Perhaps it’s because I’m a parent and have a deep-rooted desire to keep my offspring well fed, but I still find it interesting that I’ve become a hoarder. Right now I have five buckets of raspberries (17 pounds before we gobbled up a few bowls full) sitting on my kitchen counter waiting to be washed and set out on trays in the freezer for later packaging in freezer bags. Two weeks ago I processed six pails of strawberries. The best of the crop went into the fridge to be consumed fresh or made into tarts (my husband’s specialty), while the rest went into our winter freezer reserves.
I find it deeply satisfying to preserve food for later. It may run in my genes because my mother tells stories about her great grandmother’s skill with preserves and jams. When I was a little girl I watched my grandmother make relishes and jellies to sell at the farmer’s market. Although I prefer my preserved fruit “fresh-frozen”, I’ve become obsessed with canning tomatoes in late summer. I’ve finally got the whole production down to a streamlined process so that it’s not such a giant mess in the kitchen. The pride I feel when I open the pantry and gaze at my rows of tomato jars is hard to describe, but my arm gets a little sore from patting myself on the back. To be honest, my tomatoes are a little watery and not quite as intense as the store-bought canned stuff. But, hey, I’ve bottled summer.
My husband said that summer didn’t officially begin for him until today with our trip to pick raspberries (Unfortunately with our cold, rainy “summer” it’s just barely raspberry season. My sympathies to those of you in other parts of North America experiencing a heat wave, but we could do with just a taste of warm weather!). Berry picking is something we enjoy as a family, and my daughter went to our favorite berry farm for the first time when she was six months old, happily perched in a backpack while I fretted that she’d be poked by the raspberry thorns.
Last year I convinced everyone to squat on the ground to pick tiny wild blueberries growing on the side of a mountain. They were the most wonderful berries I’d ever tasted, and I knew that when we left the mountain I wouldn’t taste those berries again, at least for another year, assuming the conditions would be the same. It was a lot of work to fill a zip-lock with just enough for a small batch of blueberry pancakes in November, but I really felt the need to make just a little of that intense flavor last.
Life with my children is a bit like tasting an exquisite berry. Just as with summer and its abundance of tasty fruits, I want to hoard the special moments with my children and preserve them to savor later. With the fruit, I know if I miss a season, I’ll get another chance next year. Not so with my kids, and preserved memories are tasty but a little watery. Best to gorge myself on the real thing while I can.