Monday, 21 May 2018

Pop Go the Memories

Memories are funny things.  Sometimes we have them handy and they come easily to us.  And sometimes they store themselves away on some distant shelf way in the back of our minds only to be found when triggered by a completely random and unexpected source.  It could be the smell of the top of an infant’s head.  Or the taste of a special cookie made by a favourite Aunt.  It could be a colour or the way something looks when the light hits it just right.  It can even be the way something feels – the softness of a blanket or the stickiness of dandelion stems (remember trying to get that off your hands!?).  Well the other day I had the pleasure of having a very old memory brought to my attention quite unexpectedly.  I was making French toast for our breakfast and decided to make some Sucre a Crème to pour over it (see recipe below).  Once it was cooked, I poured the boiling hot syrup into a mason jar and covered it with a proper canning lid.  A short time later I heard a slight “pop” sound come from one of the jars and instantly I was reminded of the canning my Mom and I did when I was a youngster living at home.  That popping sound meant that the hot syrup helped to seal the jar – and now it could be stored safely in the root cellar or cold room for a good long time. 

How many jars of peaches, tomatoes, pickles, jackfish, peas, carrots, potatoes, chickens, crab apples, pears, green beans, sauerkraut, eggs, strawberries, blueberries, Saskatoonberries, and jam did we can over the years??  Each year Mom and Dad would put in a “little” garden next to our house in town.  The “big” garden was out at our Uncle’s farm.  That’s where we grew a couple rows of potatoes (my guess is the rows were a half mile long each, but I might be mis-remembering that), as well as more peas, carrots, and other vegetables.  Whatever we didn’t grow on our own – mostly fruit – we bought by the case in the fall when the trucks from BC would come to town.  Mom and I would start each canning day the same way.  We would prepare whatever food was going to be canned.  That meant, shelling peas, shucking corn, snipping beans, mixing up brines for pickles or fish, peeling, pitting, slicing, cutting – all the things that made each thing even more delicious.  Next would be sterilizing all the jars and lids.  Sink after sink filled with glass jars and new lids with seals.  Once the jars were ready we would fill each up with whatever was on the menu for the day.  Green beans placed lengthwise into the jars all standing uniformly waiting their mission.  We’d top up the jar with brine or water and a bit of salt of sugar, add the seal and lid on and place them in the canner and pressure cooker.  The canner was easier to use, but the pressure cooker got the job done in half the time.  I was always afraid of the pressure cooker, but Mom knew what she was doing, and I don’t recall ever having anything serious happen.  Once the jars had cooked long enough on the stove, we took them out using a special wooden and wire grabber to pull them out of the pot and place the jars on the countertop.  As the full jars sat on the counter cooling off, they would give a little popping sound letting us know that they had sealed properly.

At the end of the canning season we always took a moment to go down into the root cellar (which was located under the stairway leading to the basement), to see the fruits (and vegetables) of our labours.  It was truly satisfying to see the row upon row of jars filled with brightly coloured fruits, vegetables, and other delicious foods. 

I hadn’t thought about any of that for years, and all those memories – the smell of the vinegar for the brine, the taste of canned crab apples, the sound of the steam releasing from the pressure cooker, the feel of the hot soapy water when washing the jars, and the look of all those lovely jars of food on the shelves – all of that brought back to me by the simple pop of a seal on a jar of syrup.  My but memories are wonderous things. 

Sucre a Crème

1 cup Heavy Cream
2 cups Golden or Brown Sugar
2 Tbsps Butter

Mix together in a saucepan and bring to a boil for 2 to 3 minutes.  Serve warm as a wonderful syrup for pancakes or French toast. Use cold as a spread on toast or drizzled over ice cream (or just eat it straight from the jar – I won’t tell if you don’t!).  This will keep nicely in the fridge for ages and can be microwaved over and over.  I store mine in a mason jar with a lid – that way I can just pop the jar (without the lid) into the microwave to heat it up.