In a Pickle -Fall 2017

by: Amanda C. Lydon

photography by: Amanda C. Lydon

When I called Marine Home Center looking for citric acid the other day, the voice on the other end of the line was kind, but firm.

“We do carry it,” she said, but added with emphasis, “but we stock it only in the autumn, in canning season.”

Pickled Green Tomatoes

At the time, the distinction struck me as charmingly illogical. We’re not farmers, urgently preserving the harvest before a bad winter. As much as my kids like to imagine what would happen if the ferries stopped running, starvation is the least of my worries. Is there a single canning season anymore, really? If anything, the lack of urgency to “put food up” makes our entirely optional canning and pickling projects into a season-less, year-round affair.

Growing up, however, it was our Nantucket summer pantry that held the jelly jars and their labels, the pectin, the box of paraffin wax and the wobbly blue enamel double-boiler used only for melting it. Under our mother’s watchful eye, we kids were allowed to grasp the still-hot jars and gamely risk a burn from spilling the clear, melted wax. Carefully rotating the jars cooled the paraffin and sealed the blueberry jam or fox-grape jelly from the air. We knew by the careful way our mother worked that the alternative – hotwater canning big batches of jam or jelly – was something of a high-wire act, requiring concentration and vigilance.

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