Connecting with my roots: Canning Chow Chow brings back great memories

Some of the ingredients used in our first batch of chow chow

I think sometimes we can connect with the relatives that are no longer with us by doing things that they enjoyed.

I find myself at peace when I’m painting on canvas, which is something my mom’s mother enjoyed doing throughout her life.  In my house you’ll find some of her works hanging alongside mine and there’s something about seeing them that can turn a not-that-great day into a better day.

The same can be said when I’m in my garden. At 25 I never would have imagined the joy of waking up early on a Saturday morning, pulling on my gardening clothes and weeding my vegetable patch as the sun slowly creeped up, but now this chore has become a time for me to reflect. 

Recently, my sisters and I decided to dive into canning, which both of my grandmothers enjoyed throughout their life. We contacted my aunt, who sent me a chow chow recipe that had been handed down generations ago. Its intricate cursive writing and vague directions made a typical Tuesday into a night I won’t soon forget.

While my older sister ran out to pickup last-minute canning supplies, I scrubbed my Grandmother Lois’ jars in the sink.

As I dragged the dish rag across the Kerr and Ball jars, feeling the grooves and measuring marks on the side, I wondered how many times these jars had been used, what pickled goods had been in them before and when was the last time my grandmother had used them.

I wondered if she ever thought her grandkids would be using these jars to can with.

The whole process of cutting, salting, boiling and packing the jars wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be. And hearing the jar lids pop, meaning that they had sealed, was music to my ears.

If you’ve lost a loved one and want to try to reconnect with them try doing something they loved. Whether it’s fly fishing, canning, gardening, baking or playing the piano for family, you’ll probably realize why that was something they spent a lot of time doing.

Canning brought my sisters and I together on a sporadic weekday night. The family stories we told brought back good memories and even made us a laugh a time or two. No matter how our chow chow turns out, I hope we get a chance to try our hand at canning again soon.

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