There has been a tradition in my family, handed down from generation to generation of women starting as far back as I can remember with my great grandmother Mattie Evans. I imagine that she also used a wood cook stove like this one for canning and drying to fill the pantry & root cellar before winter. I find that holding on to this one tradition is what feeds my soul, and connects with me with my past now that all these amazing women are gone. The smell of fresh fruit and honey for the jam warming up on the wood cook stove, blanching peaches and making syrups, and the smell of salt brine’s, garlic and fresh dill for the pickles, the crackle of the wood, the warmth of the fire and the shiny stainless steel pots lined up on the stove top. “Do you need more wood?”, my husband asks. He knows which pieces will make the fire hot to get the canning kettle to boil quicker. Our cat Sweet Pea settles into his blanket on the back of the couch, out of the fray of clanking jars, canning lids and quick steps in the kitchen back and forth to check on the water, add wood to the fire, and prepare the next jars for the canner. It has been a long day, but I can’t even begin to describe the satisfaction and joy I feel. As evening sets in and the last canner has been emptied we start to hear the jars seal, one by one, “pop”. Finally, lying in bed that night it’s like counting sheep as the jars start to cool down and seal, “pop… pop… pop”. I start to think of Mattie, my daughter coming home in a month when the tomatoes are ripe so we can make salsa together like I did with the women before me. She’ll help me turn the compost and put the garden to bed, stack firewood and organize the cellar, passing on the tradition one generation at a time.
(My grandmother Louise Kelly and my mom Wilma, circa 1950, Zillah, WA)
(Our cellar, NE Oregon)