|Grandma enjoyed canning fruit and certain vegetables each fall. When we were in Michigan at summer's end, Grandma would buy a bushel of tomatoes for canning as well as hot green banana peppers (for Grandpa) and pickles for canning. Our car trunk was always overloaded with fresh vegetables and fruit on our way home from Michigan.
Grandma owned various sizes of Mason jars which needed to be sterilized preceding each type of food she preserved. She would make jam from sweet Concord grapes, freestone peaches and Damson plums and halved peaches, pears and plums were preserved for general eating. Grandma would also preserve crab apples for clear pink crab apple jelly. Yum, yum.
Thanks to Grandma, we had canned fruit and great jam for bread all year. The entire house smelled heavenly when Grandma was busy with her canning. So much hard work for her. Dear Grandma's fingers never grew tired of peeling, trimming and slicing the fresh fruit and vegetables.
Grandpa did his share of canning, too, or bottling. When we visited Michigan in late summer or fall, Grandpa always made sure Grandma would buy plenty of sweet Concord grapes from which Grandpa would make his wine in the basement.
Grandpa owned a large wooden wine press which he would use to crush grapes, and would squeeze the juice out of the grapes for wine. He'd add just the right amount of sugar and probably other ingredients, would pour the grape juice into tall sterilized bottles, cork the bottles, store them in a cool, dark place in the basement and wait for the juice to ferment and turn into wine.
Occasionally we would hear a cork pop in the basement when we were in our upstairs kitchen. The popping meant that too much fermentation was taking place in a bottle. Grandpa and Grandma would sometimes enjoy a glass of that wine with dinner and would serve it to friends when they visited.
Grandpa also enjoyed brewing beer. Grandpa knew several braumeisters (master brewers by trade) who worked at breweries on Elston Avenue and Clybourn Avenue in Chicago and they would advise Grandpa about brewing beer. As a result, he knew just the right ingredients to use, including the proper amount of hops and malt for good flavor.
When Grandpa made wine and beer downstairs on the stove, the dark and humid basement had an unforgettable sweet, damp fragrance.
One time when Grandpa was busy brewing, Mitzie - our mother cat who was forever having kittens - was not careful when she walked across a beam in the basement above the brewing beer and fell into the huge pot!! Grandpa heard Mitzie howling, ran to her rescue and pulled poor Mitzie out of the hot, brewing beer. What a happening! (Mitzie did not spoil the taste of the beer, according to Grandpa.) We talked about that incident for years.