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.