Cold Packing Time

When I was a boy, I heard of people canning fish and meat for winter, and I always wondered how they did it.  Always wondered how a person at home sealed a tin can.   For some reason I never associated our cold packing in bottles with canning.  I always thought that canning involved, well cans.

While I’m sure there is some method of doing just that, I since realized that canning is generally referred to bottling or putting up or preserves.  This being the hunting and harvesting season, is when we’d generally start to see cold packing happening.  Moose, rabbit, apples, damsons, and who knows what else would be prepared for canning.

Electricity came to Random Island the year I was born, or at least to my part of it, 1965.  Before that to keep food for winter, vegetables were kept in a root cellar, and fish was generally salted.  Fruit, berries, and meats though were usually cold packed, and that continues today, more so because we like them that way than because we need to.  Besides that we’d also make some pickles.  Not pickled cucumber, but more like what we see in stores now as chow chow.  There were many kinds, rhubarb (ew), and my favorite green tomato and apple.

But cold packing was a big thing.  Everyone had a huge boiler that they’d scald the bottles in to sterilize them.  Meats would be cut into small pieces, and added to the bottles with some fat back pork.  Berries and fruits were generally put in the bottles whole, tho sometimes cut smaller to aid cooking times.  The bottles would then be placed back in the boiler to cook the food, with a rubber sealed lid placed on lightly.  Once cooked, the bottles would be placed on a rack to cool, and the contraction/cooling process would create a vacuum with the lid, sealing the bottle.  A screw top ring would be added to keep it tight.

These bottles would then be used as meals throughout the winter, though in my time, they became more of a dessert or in the case of meats, something to augment the traditional Sunday evening cold plate.

Now I’m hungry, anyone got a bottle of moose to send me for supper?

Apple Pickin Time

Near the road back home in Apsey Brook, on Uncle Luther’s Land (I guess Carol’s? Meghan’s? now, well thats irrelevant :)) is Dad’s apple tree. Its Dad’s because his grandmother gave it to him, so its a little bit old now.

I’ve not had an apple from it since I moved here I don’t think, but my mouth waters now just remembering them.  Around this time of year, probably a little later if you liked them ripe, was time to start picking the apples.  I preferred them a little unripe, and still green, they tasted pretty much like Granny Smith‘s then.  Later when they got yellower and some frost got into them, they got a little mushier, and more like a Golden Delicious, not my favorite.  And in general not most others either, as the old folks would say they were only fit for apple sauce and pie then.

The tree brings back a lot of memories too.  I remember taking a book from the bookmobile  and laying back on the big branches reading for hours on end while leisurely eating apples.  I also remember hundreds of friends and strangers coming to the door looking to buy a bag.  Some years there were soooo many it seemed there was no end.  Others there were less, but usually there were tons.

I remember one year, I sooooo wanted a pair of $200 hiking boots from Roses Plumbing in Clarenville (yeah, shoes, at a plumbing store… ).  I sold enough apples a two dollars a CO-OP bag (our major supermarket) bag full to buy those boots.  And those weren’t like today’s bags, there were soooo many apples stuffed in them!  Plus on top of that we gave plenty away to friends and family and had more than enough for ourselves. Shame of it all is Mom accidentally threw those boots away a year or so later!

Of course everyone made pies, and apple sauce, and baked apples for dessert.  But my favorite was to eat them raw, or to have moms green apple and green tomato pickles (like a chow chow for the non-newfoundlanders). I love those things so much, don’t want a lot, but it adds such a taste to the traditional Sunday supper cold plate.

Of course there are other memories too.  The tree was near a huge bed of wild roses.  Those things smell terrific but there’s no way to control them.  We’d try to trim them back and keep them somewhat under control, but they also did help provide a barrier to the thieves.  Yes, crime was rampant back in those days, and likely still today.  At least the crime of young people robbing apple trees, its a rite of passage!  Even with my own tree, I’ve participated in this rite.  Something we all did.  In earlier times, you could get an ass load of salt for your troubles.  Some of the older folks would make their own shotgun shells filled with coarse fisherman’s salt and shoot those heinous robbers.

I never did it often, nor got caught (at least that I remember) but I did scare quite a few people out of our tree.  The one time I remember best was when Dad and I scared Jason Bailey out of the tree, and he jumped…. right into the rose bushes.  I can still see dad now, bent double from laughing so hard as Jason was scratched to pieces in those old trees.  I don’t know if he ever came back to steal some again, but I am pretty sure he still remembers that night!