Trust is an active verb. I don’t mean this in the grammatical sense of active versus passive. I mean that it requires action on the part of the trust-er. Here’s how I found out.
My new experiment this year was canning. Every year, I try to do something in the realm of food that I haven’t done before. I have experimented with a lot of different ways to preserve food; freezing and drying it to keep it around. Canning was something that I had wanted to try, had been meaning to try, until I finally had a reason to actually purchase the equipment and get started. To be honest I was more than a little intimidated.
There is a lot of risk in canning (or so it appears to me). It seems rather perilous to let food sit on a shelf with no refrigeration, only to eat it heaven knows how far down the road! I balk at the idea that nothing more than my own paltry skill might stand between my family and heaven knows what bacteria or spore. Still, I have heard that there are people in the world who have actually done this thing called canning. They actually preserved food and did it safely! In fact, many people have! My own ancestors did this and our family line has made it to the present day.
So I worked up the courage. I even decided that if all went well, some of the preserved food might make good Christmas presents. Last year, you may remember, I spent two weeks in a cheese marathon, making various kinds of cheddar to give away. This year, it will be chutney, sauce and relish. I found the recipe for all three in Barbara Kingsolver’s book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. A printable copy can be found here, though I’ll also print it below. I made this recipe last year and stored it in the freezer. Our family really loves it, so it seemed like a good idea to share.
But sharing will only come after testing. Here is where the trust comes in. I have no intention of giving any of these pretty little jars away without first examining and tasting some samples. If there is something unfortunate in them, I want to be the one to find that out, not my kids’ Sunday School teachers. So testing season has begun.
I open the jars cautiously. Look and smell carefully. So far so good. But the inevitable moment comes when the contents of the jar have to land on my tongue. For someone who likes to try new things, I can be remarkably squeamish and whiney. Trust was required. Action had to be taken in order to move forward.
Faith is a sweet thing to talk about. Living it is much more gritty. There are times when we have to step past the mere words of belief and take on the hazardous work that leads to conviction. We climb out on that rickety limb or step out in the dark to see if the road really will rise to meet us. We risk dirt under nails, abrasions on skin, icky things on the tongue. We may be required to put literal skin in the game, or possibly just our easily bruised hopes.
But our trust in God is inevitably rewarded. When we take that dangerous step, we find more than solid ground beneath our boots. We gain a new acre of firm foundation in a world that has just expanded. We acquire something sturdy, a place where we can stand.
My chutney is fine. So is the tomato sauce, and even the plums that I canned as a practice round. Everything that was cooked and put in the glass jars has remained food without transforming into biology research. We haven’t once had to rush to the emergency room. It even tasted pretty good. BBQ relish and Sweet and Sour Sauce are still to come, but I am feeling better and better about Christmas.
These gifts may not be gold, frankincense or myrrh, but I hope they share the love of Christ by filling a few stomachs and a few hearts.
RELISH, SAUCE AND CHUTNEY – ALL IN ONE DAY
Thanks to Janet Chadwick,
The Busy Person’s Guide to Preserving Food
If you don’t have a garden, you can stock up on tomatoes, peaches, apples and onions at the end of summer, when your farmers’ market will have these at the year’s best quality and price. Then, schedule a whole afternoon and a friend for this interesting project that gives you three different, delicious products to eat all winter.
Canning jars and lids: 14 pint jars, 7 half-pint jars
Start with a very large, heavy kettle. You will be adding different ingredients and canning different sauces as you go.
4 quarts tomato puree
24 large apples
7 cups chopped onions
2 quarts cider vinegar
6 cups sugar
2/3 cup salt
3 tsp. ground cloves
3 tsp. cinnamon
2 tsp. red pepper
2 tsp. mustard
Puree tomatoes; core and coarsely chop apples; coarsely chop onions. Combine in large pot along with the vinegar, sugar and seasonings. Bring to a boil and simmer for about 2 hours or until thick. Meanwhile, preheat water in a canner bath and sterilize jars and lids (in boiling water or dishwasher) and keep them hot until use. Fill 7 pint jars with some of the thickened Barbecue Relish, leaving ½ inch headspace in each jar. Put filled jars in canner with lids screwed on tightly and boil for ten minutes. Remove and cool.
2 quarts sliced peaches
6 cups sugar
½ cup water
2 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. Tabasco sauce
In a separate pan, cook peaches and water for 10 minutes, until soft. Add sugar and bring slowly to boil, stirring until sugar dissolves. Boil until thick (15 min.), stirring to prevent scorching.
Add peach mixture to the remaining tomato mixture in the kettle and bring back up to a boil to make Sweet and Sour Sauce. Fill 7 pint jars leaving ½ inch headspace, boil in canner for ten minutes. Remove and cool.
1 cup raisins
1 cup walnuts
Add these to the kettle, mix well and bring it back to a boil to make Chutney. Fill 7 ½-pint jars leaving ½ inch headspace. Boil in canner for ten minutes. Remove.
As all the jars cool, make sure the jar lids pop their seals by creating a vacuum as contents cool. You’ll hear them go “ping.” To double check, after they’re entirely cooled, push down on each lid’s center – it should feel firmly sucked down, not loose. (If a jar didn’t seal, refrigerate and use the contents soon.) The ring portion of the lid can be removed before storing; when processed properly, the dome lids will stay securely sealed until you open the jar with a can opener.
Label each product before you forget what’s what, and share with the friend who helped. The Barbeque Relish is great on broiled or grilled fish or chicken. The Sweet and Sour Sauce gives an Asian flavor to rice dishes. Chutney can perk up anything.