Canning Green Beans

Jay Leno remarked recently on his television program that it seemed as if we were returning to the year 1978 . “Betty White is hotter than ever, Hawaii 5-0 is a popular weekly series, and Jerry Brown is the governor of California. It must be 1978.”  That statement got me to thinking. What was I doing in the year 1978?  I thought about this so much after reading Mr. Leno‘s comments that I proceeded to dig up my old diaries to answer my questions. That’s right. I have kept a diary most of my life off and on, but have done so continuously since 1975. Among other things, but most importantly, in 1978 I was being mommy to my little 6 year old daughter, DeAnn . I was 27 years old.
It was also the year I did the most vegetable canning of my entire life. We lived in the country and had a large and bountiful vegetable garden which I worked in it almost every day and would faithfully hoe a row or two at intervals while  doing other housework.Although weed- picking wasn’t fun, I kept up with it and the garden was a  beautiful one. I have never been a stranger to food canning. When I a little girl I can remember sitting in a lawn chair under the shade of the oak tree at the side of our house with a big basket of fresh green beans beside me on the ground. My job was to snap both ends off of the beans and then toss them into another big pan sitting next to the basket. Along with Mom and my other sisters we would snap away and then Mom would take them into the house to wash and prepare a hot water bath for canning. This deep, blue, huge pot was filled 3/4 of the way with water and had a rack, where there were twelve individual slots for each quart of green beans to be placed. The lid would go on and you waited for the water to begin to boil. Once the boiling began the timing would start. I can’t quite remember how long it took for the beans to be submerged in this water bath but Mom had it down to an art. Later, when it was time to remove the jars from the water, everyone had to stand back and she would lift the jars out of the canner and place them on a towel on the counter to cool. Then we would all sit in the kitchen and listen quietly for the lids to “pop”. It was almost like the grand finale of a song. We would count the pops and keep track, because they didn’t all do it at once. A “pop” insured that the lid had sealed and your quart of green beans was ready to be stored for winter use. Green beans and tomatoes were what my Mother had  taught me to can , but when I became a homemaker myself, I also began adding to my pantry beautiful jars of small potatoes from my garden and bright orange quart jars of carrots. The numbers in my diary  amazed me as I read the totals that I had written down for this one particular summer. The summer of 1978.  Green beans- 210 quarts  Whole tomatoes- 120 quarts. Potatoes-100 quarts and Carrots ,96 quarts. I also had cut bright yellow sweet corn off of the cob and put it in  plastic bags to be neatly stacked in the freezer  At the end of summer the pantry and the freezer were full. My husband had  butchered a hog for us to be made into packages of sausage and chops and we had went in with friends to buy a whole beef. Winter would surely come, but it would not bring with it any worries about a lack of good wholesome fresh vegetables and farm grown meat.
Canning isn’t something that I do any more, but I won’t forget those wonderful, although tasking, memories of a simpler life.
I called my daughter before writing this column to ask if she could remember those years of canning and she said, “ I do Mom. And I remember sitting under a tree in the shade and you had me snapping off the very ends of the beans and putting them in a basket.” A smile came across my face. Exactly. 1978, what a year!!
Let me share just one of the recipes, among many, that I used my whole canned tomatoes for. I have served this old fashioned and simple dish numerous times to my family and it’s been on the menu in my restaurant as well.
Breaded Tomatoes
1 quart of whole tomatoes ( cut each one in half)
5-6 slices of day old bread
½ cup sugar
Salt and pepper (to taste)
Bring the tomatoes to a full boil ,then simmer for15 minutes.With a spoon mash up a few of the tomatoes. Break up the bread into large hunks and  add to tomatoes along with the sugar, salt and pepper
Add  a few Italian seasoned crotons on top when serving.
This simple, yet delicious, dish will surprise you.
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