Picking and Canning Fruit on the Vineyard Part 3
We are sharing stories from Martha’s Vineyard on the theme of picking and canning fruit. These are stories that are part of a larger oral history project housed at the Martha’s Vineyard Museum in Edgartown, Massachusetts. I came across them several years ago during a visit to the island. Rosalie Splende was born in August of 1904 to a family of 10 children on Martha’s Vineyard. At the time of her oral history she was almost 79 years old. She remembers blueberry picking in Chilmark where the berries had been enormous. The problem was “getting chewed up by mosquitoes in the process!” She goes on to say, we packed blueberries and hauled them to a little hotel “who used to buy them from us for 15 or 20 cents a quart.” Her mother would also preserve all sorts of fruits. Historically women assumed the responsibility for canning and preserving food as well as for the choice and preparation of food for each meal” writes sociologist Margaret Cussler and Mary L. de Give in their book the Psychological and Socio-Cultural Factors Affecting Food Habits first published in 1952. They go on to say, “As the chief culture carrier in regard to food, she may teach the child that certain foods are desirable, satisfying, delightful, and good . . . Thus the mother’s favorite dishes carry over more frequently than the father’s do.”
There is no fruit so difficult to can nicely as the grape; by observing the following instructions you will find the grapes rich and tender a year from putting up. Squeeze the pulp from the skin, as the seeds are objectionable; boil the pulp, until the seeds begin to loosen, in one kettle, having the skins boiling, in a little water, hard in another kettle, as they are tough. When the pulp seems tender, put it through the sieve; then add the skins, if tender, with the water they boil in, if not too much. We use a large coffee cupful of sugar for a quart can; boil until thick and can in the usual way.
F.L. Gillette, The Whitehouse Cookbook (1887)