Thursday, September 15, 2011

Preserving...A Work of Love

Shiny glass jars with bright metal lids, sitting on a countertop or shelf, full of the garden's bounty.  What is it about them that is so attractive and satifsying to me?  Is it the pride taken in an important job well done and done by hand?  Is it the knowledge that the food you worked hard to produce is safely stored for use during the cold winter months and beyond?  Is it the beauty of pickled beets next to zucchini pickles next to dilled asparagus spears next to green beans next to tomato juice--all kinds of lovely shapes, interesting textures, and glorious colors? 

Preserving the garden harvest has always brought me a great deal of personal joy and a sense of accomplishment.  It all is a part of the grasp I have of the of the word "home"--a place full of simple pleasures and grateful hearts, where hard work and creativity are celebrated and appreciated, and family is priority one.  Providing for the ones you love, creating beautiful little works of edible art in glass jars, knowing that the food you nurtured all during the hot summer is now in a form that will sustain you during the long days of winter--all is a part of that joy and accomplishment.

Observing the chemistry of home food preservation is fascinating as well.  How in the world do raspberries, sugar, and a fine white powdery substance called pectin come together over a heat source and form such a beautiful thing as jam?  Why does a small pat of butter dropped into boiling jam bring the air bubbles to a minimum?  And that magic vacuum seal of the lids--the "ping"--what mysterious physical forces join and make that happen?  Food scientists know the answers to these questions; we are lucky enough to just watch and wonder.

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