Lessons from the 1940s – Yes, I Can!

My plum tree overfloweth. Right now, two grocery bags full of ripe plums are sitting on my kitchen counter, saying, “We want to jam!”

Tomorrow I’ll boil jars, pit and puree plums, measure sugar, and emotionally bond with my ancestors.
Something about canning appeals to me. I love my food processor, heavy-duty mixer, and modern stove and oven. I love buying my meat already butchered and wrapped in styrofoam and clear plastic. I love my pantry and refrigerator bulging with food. But all this distances me from reality.
Food comes at a price. Food takes work. Food is precious.
In the 1940s, everyone knew that. While most people didn’t have to do their own butchering, meat was rationed and scarce. Housewives had to come up with dishes that didn’t require meat or used whatever was available.
Everyone was encouraged to plant Victory Gardens to grow ration point-free produce for their families. Since fewer foods were imported, canning was a necessity to provide fruits and vegetables year-round. Each household was even allowed an extra ration of precious sugar just for canning use.
I make my own jam for many reasons. It uses up the fruit so it doesn’t go to waste. It saves me a bit of money. It makes the house smell divine. And homemade jam is yummy. But I also love the sense of continuity with the past, and the reminder that food is a gift from God to be cherished and never taken for granted.
How about you? Do you have any canning memories? Do you enjoy canning?
Leave a comment, and I’ll conduct a drawing on Thursday for a jar of homemade plum jam!

9 Responses to “Lessons from the 1940s – Yes, I Can!”

  1. Sharon

    I’ve never done any canning. It’s something that I’d love to try. I think the one thing that has kept me from doing it is the worry that it will be too difficult.

  2. Martha A.

    i love canning! It is so much fun and lots of work!!! i find if i get the fruit for free, the sugar on sale…..it saves me alot of money!

  3. Virginia C

    The best jelly that I have ever eaten was made with wild grapes. My grandmother was the best cook ever, and she also knew the names and uses for so many flowers and plants. We used to go on walks and she would point things out to me and explain what they were. One day we found a patch of wild grapes, small and reddish, and I asked her if she could make jelly. I didn’t realize how many grapes it would take to make jars of jelly to line up on the pantry shelf. My wonderful Gran was able to take our small little treasure of grapes and make one perfect jar of jelly. One of the short, half-pint quilted-glass jars. I can still see it and remember the taste of that sweet jelly. When I held the jar up to the sunlight coming through the window, it glowed like a garnet gem.

    gcwhiskas at aol dot com

  4. Lois Hudson

    My dad was a rural pastor during the war. He’d often be driving through the countryside on Saturday, and bring home overripe fruit that the farmer couldn’t hold over Sunday (when no work was done). So I remember my dear little mother working late into the night Saturday night to get the canning done before Sunday. I remember rationing well.

  5. Karen Lange

    My grandmother canned and froze all kinds of produce from her garden. Her strawberry jam was the best! I’ve done a little canning, but mostly freeze things now – everything from peppers and tomatoes to peaches and apple pie filling. I feel very thrifty:) It might sound silly, but I feel as though it carries Grandma’s legacy on. I hope to pass it on to my daughter and grandchildren. Good post:)

  6. Bill

    Your grandma canned every year. It was a big production with all the boiling and concern for proper sanitation. She canned mostly tomatoes. We enjoyed them throughout the winter, as she would use them for spaghetti sauce, stews, and other great meals.


  7. Miss1941

    I’ve only canned once with my dad when I was a lot younger. But I’m definitely going to be doing it more often.

  8. Sarah Sundin

    What great stories!
    Sharon – I’ve found making jam is fairly easy, canning fruits/tomatoes a bit more time-consuming – but it’s super fun.
    Martha – don’t you feel so wonderfully thrifty when you can? Love it.
    Virginia – what a beautiful story – and beautifully written 🙂
    Karen – can’t beat the combo of thrift & legacy, huh?
    Bill – I never got to benefit from Grandma’s canning, but she loved to talk about it. She was delighted when Dave got me started. Like Karen, I feel that connection to Grandma when I can.
    Susie – what a great idea! I haven’t tried applesauce yet, but our apple tree is maturing, and I’ll probably have a big enough crop this year.
    Miss 1941 – I’d say it’s right up your vintage alley 🙂 You can wear a cute apron when you do it too.