Storing summer vegetables

In the hills of New York, where I was a child, gardens were made by kicking aside the rocks ad planting seeds.
My grandfather always kept a patch out back of the house to hoe. I remember his fresh strawberries in the spring and sitting in Grandma’s kitchen scraping corn off the cob in the late summer.
As a young adult, my father tired gardening in the stone strewn ground but inevitably the goldenrod quickly overshadowed the corn. After my father passed the speed limit in age, he had the time and interest to garden. In one month, his truck patch produced more squash, tomatoes, cucumbers and beans than all the family could eat in two years.
My sister and mom hauled carloads of vegetables to work to give to co-workers. Before the summer of prosperity was over, my mother hauled vegetables to the community college where she worked, left them on the hood of the car with a sign that read, “Free, help yourself.” The only thing left on her car when she came back out in the afternoons was the sign.
I thought it would be fun to garden and can vegetables when I married an Indiana man. In northern Indiana, where we lived for 10 years, gardens are carved out of the backyards of what was once farming soil. All you have to do is think about planting a seed and the plant bursts out of the ground producing a hundred fold.
I learned the hard way that the best of gardens and vegetables will not keep without proper care. My experienced neighbors were amused when I asserted “the cookbook said you only have to put the can of green beans in a steam bath for five minutes.”
My mother-in-law insisted I take home her pressure cooker and cook those jars of green beans until the kitchen was hot and humid.
My five minute jars of bright green beans looked a lot prettier than the drab olive green beans that came out of her pressure cooker. But her way did a better job of insuring my cans of beans did not spoil.
Through 10 summers of trial and error in Indiana, over a hot stove in a small kitchen, in a house with no air conditioning, I learned to can and freeze. The last couple years I put up between 500 to 700 quarts of fresh fruits, vegetables, jams, pickles and meats – and none of the lids popped off from spoiling.
Then we moved to Arkansas where our children have grown up. The day before we moved, one packer spent all day wrapping all my jars for shipping to Arkansas. The first summer, my husband planted a little patch of garden in the hard, red clay of our backyard. The seeds peeped their heads out of the ground, spread a few roots, withered and died. We needed to do a lot more than plant to have a prosperous garden patch. ‘With his new job, he didn’t have the time. I had lost interest. I stored the boxes of jars in the attic, studied the weekly ads, shopped in air-conditioned stores and still filled our 20-cubic-foot freezer — and it beat canning over a hot stove any day.