When I was newly married, and newly a country wife, my grandmother gave me an 8-gallon Red Wing crock and told me that's what I should use for making sauerkraut! I said, "Well Gram, that's a nice gift, but I hate sauerkraut." She just smiled and said, "You'll like it when we're done making it." And she did help me, and I did make it, and even more surprising was that I liked it! That was my first experience with "putting up." You have to remember I was a city girl, and all of this was a whole new concept for me. Now not so much!
Putting up beans, tomatoes, jellies, pickles and beets were a common activity for farm wives, immigrants and the average homemaker. By the 1920's the practice was beginning to lose favor with some women however. City housewives didn't have gardens, poor women who worked outside the home didn't have the time and wealthy homemakers couldn't be bothered. Besides, store bought canned foods were just too easy and convenience to ignore. So, putting up, putting by, or canning kind of fell by the wayside for a while.
Then came World War II and the Victory Garden mentality that had been encouraged during that time. Times changed, and fresh and frozen produce from all over the world was (and is) available to most of us year round. We never have to wait for a season since somewhere in the world that food is ready to be picked. And then times changed again. Food quality scares and huge price increases at the grocery store have once again garnered interest in buying local and putting up. A simple trip to Wal-Mart or some like store will reveal canning jars, lids, utensils, pickling salt, and the like, so it's obvious that there's a whole canning world out there. Freezing is not to be left out; there are lots of different types of freezer bags that attest to the popularity of freezing fruits and vegetables.
Many people have never stopped putting food by. They like to know where their vegetables came from, and they like the fact that it can be mere minutes from garden to plate. They also like the fact that they can have these foods year round, from either canning or freezing.
The Grundy County Museum has several canning related items on display, including a pea huller/bean slicer; apple peeler; cabbage cutter; pressure cooker; and jar lids. Stop by and take a walk through the 1900 house and the general store!