"Cows are my passion. What I have ever sighed for has been to retreat to a farm and live entirely surrounded by cows–and china." Charles Dickens

September 25, 2011

'Obsessive Canning Disorder' Much?

Today my daughter asked me on the phone, concerned, "Mom, why are you canning so much?" I had to laugh (not the "heh heh, heh heh" nutty kind of laugh but a real scoffing kind of laugh) because I was reminded of this image, right (internet source unknown), and that my youngest son had asked the same question last week.

You've heard it here, first: Obsessive Canning Disorder. I believe I have discovered another shade of the OCD spectrum, folks, like "Obsessive Cleaning Disorder" which likely afflicts a wider domestic population. Zombies or not, we will have one full larder this winter!

Part of the vast cellar storehouse belonging to some Old Order Mennonites:
as this particular family doesn't have a freezer, they really do can everything.

Here's the main reason why I can stuff, why I like to have food on hand, why I can justify a sense of food hoarding for my family (not to mention that these are difficult financial times and we are trying to rely less upon the grocery store, as well as to buy and consume locally grown food for a number of reasons):
Of course…when I was girl…no self-respecting house was built without a basement and a fruit and vegetable cellar. From the time the first strawberries ripened, usually in late May, until the first snow fell, my mother’s chief household concern was her fruit cellar. By Halloween the cellar was filled. Sealed with paraffin in neatly labeled containers were shelves of rich strawberry preserves, raspberry jam, orange marmalade and blueberries; jars of chili sauce, purple beets and yellow corn; quarts of whole green tomato pickles, cucumber pickles; and crocks of apple butter. On the bottom shelf, lying side by side, were a few bottles of dandelion wine. Buried deep in rich brown dirt, against two of the walls, was a winter’s supply of potatoes, carrots and onions. Two stone crocks, holding dozens of eggs 'put down' in liquid glass, stood against the third wall. To the left of the door stood a bushel basket or two of red apples, filling the small, windowless room with their spicy odor. To the right of the door, on a shelf hand high, was a candle in a holder and a box of matches. Beneath the candle shelf on the floor was a mouse trap decorated with a tempting bit of cheese...Mother was justly proud of her cellar. She spent weeks standing over steaming preserve kettles, often on hot days.”
And then there's Annie Curd, whom I quoted in my book, The Pantry–Its History and Modern Uses, who wrote over a century ago:
"Our list of fall fruits is completed; the hard, back-breaking work is at an end, and we feel as if––well, we never wanted to see or taste jelly again. But there are few of us who do not in time regain an appetite for these dainty relishes, and who do not, after a rest, enjoy viewing the array upon our pantry shelves."
from "Fruit Jellies," The Home-Maker, August 1890  

It's part of the seasonal rhythm here: buy local produce or grow it, put it in jars or freezer bags, eat some and store some. I will be grateful this winter when I open up the canning cupboard (we do not have a cellar, alas) and see all of those jars lined up ready to be opened and savored.

And the canning continues: we are in the midst of grape juice, grape jam [here's my recipe from an old blog post at In the Pantry–yikes, almost FIVE years ago!] and maybe spiced grapes over at the cottage and I must return to it. I may even can the contents of my 'what not' drawer (seriously). I promise more blog entries soon with recipes and photos in this realm.

You come back when you're ready! 


NOTE: The first quote, above, was one of many unused, and wonderful, quotes that I found while researching for my book, The Pantry–Its History and Modern UsesI was limited to 100 pages, including photographs, so I found many more delicious quotes than I was able to use. This is from an article that appeared in American Cookery by Jane Hutchin. [“No More Cellars,” by Jane Hutchin, American Cookery, April 1941, Vol. XLV, No. 9, pp. 545-547]


  1. Interesting you have named your disorder - like that one. We used to suffer the same. Now unfortunately we hardly can anything.

    We used to have an annual cellar cleanout back on the farm. I recall feeding the pigs a whole lot of canned produce. Obviously some of it must have been a little fermented - the pigs were drunk - hilarious to watch though.

  2. Curious...I thought this was just my father-in-law's personal glitch. I'll have to send him the link!

  3. So glad that it finally has a name! I was raised on fresh and canned, (from the garden,) food, so once you start eating that way you can not eat green beans from an aluminum can from the grocery store. ;)

  4. That is the most beautiful stash of filled jars I've ever seen.


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