From Pipi’s Pasture: Storing food for winter
Last week’s column, about the basement where we kept canned goods, has had me thinking about the kinds of foods that were stored there.
During the winter, we ate from the canned goods that lined the basement shelves and from the gunny sacks full of potatoes. It was a good thing we stored up so much food, because we didn’t go to Craig very often in winter; in fact, sometimes we couldn’t get out during the snowy months. Dad and Mom stocked up on sugar, flour, coffee, and other staples before winter set in.
I can still remember hearing Mom as she called to one of us when she got ready to fix dinner or supper.
“Go down to the basement and bring up some potatoes and a jar of green beans. Bring up a jar of peaches, too,” she’d say.
And so by spring, lots of the jars of homecanned foods had been emptied, and a lot of potatoes had been used up, too. (However, there were almost always enough potatoes left so we could cut them into chunks, with eyes, for spring planting.)
When it was about time to plant the garden, Mom went down into the basement, straightened up the jars on the shelves, and took inventory of what was left. That way, she could figure how much she would have to can for the coming winter.
Her figuring went something like this: Two jars of green beans per week for 12 months came out to about 100 jars. Then, she subtracted what was left from the previous winter. She did this for all the canned foods — vegetables, fruits, pickles and relishes, jams and jellies, tomatoes, juices, and meats and meat mixtures.
The canning season began in early summer, after the garden produce started coming on. We picked green and yellow beans and peas — rows and rows of them. Then, we kids sat out on the enclosed front porch and snapped and shelled vegetables while the pressure cooker whistled away in the kitchen. There were several pickings of beans and peas during the summer, thus the hundreds of jars.
The canning continued on into the fall, making use of garden produce and the fruit that grew in our orchard and the orchard at our grandparents’ ranch. Some of the produce needed for canning had to be purchased during a once-a-year trip to Grand Junction. We also picked wild chokecherries and currants from trees on the ranch.
So, by winter, the basement shelves were stocked with jars of peas, beans, corn, carrots, a carrot/pea mixture, mixed vegetables, stewed tomatoes, and tomato juice. There were jars of applesauce, apples for eating and making pies, pie cherries, peaches, pears, apricots, and fruit cocktail.
Mom canned a variety of pickles, including sweet and sour dills, bread-and-butter pickles, watermelon pickles, and probably more. She did a few specialty jars of pears tinted green, whole spiced crabapples, and others for holidays. Mom canned horseradish, too, from plants that grew along the ditch, an eye-watering job, indeed.
Jellies and jams were popular foods at the ranch. We had butters and jams made from plums, apples, peaches, strawberries and chokecherry, currant, rhubarb, and apple jelly. Mom canned the juices, too, so if a frost got the fruit in the following spring she could still make jelly.
There were meats, too. We even had our own smokehouse for hams and homemade wieners. We were set for winter!
When we’re not cooking something on the grill, it’s great to be able to whip up nutritious casseroles for summer dinners. This week’s column features two casserole recipes. I make “Skillet Beef–a-Roni” often. I don’t keep the ingredients for the other casserole on hand so don’t make it as often.