There are many things we associate with the fall season. Changing colors, changing weather and the changing, or rather the adding of, clothes all signify fall. One thing I warmly associate with the harvest season is canning food.
Growing up on a ranch, I often experienced the changing of seasons with the changing of chores; winter equals feeding, spring equals calving, summer equals haying and finally, fall equals canning. The actual process of canning is not necessarily what I romanticize because it can be a lot of work. However, there is something so satisfying about the final result of preserving your own fresh, homegrown food for the ensuing winter.
I think about what a wonderful winter dessert a can of peaches would have been a hundred years ago or a can of stewed tomatoes in your soup during a blizzard. I also like the delayed gratification of canning. You put all of this work into prepping a food that is plentiful in this moment and won’t be needed for an extended period of time. Fall could be used playing and enjoying the last moments of mild weather but you intentionally chose to work first, knowing it’s a good investment in your future. Canning is like a savings account or an exercise routine that requires you to work and invest first and trust that the long-term results is worth the short-term effort or discomfort.
So many traditional children’s stories share these themes of delayed gratification and work before play. It plays out in the Little Red Hen who made her bread with no help from her friends. In the end her friends were the sorely disappointed because they did not get to share in the bread because they did not share in the work. The theme also appears more directly in the Ant and the Grasshopper in which the ant works hard to store food for winter and the grasshopper chooses to jump and play and then is starving once the cold weather hits.
It also is a theme that could be associated with today’s world of instant gratification where technology makes canning seem so obsolete when you can literally order your groceries online and not even leave your home. Yet, canning will be back again. Canning food was already viewed as old-fashioned once before. During the early 1900s with the advent of the more modern grocery store and an array of pre-packaged foods (like sliced bread) canning went to the wayside. It wasn’t until the Great Depression and then Victory Gardens during World War II that canning was brought back into homemaking classes and 4H as part of the effort of returning to self-reliance and saving for lean times.
So during this fall season, consider take up canning or at least your own metaphorical canning be it an exercise routine, a new financial investment or a renewed effort into a relationship.
Elisabeth Cassiday is the executive director of the YMCA in Sheridan.