When a garden or orchard came in, it was in abundance. Country folks had to do what we call working it up. The women folk would work up sweet corn by cutting it off the cobs and canning it. They also worked up and canned peas, beans, and tomatoes. Potatoes would be spread to dry and covered with lime, though I don’t remember why.
In later days we bagged and froze rather than canned. It was easier, and none of us had a smoke house to put the canned goods in.
One food we worked up that come to mind this cold winter morning is peaches. Beautiful delicious Red Haven peaches were perfect for preparing and freezing. Mimi and her friend Betsy would do that every year until we could no longer find Red Havens.
They steeped them in a syrup they made. These peaches were good enough to thaw and eat as is, but were a real treat in a cobbler, as home-made peach ice cream, or as a topping on store bought vanilla ice cream. I think I’ll try to find some Red Havens this summer at local farmers markets.
We also used to go to a you-pick strawberry farm to pick our own. We put them up the same way as peaches except there was no peeling. You only had to cap and wash them. Whatever that variety was is probably not available nowadays as modern science has hybridized strawberries to be larger rather than sweeter. They are sold by bulk, not weight. Such a shame.
Another home worked up food I miss a lot is daddy-in-law Ralph’s sausage. In the old days we raised and killed our own hogs. In later years he would buy bulk sausage from a butcher in the Black Zion area of Pontotoc County.
He would take the pork sausage, add his special blend of spices, grind it all together, make it into patties, and freeze them. The only recipe he had was in his head and his and Opal’s taste.
I wish now I had paid attention to how he worked it up. I suppose we never think that year might be the last year he would be able to do that. I need to give full credit to Opal, my mother-on-law. They did all their work together, whether it was cooking, gardening, or yard work. They have both gone to be with our Heavenly Father. In all their years together, they never spent a night apart.
What me and Mimi would give to have breakfast with them again with a big platter of Opal’s home-made biscuits, Ralph’s home-made hot sausage (full of red pepper flakes), and their home-made pear preserves.
Aint God good!
Feel free to send me your questions to Carl Wayne Hardeman, Master Gardener, at firstname.lastname@example.org.