“I am resisting the temptation to buy a half-bushel of peaches
because it will take a whole Saturday for putting them up,” I reported
to my prayer friend. I cleaned out the attic this spring and found my
mother’s glass canning jars—none with chips on their rims!— the
screw-on lids, colander, wire racks, blue-and-white enamel
boiling-water-bath canners, tongs, and wide-mouthed funnels. Some
nostalgic memory kept tugging at me—something about days with enough
time, with Mother and me in the kitchen. It had been decades since I
had put up 40 quarts of homemade tomato sauce.
“Oh, Karen,” my friend responded. “If it gives you joy, do it!”
is what true friends (and daughters and sisters and sometimes husbands
are for); they are people who nudge you to do the thing that is on your
heart to do.
If I can find someone who wants to work with me (canning is really hard labor), I thought, I’ll order some peaches at the Winfield Famer’s Market.
So, when Jane Rubietta melted at the thought of a “Peach Day” and
volunteered to help, and when Susan Hands decided she needed the
learning—after all, what will we do if our food supply lines collapse,
if the Internet gets terrorized, fouling up truck and train transits?—I
decided to give it a go. Our grandmothers and mothers were grateful for
a way to put up food. Before freezers and our overstocked supermarkets,
canning was a lifeline to them. (I’m serious—who will pass on the lore
of preservation to the next generation? We need to know this stuff.)
survival strategies, canning is a way of capturing the beauty of summer
in a jar—particularly the mango-golden, yellow-pink exquisiteness of
peaches! It’s an aesthetic thing for me, despite the work. In my mind’s
eye, I kept seeing shimmering rows of ripe fruit, with a peach pit here
and there, shining out from clean Ball canning jars, row upon row upon
The Winfield Farmer’s Market is on Wednesdays. I was
leaving town on Thursday and would return on Sunday. Tuesday, September
1 was our scheduled Peach Day. “Should I order two half-bushels of
peaches to pick up next Wednesday?” I asked the gal behind the counter
at the market. “Will they keep for a week? Or should I wait to get them
“Well, they’re coming in now, coming in
fast,” the Tidey Farms manager informed me. “I’d buy them now.” She
figured we should get about 16 quarts to a half-bushel. So, I ordered
the peaches that Wednesday, picked them up the next Wednesday, flew out
of town on Thursday, and returned on Sunday to two quickly blackening
and molding half-bushels of peaches.
Oh, drat, I thought. I should have laid these all out on newspapers with none of their sides touching.
Lesson number one: Peaches wait for no women. You must can on their
schedule, not on yours. Lesson number two: One rotten peach can spoil
the whole barrel. I started pitching and separating—losing about
one-third of my golden store.
Was peach season over? Could I
find peaches to can? I ran to the Barn Owl, a fruit stand on Gary Road
in Wheaton. They charged me $54 a half-bushel (I’d paid $20 before) for
what I discovered was not-very-ripe fruit. My guess was they would be
really ripe in another week—except that fruit picked too soon from the trees
never really reaches peak ripeness.
Peach Day came,
and we froze 13 quarts of the overripe peaches, cutting out bruises and
soft spots. We labored over peeling off the skins of the under-ripe peaches
(no, they did not slip off the fruit after being dipped in a hot water
bath). The pits of under-ripe peaches do not fall away. We canned 26
quarts of those Barn Owl peaches in a natural fruit syrup (recipe taken
from Canning & Preserving Without Sugar).
The lids of two jars did not seal; four other jars cracked in the
hot-water sterilization bath—gotta watch that botulism! And the
finished product—the fruit in the jars—was not the smooth, golden,
enticing slices I remembered from childhood. The jars looked a little
sad, the edges of the slices a little ragged and torn, a little
under-colored—sort of like pretend peaches.
learned a lot today,” we three said, bucking each other up, dragging
ourselves through the cleaning process. I went to bed that night with
my feet absolutely screaming in pain—the onset of canning neuropathy,
What did we learn? A lot. We learned a whole lot
about what not to do. I, in particular, was reminded that it takes
effort, commitment, determination and fervor to create beauty, even in
canning jars. It takes a lot of practice to get a beautiful life right.
had two jars of natural fruit syrup left over and an opened box of
Jane’s plastic freezer-bags. The next Wednesday, I hiked myself back to
Winfield Farmer’s Market and bought another half-bushel of peaches.
“Are these freestone?” I asked the gentleman. “Yes, ma’am,” he said.
“Really, all peaches but one kind are freestone. We put up a whole
bunch of quarts of peaches just last night.” To show me, he sliced a
peach in half and twisted it off the stone. The flesh just pulled away
from the pit—viola!
Lesson number three: Not all peaches but one kind are freestone: NON-RIPE PEACHES APPEAR TO ALL BE CLINGSTONE!
I went home and did it right.
laid the peaches separately on spread newspapers. I watched for a few
days and pressed a few peaches every now and then, and at the exact
moment, I put the blue-and-white enamel pot back on the stove, made a
hot-water bath, dipped the peaches in, then into cold water,
practically wiped the skin off the fruit, twisted the flesh away from
the pits, poured the two jars of syrup into 16 more freezer quart bags
and FROZE them. I turned the jars of peaches that had not sealed in my
refrigerator into a yummy peach / yogurt / honey chilled soup. Then I
sat down with a bowl of five perfectly luscious, perfectly ripe
mango-golden, yellowy pink peaches and devoured the whole thing!
am thinking about end-of-the-summer plump red vine-hanging tomatoes.
But I am putting the canning equipment back into the attic for the
season. And I am not telling my good friend. I think God is laughing at
me, but I know it also pleases Him when I practice perseverance—and
that, Martha Stewart, is a really good thing.
ANNUAL ADVENT 24-HOUR RETREAT OF SILENCE
Hungry Souls is doing TWO new things this year. We are running
back-to-back retreats AND we are opening the weekend retreat, Friday
evening to Saturday afternoon, to men and women.
means you can send a husband or a friend or you can share a room as
couples (as long as you practice silence behind your closed door!).
The details are:
The first retreat will run from Wednesday, beginning with
dinner, December 2 through Thursday, ending by 4:00 in the afternoon,
December 3. The second retreat will run from Friday, beginning with
dinner, December 4 through Saturday, ending by 4:00 in the afternoon,
This will make room for those who work during the days and don’t feel
as though they can take time off during the week.
Our fees will be $120 for a single room with private bath. However, if
you register early, by October 15, your fee will be $100. If you bring
someone who has NEVER attended a Hungry
Souls Advent Retreat of
Silence, the welcome fee for any new attendees (and for you) will be
(The weekend retreat costs us $5 more. Add that amount to the fees --
$125, $105 or $95.) The cutoff date for registrations is November 25.
Since we must
give a firm number to the Bishop Lane Retreat Center in Rockford, IL
and pay for that number, we cannot return payments after the cutoff
Valerie Bell, Karen Mains and Sybil Towner will lead these two retreats. This Hungry
Souls Retreat of Silence is a guided
retreat. We begin silence at 9:00 the first evening. If you are
interested, contact our volunteer registrar Melodee Cook at
If you are outside of the Chicagoland area and would like to fly in for
any of our retreats, our staff or volunteers will be happy to meet you
at the airport and facilitate any sleeping arrangements that might need
to be made for our silent retreats.
Three-Day Retreat of Silence in April 2010
This is a heads-up for people who like to plan
ahead. We have room for 12 people at St. Mary’s Monastery in Rock
Island, IL. Registration will be open in January of 2010. The dates are
Sunday, April 18 to Wednesday, April 21.
Karen is blogging. In order to be noticed by the servers, she needs to
have 50 blogs up, then the next phase is 200 blogs. This is an attempt
to build a larger presence for the ministries of Hungry Souls on the Internet. We are using the early, non-archived Soulish Food
e-newsletters, which are using the metaphor of dance to make the
concept of living in God’s sacred rhythms more acceptable. If you
struggle to integrate regular spiritual practices into your life, these
might be helpful for you. You can go to this link: blog.karenmains.com.
The “dancing” blogs start with blog 1-34, "Still Points."
Towner and her team have taken years to develop and test an incredible
tool that encourages the much neglected spiritual tool of
self-reflection. They are conducting a two-weekend retreat to take
participants through these Life Maps. Many great teachers of Christian
faith say, in one way or another, “You can’t know God unless you know
yourself; you can’t know yourself unless you know God.” Whenever Hungry Souls
has used the maps (in the developmental stages), they have proved to be
a powerful and beneficial tool in this complementary awareness. Putting
two weekends aside is well worth what is gained.
Listen to My Life
is a journey that helps you invite God into the process of reviewing
your past, assessing your present and continuing to walk with God into
The Soulish Food e-mails are
posted biweekly on the Hungry Souls Web
site. Newcomers can look that over and decide if they want to
register on the Web site to receive the biweekly newsletter. You might
want to recommend this to friends also. They can go to www.HungrySouls.org.
"I, in particular, was reminded that it takes effort, commitment,
determination and fervor to create beauty, even in canning jars. It
takes a lot of practice to get a beautiful life right."
David Mains, Carla
Boelkens and our videographer, Doug Timberlake, are right now in
Africa. David and Doug are filming more stories of bag-makers, and of
training bag-makers. Pray for them. It is hard enough for Westerners to
understand that it takes two hours to shoot two minutes of edited film!
But when your life is on African time in African culture, this is even
harder to comprehend—why does it take so long?
working her way through interviewing an African GBP manager, and
setting up systems purchasing and shipping for systems. We have women from
one village who are eager to sew. Two U.S. friends of Carla’s, both
seamstresses, donated two sewing machines and spent time teaching sewing. Mary Nduta, our
first bag-maker, who is going like gangbusters, went to
teach them how to sew bags. Mary proclaimed, “Now, I am a missionary!”
had a good day today. Mary Nduta joined Doug, David and me at Pastor
Reginah's with Maggie and her group. We got cameos with Maggie sharing
her story of purchasing sewing machines for the women to make bags;
Rose, her mother-in-law who has come to Africa to teach women how to
sew and will be hosting a GBP
party; Mary explaining the Swahili writing on the bags and lots of
B-roll of Mary working with ladies at the sewing machines and cutting
fabric. Mary went with us to an Ethiopian restaurant for dinner after
the day of filming and training. She had such a great time (as we all
did with her) and she said it was the best day of her life!"
of the HIV/AIDS widows in Kibera slum died last Saturday. On a Skype
call, David said, “I’d forgotten (since March) how horrific Kibera is.”
Carla e-mailed again:
had a good day in Kibera; filmed Jennifer's story and Eunice telling
her and Jessinta's story; refilmed Maggie's promo on buying sewing
St Martha's group now meets on Thursday's. This was the first day they were together since Margaret died.
donated $100 for the cost of a casket. Eunice asked if we would do that
rather than take their family out to dinner. The women really
wanted to provide a casket; now they are raising funds for
transportation to the funeral upcountry. I think jewelry sales
from me and Maggie's group may have provided that."
you want to be part of something that has the potential to make a
difference in the world, we strongly suggest that you become part of
the Global Bag Project Team. Right now we need prayer intercessors
who will volunteer to pray through December. Carla will begin an e-mail
when she returns from Africa; this will keep you informed as to how to
pray. Let us know at email@example.com. We have six
bag-parties lined up beginning in October (pre-Christmas sales); we
probably can fit in six more. Money for two African dual-powered sewing
machines have been donated ($170 each); we will need more. This could
be a good project for your small group for Christmas.
bags arrived in the States—205 in all; Carla will be bringing back more
suitcases of bags when she returns. At this point, the GBP really could use donations toward the GBP.
The Mainses went out on a limb again and took out a small home-equity
loan for the purchase of camera and audio and mobile editing equipment
that are designed to function in third-world environments.