Today V's pie baking inspired me to can vegetables. We took turns in the kitchen until the house filled with so many autumnal smells that we had no choice but to take a break from our endeavors to enjoy a warm dinner.
I suppose it's possible that I'm one of the last people from my generation that still know how to can. And, to be honest, I don't even know why I do it except that I'm a glutton for doing things the hard way and an even bigger glutton for filling jars with color and an even bigger glutton for dilly beans! (spicy pickled string beans). I love opening up a jar in the deep, dark, middle-of-winter and knowing that it came from a real garden tended to and cared for by real hands. Sometimes those hands are my own, sometimes they are my grandma's, sometimes they are both.
This evening I read a poem by the Zen poet, Ryokan. It goes like this:
Without desire everything is sufficient.
With seeking myriad things are impoverished.
Plain vegetables can soothe hunger.
A patched robe is enough to cover this bent old body.
Alone I hike with deer.
Cheerfully I sing with village children.
The stream under the cliff cleanses my ears.
The pine on the mountain top fits my heart.
Then I came across words by Dogen that said:
When preparing vegetables or soup, don't worry--just prepare them with sincerity. Most of all, try to avoid getting upset or complaining about the quantity or quality of the food. Practice in such a way that things come and abide in your mind, and your mind returns and abides in things, all through the day and night.
And, finally, I stumbled across the most simplistic advice of all:
When you boil rice, know that the water is your own life.
And so it is with canning vegetables. Or walking the dog. Or building a fire. Or making tea. Or crossing the road. Or brushing my teeth. Or even eating pie. It's about simplicity....and the many ways of getting there...because it is these small moments that I give my heart to.
- Approx. 2 lbs. green beans
- 1/4 cup canning salt
- 2 1/2 cups vinegar
- 2 1/2 cups water
- 1 tsp. cayenne pepper, divided (I put lots more and even add other peppers if I have them)
- 4 cloves garlic, divided (again, I like more)
- 4 heads dill, divided
Trim ends off green beans. Combine salt, vinegar, and water in a large saucepan. Bring to boil. Pack beans lengthwise into hot jars leaving 1/2-inch headspace. Add 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, 1 clove garlic and 1 head dill to each pint (double this if using quart jars). Ladle hot liquid over beans, leaving 1/4-inch headspace. Remove air bubbles. Adjust two-piece caps. Process pints and quarts 10 minutes in a boiling water canner. Makes: about 4 pints or 2 quarts.
Let sit for 1 month before devouring them!
more instructions here.