The act of preserving fruit, like gardening, is a hopeful act.
It’s a gesture of goodwill to future meals that you plan to have, incorporating a since-past season’s bounty.
It’s also darn repetitive (though some would call it calming, I suppose), all that cutting and washing and slicing and bringing up to heat and waiting and cleaning up.
So I was wondering the other day, as I stood there surrounded by apricot pips and jars and fruit and flesh and a very sticky floor… why the heck do I preserve fruit, exactly?
From an energy consumption point of view, I’m pretty sure home preserving is not the most efficient way to create a larder of bottled sunshine (unless perhaps you’re running off renewable energy, and foraged the fruit, maybe) – given the realities of economy of scale.
From a ‘preparing for a lean season’ point of view, home preserving doesn’t really cut it either, given the other choices available right now.
When you come down to it, if preparing for a lean season is your primary goal, a few slabs of canned fruit from the store will fast-track your preparedness much quicker and cheaper that this whole home preserving hoopla.
So what is it, then?
For my grandmother, it was about storing the season, any which way you could – the peaches, the apples, the plums, the apricots.
The whole family picked the fruit from the trees around her house and up the valley, and then Nana preserved them as quick as she could, before the very many boxes and buckets of fruit all went bad in the summer heat.
I am not my Nana, though. At this exact point in time, I have not a fruit tree to my name.
So the peaches + apricots around me in my kitchen came from our local food co-op instead.
A different acquisition, but with the same result – fruit everywhere, that needs to be dealt with directly. And me in the middle – slicing, bottling, slicing, bottling.
All the while considering that I could have, for far less money and time, trotted down to the shops and in one hour filled my larder with enough tins of fruit to see me through a small-to-medium-sized zombie apocalypse.
Sure, those tins wouldn’t be full of locally sourced, fresh fruit, but they would have the carbs and sugars and most of the fruit-like constituents that you’d expect.
As I go through the process of splitting and bottling all these apricots, and slicing and drying and packing these slivers of dried peach away, I realise I do know why I do this.
I preserve fruit to keep my family connected with our food, and I think I do it to give thanks.
I do it so my kiddo’s winter lunchboxes will have slivers of our last summer in them – not just the last summer, but our one. The one we lived, and worked, and sliced, and laughed in.
I do it because I look forward to the opening of a bottle of those apricots so much more than I would cracking open a tin from the store.
I do it because I would rather work out how to make meals with a frugal amount of awesome food than with an endless supply of packets.
I do it because it’s so easy to otherwise pretend that our current, privileged access to ‘whatever you want’ in the supermarkets will go on forever into the sunshiny sunset.
I preserve fruit because it will make me value the food in our larder highly – and this in turn will influence my other thinkings, other decisions, other choices.
I preserve fruit because I know that valuing good food – it’s growing, it’s preparation, it’s sustenance – is key to our collective futures.
And I know that good food empowers my family so that we can use that energy and our time here on earth to do meaningful things.
If i’ve had one thing re-affirmed this year (amongst very many others), it’s to be grateful for what you have.
So this, today, is what my gratitude looks like.
…All our articles about preserving fruit, meat and other things are here.
One of your most beautiful essays.
The attitude of gratitude for what our earth provides…..
Lovely – have a wonderful christmas and may next year be bountiful to you all.
Amen, sister. That is beautifully said x
Preserving also prevents senseless waste. It acknowledges we have enough, we just need to recognise what is available to us and value it when it’s there. I’m one of those who find it calming, though not when I have little ‘helpers’ in the kitchen. Your jars look beautiful. Jars of sweet sunshine 🙂
Beautiful. You put into words exactly how I feel about preserving food. Thank you!
I concur with all your thoughts on preserving but there are more reasons why one should preserve which could be quite personal. I have just finished bottling 58 large bottles of apricots which equates to about 15 buckets and another 19 buckets have been dried. My reasons include I have either grown them myself or collect from a neighbour where I have been able to use protective netting to keep out the destructive fruit fly. Therefore no spray whatsoever. Secondly the use of no preservatives, colourings, flavours or sweeteners because I have an allergy to them all so doing it… Read more »
Thanks again Kirsten for sharing your good thoughts. I do bottling, drying then vacuum packing, freezing ( berries only) and fermenting, for all the great reasons you and the other commentators point out: there is no fossil fuel or tin mining involved .Do i want to support agribusiness who use a lot of energy and chemicals to grow fruit, pumping out aquifers and in the end wasting hundreds of tons of it, dumped to evolve methane and Co 2? No! Permaculture does it so much better. Oh and my Christmas cakes with all the dried figs, apricots prunes and sultanas… Read more »
Just beautiful. Thanks
I have been pondering that same question myself with summer just getting into gear. Is it silly to be spending all this time and energy preserving foods when I could probably eat mostly fresh foods year round where we are? Thank you, there is more to life than just practicality! They kind of transform into a whole new eating experience too which I’m excited thinking about just now!
i just love plums preserved in Grappa, can’t buy those off a supermarket shelf
This post made me a little emotional! Such an elequent capture of why convenient isn’t always best. Long live keeping the soul in our food!
Hi Kirsten – you articulate thoughts I’ve had for a long time – some in my blog ‘ rustica and grace’ – thankyou beautiful soul! Best wishes 🙂
Oh this really spoke to me!
I often wonder why I bother but you hit the nail on the head… this is why I bother!
Hi Adam can you see the difference 🙂