My husband has the gift of canning. His gift flows from physical strength and family tradition. My gifts tend more toward looking out the window and sitting, occasionally, at poolsides with a book. The latter gift goes largely unutilized.


Our extravagantly beautiful summer bowed and bolted; fall arrived, and the first phase of our grapes, more than 20 pounds, ripened overnight. Rain split our thin-skinned varieties; especially hard-hit was the Sweet seduction, and mold set in quickly throughout much of the vine. The Interlaken held up well, and my husband picked 23 pounds from our vines. The Canadice, the sweetest and best of all, also held up well, and remains firm enough to go another week before picking. The Campbell’s Early, a Concord type, has never been true to its name, and probably has another week or two before it ripens. With plums and apples also in sight of ripening, canning will likely continue for the next three weekends. It makes for a homey time.


My husband canned about 17 pounds of Interlakens, juiced another couple of pounds, and refrigerated enough for us to enjoy fresh for the week. He does the canning outdoors on the deck on a propane stove. He has the method simplified to stemming the grapes, placing them in jars, adding water but no sugar, and placing them in the pressure canner for about ten minutes. The green grapes lose their vibrant color, and look rather like large canned peas, but they are very good, and we enjoy them through the winter.


I know that some women appreciate the sight of a linen closet stocked with neatly folded towels and sheets. I appreciate a well-stocked pantry with rows of mason jars containing the fruits of our own backyard. There is something inherently wonderful about growing and canning things, not from necessity, but from a love for the ability of the land to yield and the ability of the hand to work. Of course we can buy grapes the year round, but we would rather do it ourselves. Or at least, I would rather watch my husband do it.