Saturday, August 23, 2014


In the 1940s, Mom’s stove in our Tacoma bungalow was a wood burning range on the inside wall of her kitchen. The range sported a flat cooking top plus a baking oven and firebox. The metallic hot water tank, which sat in the corner of the kitchen, received hot water warmed in pipes which ran through the firebox of the stove.

Mom ran the kitchen. Dad asked for his favorite foods and helped her when necessary. Emergencies did happen, and the worst occurred during canning, a time I came to fear. We picked fruit from our own backyard Gravenstein apple tree. Using these, Mom put up quarts of applesauce, grinding the apples in a handpowered meat grinder clamped to a shelf.

Danger rose with the next step, when the fruit was in the jar. She’d place the jars of applesauce in her pressure cooker, a then-popular convenience consisting of a pot fashioned of strong metal sides and a heavy lid. a narrow upright pipe about two inches high rose from the center of the lid. Over this steam vent, Mom slipped a weight or two. By increasing steam pressure this way, the heat level increased and food processed quicker. But occasionally, steam pressure accidentally built too high and blew the weights right off the steam vent to relieve the pressure.

When the pressure cooker blew, excitement would ensure. The kitchen filled with the hiss of escaping steam mingled with two sounds: a hiss like a ferry boat whistle and Mom’s bloody screams for help. Dad would come running, lickety–split. Between them they’d agree on how to let the pressure subside, usually by letting steam vent through the upright pipe on the lid. In fear of an explosion, I’d run out the door from the kitchen into the enclosed back porch. There, beside the washing machine and my dog’s bed, I felt safe until things calmed in the kitchen.

Once the filled jars were recovered from the pressure cooker, cooled, and wiped down, Mom stored them in shelves on the back porch. every fall I took courage from the shelves full of canned this–and–that on the back porch. I had the comfortable feeling that we’d make it through the winter with plenty of food put up in glass jars by Mom.

Based on an episode in Growing Green Two Ways!, copyright 2014. Please purchase the 175 page book as indicated on this page in paperback or Kindle formats.

I invite you to add your comments about pressure cooking, canning, or Gravenstein apples.


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