Puttin’ Up


     As a child, I watched my mother and her sisters gather in my Grandmother Mimi’s kitchen two or three times a year for “puttin’ up.” My cousins and I would gather fruits and vegetables from Mimi’s big garden and lug them into the hot kitchen where the women were boiling water in big canning pots. They trimmed, minced, chopped, seasoned, blended, sieved, scrubbed, and scraped. They often sang spirituals and hymns in lovely harmonies that only come from being blood kin. It was a hoedown of pouring, lidding, and labeling. Except, of course, that as Baptists, they did not dance. The church, though, did not discourage the Gasaway Girls from bringing their
preserves, jellies, jams, pickles, chow-chows, relishes, and various vegetables to Homecoming and other church events. The church was rather strict but not stupid.

     Those Gasaway Sisters never competed at the Anderson County Fair with their canned creations. They felt it was a bit showy. They were not above small disputes over which pickled green beans had the most snap, or whose pickled peaches perhaps had a mite too many cloves. Remember, these were sisters, and there were six of them.

     I do all the cooking in my house. No big deal, really. I enjoy cooking, and learned it from some wonderful cooks a long time ago. My wife can cook. She’s an excellent baker, but that’s about all she enjoys in the world of cooking. She does not mind cleaning up the kitchen after I’ve cooked a big meal, though, and I hate it. So I cook and she cleans up. Sort of a Jack Sprat arrangement.

     Recently, I expressed an interest in making pickles and maybe some preserves. My wife kindly purchased a book for me on how to make all the various snacks and condiments that she liked. Did I mention she’s a jelly junkie? I read the book. I made a list of all the tools, devices, implements, and containers that were required, and it slowly dawned on me why it took all six Gasaway Sisters and my grandmother to start and finish a day of puttin’ up.

     So this weekend, I’m on my way to the local farmers market for some pickles and jelly that someone else made and packed into Mason-looking jars. Anybody need anything while I’m going?

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