Mason Jar Memories

With the ability to buy frozen corn in an extra-large bag or green beans in a #10 can from your local grocery store, some believe canning is a lost art. But in the Peterson household, this time-honored tradition, passed down from generation to generation, still lives on.

I have faint memories of picking weeds and carting loads of cow manure to be applied, in the purest form of fertilizer, to our small garden on hot summer days. At the time it was less than fun and often took lots of internal persuasion, but when harvest time rolled around I truly appreciated the fruits of my family’s labor. I was so proud of our bountiful harvest that I even entered some of our produce as an exhibit at the Monroe County Fair.

When I think of summer, images of our deck covered in ripening tomatoes flash through my mind. That bright red produce symbolized homemade spaghetti sauce, tomato juice, and salsa. I am reminded of the smell of spices filling the house, and I picture Mom sporting a stained apron slaving away over the stove. The feeling of sticky fingers brings me back to shucking sweet corn in the back of Dad’s truck. I anticipated feeding the husks to the cows later that evening. Thoughts of enjoying a delicious serving of “Iowa gold” with Mom’s delicious beef roast, carrots, and potatoes later that winter made my mouth salivate.

As a young girl who was more interested in riding my bike and playing with our herd of baby kittens, tending our garden was the last thing on my mind. My parents saw it as an opportunity to teach my sisters and me responsibility, hard work, and patience. Although I was blind to the life lessons I was learning in that garden, I later realized it was a true example of reaping what you sow.

Now that I no longer live with my parents on our family farm, I take a piece of home with me on my Sunday trips back to Ames in the form of mason jars and frozen food. I am reminded of my Mom when I pop open a can of homemade spaghetti sauce as I try to replicate her delicious cooking. Whether it is fresh green beans, sweet corn, or black raspberries from Aunt Diane and Uncle Jerry’s garden, home-raised Peterson beef from the freezer, or a jar of Mom’s homemade salsa–farm fresh is always best.

By: Kylie Peterson

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