Under Pressure… Life Lessons from the Kitchen

Do you remember the first time you successfully used a pressure canner?

Did you careful comb the instructions, checking the weights for the third time and the steps for the fifth? Did you feel anxious as you impatiently watched for steam, fascinated, but hesitant to get too close?

Did you feel trepidation when the pressure began to build and hiss out around the air lock, wondering if you should turn the heat down? Did you momentarily panic… asking yourself, “Is that supposed to happen? How long should it take?”

Did you cringe a little inside thinking perhaps you didn’t put the seal in correctly, forgot a step, or worse yet… had a faulty canner and were sure to have it explode in front of you at any moment?  

Did you peer from around the safety of the refrigerator door, silently praying that the air vent popped and that the lid was locked before the entire contents took out your microwave and spewed across your kitchen?

Did you stare at the pressure regulator, hearing the pressure of the boil and willing it to rock so you could start your timer? Did you jump back, startled, the first time it lurched?  

Do you remember how quickly the rhythmic rock became background noise as you went about your day? Or the moment when you reached over the pot for the first time without worrying about it… and how the familiarity of it all took you by surprise?

I do.

Tonight I opened a jar of our homemade stock and thought about how many years I missed out on these small comforts (and precious freezer space) out of fear and doubt.

Let’s face it, pressure canning can be intimidating.

For years I convinced myself that I was satisfied making pickles, salsa, jams, and jellies. I told myself it was just as easy to freeze stock and vegetables out of the garden. It got to the point that my husband joked about taking his life into his own hands opening any of the freezers (yes I’m spoiled), knowing that at least one carefully placed item would likely fall and that he would never be able to fit the puzzle pieces back together in the same way for the door to close again.

All of that changed after catching up with an old friend with a passion for #puttingfoodby. It’s amazing what a handful of conversations and a friend willing to act as a mentor can do for your self-confidence. Armed with her recommendations, we purchased our first pressure canner and found a new sense of pride in both mastering a daunting piece of equipment and stocking our shelves with a greater variety of winter stores. Sure, it’s not the flashiest new toy, but learning a new skill is worth celebrating!

As I see people sharing resolutions and goals for themselves in the New Year, I keep thinking about what a difference we can make on the lives of others, in ways big and small. Janet probably has no idea the difference our conversations made in pushing me to finally attempt canning low acid foods or the sense of accomplishment that came with it. What an incredible gift to share with someone. Her willingness to acknowledge my fears and ease my hesitations, despite how silly they may have seemed from her vantage point, empowered me to see past my own self-doubt. That is a small win that I celebrate every time I open something I’ve pressure canned at home.

Those little kindnesses, frequently overlooked and taken for granted, are often the very things that keep us moving forward.

They say one of the greatest gifts you can give others is your time, but don’t underestimate the difference small investments can make. Sometimes all it takes is a few minutes of your day to completely change someone else’s.

Is there anything better than receiving a surprise care package of homemade goodies? This small gesture and ample supply of homemade candy made our Christmas a few years ago.

Gift a jar of jam or some of your favorite (or least favorite for that matter) homemade candy. Share your friend’s small business post or leave a positive review. Take the time to be a sounding board for your partner’s latest project ideas…. even if you know they may not last more than 48 hours. Send a note to someone when you’re thinking of them. Shop local and learn the stories of those working to grow your community. Get excited about a friend’s new hobby, even if you only ever see pictures on social media. Privately cheer others on as they struggle with an unexpected burden or life change. Act as a resource for someone. Be a mentor. Open up a new realm of possibilities for someone, just like Janet did for me.

Forget making another resolution, make connections this year.

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