Column Editor's Note, by Synthesis
The following article is something a little different for me. It's not an article of mine, but rather is the sixth part of a small unpublished book written around 1990 by my grandmother, Catherine Bertram. She is still alive and 94 years old, and for years I have meant to publish this memoir in some way so that it may live on after she is gone. I'm glad I was able to do so here on Newsvine while she is still with us. It's my hope that by being published online, the warmth and wisdom of her words will gain some measure of immortality.
On Nails, Of Course
by Catherine Bertram, circa 1990
Fruits From Our Labours
For quite a few years, we were not able to afford fresh fruit for canning, and only apples and oranges were available in the winter.
The first apples from the new B.C. crop came in quite green about harvest time. They were delicious in pies, but one dared not eat very much of them without risking "green apple complaint". For the rest of the winter, B.C. Macs and other varieties were available in wooden boxes, usually wrapped individually with a type of tissue paper. That was our main fresh fruit and I used them for many varied desserts. When the apple boxes were emptied, they were put to many uses. Stacked up with a curtain in front, they were used for cupboards, dressers and washstands. The tissue paper wrappers were precious, because they were the most elite form of handi-wipes out back.
In the spring I watched for those pink buds on the rhubarb patch to grow into stems long enough to get enough for a pie, crisp, or just plain sauce. But by the beginning of the third week, nobody was so fond of rhubarb, and it had to be altered with ginger or a can of crushed pineapple.
The saskatoon berries usually ripened during the first half of July. It was a great adventure to pack a picnic lunch and go to the river, or Bad Lake, to look for berries. Hubby is not an avid berry-picker but by day's end he usually had more berries than me because he stayed in one place and picked. I loved to roam around hoping to find a better spot just over the next hill where the plump berries would just fall into my pail. The boys enjoyed the adventure too, but their enthusiasm for berry picking soon waned and they preferred to explore.
Since the summer evenings were long, there was time after the chores to make a start on preparing the berries to can. I hoped for slight breeze to blow the twigs and leaves away as I poured them from above to a large container on the ground. Then came the final picking over handful by handful.
The next day was no picnic, but the satisfaction of maybe 40 quarts of fruit made the canning with a hot fire worthwhile. There was sure to be several saskatoon pies ready by supper time. If there was a good crop of berries, it is likely we would make a second trip.
Since my parents had already lived on that farm there were several kinds of currents and sand cherries already in production. From these I made our jams and jellies. We also liked a thick juice made from currrants or wild chokecherries to use as a syrup on our pancakes so I always canned a good supply of that.
The other staple fruit at that time was citron. I grew them in the garden and then stored them in the cellar till near or after Christmas to be sure they ripened. Some evening when there wasn't anything else going on I would bring up about four and slice them quite thin. When I had pulled off the rind I called in the family to help poke out the seeds. But boys are boys are boys, and before long, they are slyly aiming seeds at each other. Since citron is slippery, the seeds are first-class ammunition, but mothers don't appreciate them strewed around underfoot.
When the seeds are all removed, the rounds are cut into small cubes. For flavouring, two or three thinly sliced lemons are added, along with sugar. By leaving the mixture overnight the sugar and citron juice formed enough liquid so that no water was needed. In the morning it was slowly cooked and sealed in sealers. When there was very little on hand to vary a white cake, I have used drained, cooked citron as we now might use crushed pineapple.
There came a time later on when someone in the Okanagan shipped cases of fruit direct to us and we paid for it by shipping chickens and turkeys direct to them when our poultry was ready for market. That made it possible to enjoy fresh fruit and can a good variety. It seemed so precious that when I peeled and cored the pears, I couldn't throw away the peelings. I cooked it all and strained it to make a pear syrup for our pancakes.
Return to Chapter 1.
Chapter 7 - Winter Activities
Chapter 8 - Conclusion