IN A JAM AND A PICKLE TOO

The weekend was going to be busy. Peas were hanging fat and ready on the vine; another few days and their sweet promise that kept me kneeling in the cold winds of May marching those wrinkled seeds down their row would be all for naught. The deck needed staining and I had vowed that this was the weekend when I would finally get it done. And there was the horse pasture. If I didn?t start mending the back fence soon, it would be like closing the barn door after the horses had left. Only it would be fixing the fence after the horses had left. Same, but different. Well, not too different.

And then there was work. I had three projects all coming due at once that needed to be finished over the weekend. So, when the phone rang and a cheerful voice of a neighbor asked if I wanted to order some fresh fruit or tomatoes for pick up on Friday night, I considered the extra time such an order would mean. Hours spent slicing, dicing, stirring, sterilizing jars and canning. Hours I didn?t have. It didn?t take me long to give her my answer. ?I?ll get a case of peaches, a case of pears and. . .? I considered this year?s pathetic excuse for a tomato patch and swiftly added, ?and two cases of tomatoes.?

My name is Shannon and I have a canning addiction.

I don?t know how it happened. How do any of these things happen? It starts off innocently enough with maybe a strawberry patch all coming ripe at once, and you think – I?ll just make up a couple jars of jam. You don?t mean for it to take over your life. It?s six jars of jam, that?s all. You can handle it. Oh sure, there?s a hit of adrenaline as you ladle the bubbling fruit into the hot jars, but it?s just one afternoon out of your summer. You?re not hurting anyone.

Then you hear the lids pop down, one by one, indicating a tight seal. Pop! Pop! And Lord knows you can?t deny the pleasure you derive from the sound. The next day you hold the jar up to the sunlight where it glitters like rubies and you shiver with delight at what you have created. You line the jars up on the pantry shelf and you can?t help but notice during your frequent visits how much shelf you have. And how few jars. A friend, who doesn?t yet know your new weakness, tells you about zucchini pickles. You just happen to have a wheelbarrow full of zucchini.

Soon you?re hanging out in warehouses buying sugar and vinegar by the case lot. You park in front of a stranger?s house at dawn, palm?s sweaty on the steering wheel, a roll of grimy ten dollar bills in your pocket, waiting for a garage sale to start, all because someone let it slip that they had 17 unopened cases of canning jars for sale. The kind with decorative glass.

You stop your usual activities and lose touch with old friends. You make new friends. Friends who can provide you with recipes for cauli-cuke relish and spiced crab apples. Friends who come by in noisy vehicles, buckets rattling in the back, waking up the neighborhood at dawn, to take you berry picking. Friends who can score you the biggest saskatoons you?ve ever seen.

You get bored of berry jam and pickles. You start making salsa, relish and chutney. You find that you don?t get the same thrill you used to from a jar of plain canned peaches. So you up the fix by adding cinnamon sticks, knowing that cinnamon sticks are expensive and worse, you don?t even like cinnamon that much.

Your pantry now has more jars than shelf and it?s obvious you?re in trouble. You panic. That?s when you start dealing. Guests can?t leave your house without half a dozen jars under their arm.

I admit I have a problem. I know I should stop. But more importantly, I know I should have ordered at least two more cases of tomatoes.

Shannon McKinnon is a humour columnist from the Peace River country. You can read more at www.shannonmckinnon.com