I recently realized harvesting fruits and vegetables and preserving food generate strong memories about growing up in Salt Lake City. Each summer certain activities took place that, to this day, give me a sense of home and security.
Visiting the farmers of Salt Lake and the “pick your own” farm lots to buy cherries and peaches, tomatoes and cucumbers remind me of the innocence of a distant era. All of these fruits and vegetables purchased would be taken home and prepared for the canning jars. There is a certain satisfaction to the plop and squeak sound of the cherry pit machine as you removed the seed from each cherry. Put a cherry under the trigger, pull the spring loaded trigger. The seed would fall down into a jar of seeds, and then throw the seeded cherry into the bowl for canning. Each cherry pitted required payment of a cherry to eat. As many fruit passed my lips as did through the cherry pitter. The peaches witnessed a similar preparation process: blanch the peaches, peel the peaches, cut them in half and remove the pit. Peaches are larger, so fewer are eaten. Yet, the sticky juice running down your arms as you sliced the peaches made the process memorable.
Preparing tomatoes for canning required a bit more care. The boiling water, and processing the tomatoes usually disqualified me from working the tomato canning process. The cucumber were perhaps the most memorable and time consuming. Cucumbers soaked in brine for two weeks, preparing them for the pickle jars. Packing the jars and the smell of hot vinegar and dill told everyone that in a few weeks the dill pickles would be ready for eating. And later, the sweet and sour pickles and the relish would also find their way onto the dinner table.
Today the tomato plants are in the ground in my own backyard. We have added lettuce and onions to the garden. In a few months the harvest will begin. In my kitchen, I will cook up salsa and the satisfaction of preparing my own food will generate memories of a great childhood, helping Mom and Dad can food. And, the memories will continue.