Savor Summer Flavors

February 10, 2010

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Sacramento, CA | There are many good reasons to preserve produce. Flavor, freshness, natural wholesome ingredients, and convenience are what we think of first. For Millie Bachofer, retried anesthetist nurse, it’s also about ensuring summer’s best all winter long.

 Born and raised on a Kansas farm with five siblings, Millie’s parents grew most of their food, from beef and poultry to fruits and vegetables. “My mother canned big time.” Millie recalls, “Even pork sausage. Everyone helped with the canning and in the garden.” With this much zeal, mealtime was a prideful feast of flavors and aromas.

 After Millie grew up, completed her education, and married Frank (now retired bricklayer representative for the international union), the newlyweds moved to California for warmer climate. Once they settled into their own home, Millie dug her fingers into the backyard soil and planted a vegetable garden. That summer, Millie entered preserves and homemade breads in the California State Fair. Since then, Millie has won countless blue ribbons and the prestigious “best of show” award. Some of Millie’s entries have included chili sauces, jellies, sweet pickles, coffee cakes, and zucchini spreads. Although Millie stopped entering preserves ten years ago, she continues to can, and compete, with her homemade breads.

Each year, Frank prepares the soil before Millie plants her summer vegetables. The raised, brick bed is small, 120 square feet, but the harvest is bountiful. These days, Millie plants cucumbers, bell peppers, jalapeños (for salsa), eggplants, zucchini, and several tomato varieties. Millie prefers small Juliet and Sungold cherry tomatoes for salads, and Roma for preserving chili sauce. Fruits from her backyard include peaches and apricots. When Bing cherries and rhubarb are available, Millie buys in bulk at a local farmer’s market.

From the get-go, Frank has helped Millie with the soil preparation and canning. In fact, cooking and mealtime cleanup has been a family affair since the couple wed. When their three children were old enough, Frank and Millie instilled this same work ethic by teaching them to pitch in with the cooking. While Millie has remained the primary cook, everyone learned about food provisions and teamwork.



Even though their children are grown now and living away from home, Frank continues to help prepare meals. During canning season, the familiar rhythm of small talk and clanging jars infuses the kitchen while Frank peels and Millie slices and packs jars. “I’ve been doing this for so many years,” Frank said, matter-of-factly, “I can’t think of any reason why I shouldn’t. Millie mows the lawn for me when I go fishing,” Frank reasons.

When canning season has passed, Millie knows she can count on the scents and flavors of summertime to satisfy their stomachs and palates on cold, wet days. It’s as simple as reaching into the pantry and opening a jar of preserves. “Canning gives me a good feeling that I’ve done something constructive that the family loves,” Millie says. Providing nourishing meals truly is a labor of love for Millie—and Frank—whose summer bounty brings quality flavors and comfort all winter long. Copyright © 2010 Dianne Marie Andre. All rights reserved.



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