Canning Jars — 130 Years Ago

I’m reading up on the benefits of glass canning jars.  This excerpt is from 1881 from a book in the public domain  called The Hygenic Cookbook by Mrs. Mattie M. Jones.

I love the language of this book which reflects a time long gone:

“as the fruit season approaches, there are numerous jar inventions . . . some tin, some glass and some stone . . . We have tried most of these fruit jars and while all of them are good, our experience has led us to adopt the cheapest kinds of glass bottles and jars.  Tin cans are not safe. While in a majority of cases they may answer well for a season or two, there is always danger of their corrosion, or rusting, and the consequent production of poisonous salts of tin.  Besides, it is desirable to have the fruit in transparent vessels so that it can always be examined.”  (p.20).

Once I dragged my family on a four mile hike just to see an old house in the middle of Utah.  When we got there,  I sat on a log just trying to drink up the flavor of life that I had read about in the tiny house.  I read how the inhabitants would order cans of evaporated milk mail order from Sears Roebuck and Co. so that the children had milk, since it was too dry and desolate for a cow.  It was pretty dry and desolate. . .

The packed earth floor was finally replaced with a wooden floor, and the woman of the family appreciated being able to sweep and wash the floor and feel like it was clean.  I was experiencing the flavor of another time, while my kids jumped up and down from the riverbank, totally uninterested that they were missing this moment of  history.

I know canning went back to the war, and it was a household skill before the nineteenth century. I read about how old time canners were conscious of not adding so much sugar and not boiling something to death so that the goodness of food could be preserve.  This was the advice from 1881:

“All kinds of fruits can be preserved for a year, or more, with the use of little or no sugar, and at the same time retain nearly all their natural flavor. . . The whole operation depends upon simply heating the fruit through, and then keeping it entirely free from the access of air.” (p.20)

It’s very humbling to know that something I enjoy almost as a hobby now, using the latest and safest information, has been done for almost 130 years, as a matter of course. And not much has changed.

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