I wouldn’t exactly call it an expertise because I see it more as an obligation. It’s something I’m drawn to and I’m not sure why. It started with an invitation from a co-worker to make strawberry freezer jam. We used our hands to mash the strawberries and mix in the sugar granules. Though the berries had been thawed, my hands burned from the cold. The next year I tried on my own. This time I made raspberry freezer jam from the bushes in our yard. The twenty pints didn’t even make it past September thanks to my father’s sweet tooth.
In early autumn of the same year I decided I would branch out and pickle jalapeños. I’d accidently planted three too many plants and I had buckets of peppers. My family could only scarf down so many cream-cheese-stuffed-peppers and I didn’t want to waste my garden’s produce. I pickled the whole house with my sugar-vinegar mixture cooking on the stovetop. Like a machine, I sliced hundreds of peppers, placed them on the grill to cook, and blanched them in the pickling juices. I learned only after that I should have worn gloves.
This year I moved on to more extensive preservation projects—12 types of jams, 4 kinds of marmalade, twenty-four quarts of home-made spaghetti sauce, and more peppers. This does not include the homemade pesto sauce which is pre-measured and frozen into 2 tablespoon individual packets, and many more cans of tomatoes. I’m not entirely sure why I feel obligated to spend ten hours over a pot of boiling vinegar and burning my fingers on the hot cans. Something about the sporadic pops in the next room hours after while I rest on the couch tells me it’s worth it.