Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The Liquor Jar

When we first moved to the Valley, a neighbor/friend gave us boxes and boxes of canning jars. They had been given to him, and he didn’t think his family needed that many….and as we “were just gettin’ started here…maybe we could use them…”

Oh, yes! We could definitely use them. At the time, we were trying desperately to be self-sufficient. We had begun our “self-sufficiency” journey long before coming to the Valley. That meant canning, freezing and drying any crops that we could so that we would have plenty of food during the winter. The move to the Valley made our “self-sufficiency” efforts a serious necessity. Our bank account had taken a major hit with our total change of life. We had not yet begun to earn money at the market, and Y2K loomed ahead like the great unknown.

The girls and I canned all kinds of things that summer. We canned the usual stuff: tomatoes, green beans, yellow squash, pickles and jams. We tried new stuff….salsa, potatoes, chicken, chicken broth and zucchini. We learned that canned zucchini is the best choice for breads and cakes. We worked hard and had a lot of fun, too. I am so glad that my girls list those summer chores as some of their “good childhood memories”.

We filled hundreds of jars that year. All the while we compared ourselves with friends who would can several hundred jars of just one thing. Since I never had the responsibility of attempting to feed six hungry teenage boys, I never had to think of 300 jars of any one thing! I cannot imagine that task.

We had a system that worked quite well. I would prepare the fruit or vegetable for processing. That meant I washed and occasionally scalded the produce. Then the girls and I would peel and chop the produce and pack jars. Someone would get the job of salting and pouring the liquid over the vegetables. In the case of fruits, they needed some type of sweetener, instead of salt. Then, Tom would take over and can them off on our propane cooker. He would do this outside, or in the shop…thus keeping a LOT of extra heat out of the house. We made a pretty efficient team.
(Although Tom and I continue to put up our summer bounty by canning, it's a little less of a family event and a little more of a chore these days)

While we filled jars, one jar was strange. It wasn’t quite as large as the others. I don’t remember giving too much thought to it at the time. I was completely focused on getting those jars filled and canned off. I do remember hearing some type of discussion taking place between my “helpers”.

Sometime later, the ODD jar came to my attention. Right there on the bottom it said “LIQUOR BOTTLE”! Oh my goodness! There was a time when homemade liquor was an acceptable way to “put up” corn. “Back in the day” lots of folks made their own alcohol. It wasn’t until the “revenuers” found that they could make money regulating it that “moonshine” became an outlaw activity.

I will not get into the politics of all this. But, the ODD jar makes me think of the folks that came before me in this area of the world. Those folks back in the hills that found a way to make a living and held onto it for a very long time. They were of sturdy, hardy stock, and honestly, I would like to emulate them in some ways.

While the LIQUOR BOTTLE doesn’t get used for its intended purpose anymore, I keep it around. (“Moonshine” is one of the few things we have never attempted here on the farm.) Generally, I use it to put wildflowers on the kitchen table. It reminds me of some good times with my family. It also reminds me of our Scots-Irish ancestors who made this land what it is today.


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