Growing up in Wisconsin, I loathed the month of August. That’s when my mother harvested and canned her fruits and vegetables. As the eldest daughter, I was expected to help her peel carrots and apples, snap green beans, blanch tomatoes, chop onions, pit peaches, and whatever else needed to be done to make sure the shelves in the root cellar were stocked for the winter.
The water bath canner and pressure cooker going full tilt made the already steamy summer days almost unbearable, and the only thing on my mind was how soon I could get out of the kitchen and go jump in the lake.
Nevertheless, at the end of summer, the sight of the shelves lined with jewel-like bottles of vegetables, fruits, sauces, jams and pickles was very satisfying. One of my favorite home-canned foods was Pickled Beets, a Midwestern farm classic. Opening a jar of them when the snow was six feet deep outside the door could bring back summer in a heartbeat.
This morning I harvested the first crop of baby beets from our garden and made six pints of those rustic, ruby pickles. The kitchen was hot and steamy, my hands were stained crimson and the scent of vinegar and spices was intoxicating. I thought of my mother several times and felt grateful for how hard she worked to feed us and teach us how to feed ourselves. And now I’m going to jump in the lake! Well, the pool, that is.