, I think of those fruit purchasing trips with my family.

The day after we secured our fruit, the work began . We would assemble around the kitchen table to process the fruit using the cold pack water bath method. How beautiful those bottles were lined up on shelves in the “fruit room” in the basement. We enjoyed them all winter.

After I was married, my sisters and I canned together. But Mom and I canned together the most as we expanded into pressure cooker canning. One year , the men in the family caught 100 pounds of salmon. I could not believe the difference in taste of home canned salmon and commercial. The same with tuna. (Though we only canned tuna once, as the smell permeated the house for days after!) We also canned meat, ham and beans, and stew. One day we got a great buy on 40 pineapples . As we were busily canning them, the children began screaming from the living room. Hordes of bees coming in through the open windows in search of our pineapple!

When my parents became too elderly to can on their own, it became a four – generation project to assist them, as even small hands of their great grandchildren helped place pieces of fruit in the jars.
My dad talked my daughter, Laura, into starting the “canning pickles” tradition. Since his passing, Elliewellie has done an excellent job of carrying on the tradition. My husband can’t get enough of her bread and butter pickles.

What a difference sixty years make. It costs as much for gas as the fruit to travel 300 miles. Where I live, there are fruits stands everywhere. Of course, no more family picnics and chocolate dipped cones at the end of a fruit trip. But there are some things that remain the same. There is the satisfaction that the “fruits of our labor” will be enjoyed all winter. We know if there is some type of natural disaster or weather crisis, we are prepared. But for me, it the enthusiasm my grandchildren have to come to my home and join in the tradition as we work and talk and laugh together. Home canning remains a family affair through six generations. I love it.

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One Response to Six Generations of Home Canning

  1. Laura Landstrom says:

    This is a fantastic article, Mom. Very nostalgic. You know, I truly cherished my pickle and peaches canning adventures with Grandpa O’Keefe. I’ll never forget our first pickles. I read on the Internet that you could expedite the process by washing the cucumbers in the washing machine. It ruined the machine and trashed the first five pounds of cukes, but we sure did get a good laugh out of it. After that, we kept it old-school and the results were sublime. What you captured in this article is the simple truth that quality time spent with family is priceless. The fruit inside those jars may have an expiration date, but the memories created in their making are forever.

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