“You failed me!” Those words came across the phone lines, or whatever passes as phone lines in these days, from my youngest daughter, Mary Susan.
She’s the mother of five children and an accomplished cook and cake decorator and master of whatever she attempts. She always has been optimistic and fearless when faced with new challenges, traits which she did not inherit from me.
But I was canning applesauce when she called me that morning and she doesn’t know how to can anything. I used to can a lot decades ago when I lived in a place where friends gave me free produce and I had energy and a good back. Those days apparently were before her time of remembrance.
“You didn’t teach me how to can!” she said. “I feel like less than a woman!”
“Well, you don’t really have to pressure can applesauce,” I said in my defense, my heart breaking a little at the thought I had failed her. “I’m just water bathing it.”
My use of canning lingo just made everything worse.
“You have a canner?!” she said indignantly.
“I’ve had several through the years,” I said humbly. “I’ve had my big one for years. I’m sure you’ve seen it here.”
Then I quickly tried to figure out why I hadn’t taught her to can. I realized it probably was because I became overwhelmed with children, something she can understand, judging by many of our video chats.
She was my seventh child, so I had seven children, plus friends, in the house from toddler to teenager for several years until they started leaving. Isn’t that a good enough reason? Some days it took everything I had to cook a box of Kraft macaroni and cheese, heat a can of peas and open a jar of store-bought applesauce.
(My first grandchild ate that at my house years later and declared, “We are having a feast!” I felt vindicated after years of mac-and-cheese guilt.)
Then there is the fact that canning is a lot of trouble. I actually planned to can applesauce before my appointment to donate blood. Then it was almost time to leave and I had apples soaking, cooling and cooking everywhere. Plus the whole house was a disaster, as is what happens when canning occurs.
“I have to change my appointment,” I said to the nice blood donor lady over the phone. “I’m in the middle of apples.”
She said that sounded like a good cause, so I rescheduled. I apologize if you were the one waiting on the blood donation. I’ll bring you some applesauce.
Knowing Mary Susan, she would somehow have the energy and patience to can while corralling her children, but please let it be while I’m not there. Of course, she can’t do it while I’m not there because I failed her and didn’t teach her to can. It’s a disappointment that keeps on giving.
The last point is that it is actually more expensive to can than to buy it from the store, I do believe. By the time you buy new lids and rings, which have become exorbitant, and then pay for whatever you are canning, the cost per can is more than a good sale price. And the last time I canned applesauce and didn’t add sugar it tasted exactly like the cheaper, store-bought applesauce in my pantry.
So this time I added sugar and cinnamon. If my applesauce is going to cost $5 per jar, then by golly it’s going to taste sweet and make me happy.
I left Mary Susan a message suggesting she advertise on her neighborhood Facebook group and buy a canner and maybe even the strainer to mash up the apples. I have taken some strange things back and forth to Utah, including many a blueberry biscuit and a huge pot, but I’m not sure a canner and strainer will make it through security.
So I feel bad I failed Mary Susan about canning, but I have to remind her that I walked painfully through the valley of the shadow of death to bring her into this world. I also left work every day to drive all the way out to her county high school so she didn’t have to ride the bus the last year before she drove. I’m still not sure how I arranged that.
But I will make it up to her and if it’s the last thing I do on my death-bed, I will teach her to can. I’m going out there soon, but I’m not sure what there is to can in Utah in the winter.
Canned cactus rind? I wonder if that takes a pressure canner or a water bath canner.
Elzey is a freelance writer for the Register & Bee. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (434) 791-7991.