Sunday, February 27, 2011

Kingsolver's Take-Out

I've been asked a few times whether I have a shelf with all my canning stuff on it, and the answer is yes, I sure do.  It's in my garage, increasingly obscured by the growing mountains of crap that seem to sprout like dandelions once you get a house with a garage.  It's where everything I preserve in summer goes to hibernate, catch a little dust and stay out of the damaging light.  One of my favorite parts of canning during the summer is after all of the jars have cooled, gathering them all up and lining them up in rows on the shelf.  It's the last satisfying step, the stockpile.  As the namesake's mother promised in Blueberries for Sal, "We will take the berries home and can them.  Then we will have food for the winter." 

I read recently in an article about food preservation a woman comment that "there's nothing lovelier than a summer window lined with jewel-toned Ball jars of food."  No summer window, but a 20-degree winter sunshine does the trick. 

Speaking of winter sunshine, what a difference a week makes.  Last weekend I was craving barbecue and patio furniture, and with the super-late snow and the frigid temperatures that have plagued this schizophrenic week, I've been sent right back into hibernation mode.  I was craving all of those flavor-layered, warm and slow-simmered comfort foods that complete a night huddled next to the fire (and yes, I have been literally huddled around our fireplace doing my school work lately, it's so outrageously freezing!!).  But you can't just come home from work and decide you want chili.  Unless you're having a Nally's chili craving, but that would require coming home from work completely drunk.  I decided to go for the next-best thing... spaghetti.  I do love slow-simmered spaghetti sauce, but again I went for the next-best thing, the spaghetti sauce I slow-simmered and canned last summer.  I remember staying up until about 2 am waiting for the damn sauce to thicken up and reduce so I could process it, thinking that some distant day in the long, cold winter, I'd open one of these time capsules and remember this moment where there were more fresh tomatoes than we could eat and I was basically throwing basil away, it was taking over the counter so brazenly.  And maybe it would help us remember that those days would come back again, like they always do.

I remember Barbara Kingsolver, in her August canning chapter in Animal, Vegetable, Miracle,  talks about her similar sentiments on her canned spaghetti sauce.  She claims that on some stressful winter night in the future it will be her take-out, so very easy.  I don't think so.  If I want take-out, I'm getting effort-free take-out.  Spaghetti sauce is a happy compromise.  Not going out, not cooking something but still eating something that isn't completely processed.  I mixed it with some basil chicken sausage and Schwan's onion and mushroom mix, then let it simmer a bit on the stove for about half an hour.  The end result was a clean, fresh pasta that served as a reminder of how great our first home garden was, and how much fun it will be to have again in a few more months.  That's the beauty of the canning shelf, being fed heart and soul in the desolate winter. 


  1. I grew up on "Blueberries for Sal"- I still have my original copy. That and "Alexander and the THNGVBD" were my 2 faves.

  2. The dinner looks so healthy and fresh. Love the Blueberries for Sal picture. I bet I read that book to you a million times when you were little, you loved it!

  3. I loved that book so much, and just remembered while I was writing it how can-centric it was. I think the only book I liked better was "Mickey Mouse's Picnic." Oh childhood epi-lit...