One of the most well thought-out features of the 1960-1961 house remodel/rebuild was the “fruit room.” Attached to the northeast corner on the back of the original home’s foundation, the exterior walls were made from cinder block that even had the spaces filled in to provide better insulation. The room itself had floor to ceiling shelves arranged in “U” around the room.
During our childhood years, Mom’s home canning goal was to completely fill every space. She often came close. We didn’t share Mom’s enthusiasm because we knew that filling every shelf meant “canning” literally hundreds of pints and quarts of fruits and vegetables. Mom, however, loved it!
Marianne recently shared the following memories of home canning and the fruit room:
“Every summer Joyce would work very hard to fill the shelves with bottles fruit, vegetables, jams, juice, even trout. The downside of this project was that it seemed to go on forever and it took on a life of it’s own. Everything else in the house was put on hold until the canning was finished, especially the kitchen floor. It would get so sticky from spills that you’d almost get stuck to it. The end result was amazing and fed the family. I need to add that this was my least favorite time of the year” (Marianne, January 2015).
During our indentured servitude to the fruit room, we “put up” the following:
- Peaches (bought in Box Elder county)
- Sweet cherries (bought in Box Elder county)
- Pie cherries (bought in Box Elder county)
- Apricots (picked from our own trees)
- Tomatoes (raised in our garden)
- Tomato juice (raised in our garden)
- Applesauce (from our own trees plus purchased at Ward bazaars)
- Sliced apples for pies
- Huckleberries (raised in our garden)
- Pears (bought in Box Elder county)
- Green beans – both whole and cut (raised in our garden)
- Dill pickles (cucumbers raised in our garden)
- Sweet pickles (cucumbers raised in our garden)
- Mustard pickles (partly from our garden, cauliflower and pearl onions bought at the store)
- Beets (raised in our garden)
- Deer meat (shot by Dad)
Mom was an accomplished fruit and vegetable preserver, raising that skill to near art form. She meticulously inspected every bottle of peaches to make sure that each peach half lined up perfectly with the one below it, with four peaches per layer. Who can forget her whole green beans in pint jars? The beans were of uniform size and, like the peaches, perfectly packed in the jar so that each bean was exactly perpendicular to the bottom of the jar and did not encroach on it’s neighbor bean’s space.
Once, while we still lived in the old house (pre-1960), Uncle Joe came to help with the string bean harvest and canning. He was more into quantity than art (“they all taste the same once their cooked”, he claimed) so insisted on cutting the beans in short, equal lengths. Even as a young boy, Dana could tell it bothered Mom but doesn’t remember her converting Uncle Joe to her soldier-straight, whole bean style.
Good-looking fruits and vegetables were big in those days. Every year, we walked the home canning building’s aisles at the Cache County Fair with Mom, realizing that we had bottles in the fruit room that looked better than those that had claimed the judges’ ribbons.
Although Mom aspired to fill the fruit room, she didn’t take kindly to discovering that Marianne and Dana were using it to incubate black widow spider babies. They’d captured a black widow, put it in a half-gallon jar with holes poked in the lid and hid it away on one of the shelves. By the time Mom found it, the spider was a proud mother of hundreds of little ones, who were crawling all over the inside of the bottle. That’s one bottle that got thrown away.