Picking and Canning Fruit on the Vineyard Part 1
Historically July and August has been preserving and canning time. Clara Burgess Baptiste was born in 1907 on the island of Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts. She shared her oral history 1995. She like others who grew up on the island picked berries during the summer months. She recalls that Vineyard Haven, Germantown, and down towards Edgartown were good places for berries. We’ve been doing a series on the oral histories collected on Martha’s Vineyard. Starting today were doing a deep dive into the culture of berry picking and canning interweaving the history of the tradition and stories from other parts of the globe and North America. People first started preserving and canning foods such as berries in France in 1795. The introduction of easily sealed glass jars at the turn-of-the-century made canning and preserving popular among rural families because it allowed them to eat berries and produce from their gardens during the winter months without them spoiling. It also provided additional revenue from the sale of canned berries.
Berries require but little cooking, only long enough for the sugar to penetrate. Strew sugar over them, allow them to stand a few hours, then merely scald with the sugar; half to three-quarters of a pound is considered sufficient. The great secret of canning is to make the fruit perfectly air-tight. It must be put up boiling hot and the vessel filled to the brim. Have your jars conveniently placed near your boiling fruit, in a tin pan of hot water on the stove, roll them in the hot water, then fill immediately with the hot, scalding fruit, fill to the top, and seal quickly with the tops, which should also be heated; occasionally screw down the tops tighter, as the fruit shrinks as it cools, and the glass contracts and allows the air to enter the cans. They must be perfectly air-tight. The jars to be kept in a dark, cool, dry place.
(Raleigh H. Merritt, From Captivity to Fame or The Life of George Washington Carver (Meador Publishing Company, Boston, Massachusetts, 1929)