Canning Applesauce

Jars of applesauce canned by students and prospective students of the Restart program on Friday, March 13.

How ironic to have spent yesterday morning (Friday, March 13) teaching canning as part of an Enterprise Restart lesson. While we were chopping, simmering and laughing in the kitchen of the The Gathering church, the internet was abuzz with announcements of events postponed and reminders of handwashing protocol.

While people were bemoaning empty toilet paper shelves and stocking up on cereal, we were having a great time together, preserving food.

The canning part of the lesson came about because a very kind soul donated almost a full case of apples to H.O.S.T. House, simultaneously providing the inspiration for our first Friday in the Kitchen - canning applesauce!

While the kitchen at H.O.S.T. House is under construction, Pastor Peter Foster is allowing us to use the kitchen at the church, which we really appreciate. In just over three hours, we turned out 22 half-pint jars of applesauce spiked with cinnamon.

The kitchen smelled like apple pie.

We made half-pints because that’s about a serving. A whole pint, or two cups, is a lot of applesauce to eat in one sitting, and if you don’t have access to a fridge and there’s not really anyone around you want to share it with (and, because of the cinnamon, you can’t feed it to your dog if you have one), whatever’s left will probably end up going to waste. Not a fate we’d want for any food, but especially not such a nice gift. So we made half-pints, which seemed to please everybody – which is to say we ladies, as the guys had been called away to work elsewhere fairly early in the process.

At least one of them was disappointed to have missed out, and asked later if we could schedule another canning session so that he could participate. It’s probably not an accident that there were enough apples left over for at least another batch, which means another lesson.

Everyone was so excited to see the jars of applesauce they’d made lined up on mats after they came out of the canner that they started talking about people they’d like to share them with.

When I arrived home that afternoon and took a quick look online, that immediate response of genuinely wanting to share stood in stark contrast to angry folks posting about panic buying and empty shelves. (This is the point where I have to admit that I've stocked up a little more than usual, too, though more like filling in a few holes than buying in a panic.)

For however long and at whatever intensity this situation exists, each of us has control over one thing: how we interact with one another. Life may be a little different for a bit, and we may find that we need to interact with the people in our orbits in a different way.

A little extra kindness will go far, as we all deal with a little more stress than usual.

I don’t believe it’s an exaggeration to say that how well we come out of this as a nation will depend on how well we treat one another as neighbors in the coming days and weeks.

It wasn’t that long ago that we would gladly loan the proverbial cup of sugar to someone who lived nearby, knowing that lending made it OK for us to ask for something, if and when we found ourselves in need.

We also knew what it was like to be out of something.

Before the advent of big box stores and 24-hour shopping (not to mention Sunday delivery from Amazon), the inconvenience of running out of something was more common. We had probably experienced it ourselves, and knew firsthand how frustrating it could be. So if we had the sugar, we shared.

We might all need something we don’t have in the next little while. Now is the time to decide what our answer will be, if the folks next door ask for, say, a roll of toilet paper.

We’re all in this together, and now is the time to go a little out of our way to connect with those around us. Regardless of whether they are different from us.

The best way to do that is to get to know the people living next door and across the street. It costs absolutely nothing, to wave as we’re backing out of our driveways or working in the yard. But it could have a huge impact, and just might end up making the next little while a bit easier to get through.

When my husband was out of the country few months ago, I dealt with no less than three leaks. And the dear friend we usually call on for things like that wasn’t available.

I knew that our new neighbor was a contractor, and thus likely to know a plumber who could help right away. So I walked across the street, rehearsing in my head what I would say - it's surprising how much that can help.

That one conversation, sparked by a need, led to sharing information about natural remedies, and the gift of aloe plant starts. We make it a point to wave or say hello now, whenever we see each other. As I walked back into the house carrying the gifted aloe starts a month or so ago, I realized that we’d become real neighbors.

And that’s the way it should be.

However things play out over the next little while, developing good relationships with the folks around us could make life a whole lot better.

For my money, that's the best antidote to panic buying.

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