In the novel, Bones Unearthed, the protagonist, Kate Fitzgerald, discovers a long lost relative, her aunt Jennifer McAllen. For Kate, whose father died in the Iraq war and whose mother succumbed several years ago to breast cancer, it was a wonderful discovery. Kate had had a short-lived marriage, but that attempt to establish family had ended in divorce. Her Aunt Jenn, a senior citizen, was also alone. She lived her entire life on what once had been her family’s farm just north of Cahokia, a world heritage archeological site.

Aunt Jenn was an upbeat woman who was active in her small town. She had an ongoing relationship that wasn’t quite a romance with Richard Manning, the local sheriff. The most constant aspect of her life, however, was her never ending canning of fruits and vegetables. She had learned years before helping her mother and since she still maintained a kitchen garden there was plenty of produce to preserve. Obviously, living alone she couldn’t consume the products of all her canning activities, so she gave gifts to her friends and yearly entered the county and state fairs. She was good at what she did and regularly won ribbons at the fairs.

Most of us don’t live on farms any more and most, if not all, of our food comes from the local supermarket unless we are lucky enough to live in a city that has a farmer’s market open on weekends. There is, however, a lovely feeling that comes from being able to offer our families and/or friends a special food we have prepared from scratch. It also provides a link to earlier generations even though we do not have to depend on our skills in the kitchen to provide year-round fruits and veggies for our families.

I’d like to share a little of Aunt Jenn’s skills with you. If you sign up for the mailing list, I will send you two of her recipes for fun stuff—plum jelly and applesauce. I hope that on some weekend afternoon, perhaps when it is chilly or rainy outside, you will have some pleasure trying them out then and enjoy the fruits (pun intended) of your work afterwards.

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