One of the best of hundreds of blogs is Canning Granny. Coming next month is the first Can-It-Forward Day, when home canners can connect through a national circuit of parties and social-media activities.
“I think canning goes with the interest in home arts, knitting, homesteading,” said Jeanne Sauvage, founding member and editor of Canning Across America, a nonprofit group committed to the revival of home canning. The group, started in 2009, is among the participants in Can-It-Forward Day.
“It also intersects with the local food movement,” Sauvage continued. “What canners do is they get fresh local produce and preserve it for times when they can’t get fresh local produce.
“It’s all part of the concentration on local food.”
One local example typifies thousands of opportunities across the US: the Glass Rooster Cannery in Sunbury — where Jeanine Seabrook and her sister, Susie Schmidhammer, teach canning and preserving techniques, long a way of life for both.
“I started canning when I was very young,” Seabrook said. “By fifth grade, I was canning on my own.”
To help feed her five children, she said, she puts up about 800 jars of food a year. She grows much of the produce herself.
About Can-It-Forward Day
National Can-It-Forward Day is on Aug.13. Home cooks can participate in online broadcasts of canning demonstrations and participate in home-canning parties. Information about the event can also be found at www.freshpreserving.com.
Some canning tips
* Mind the brine: Don’t change the amounts of vinegar, salt or sugar in a canning recipe. They are the preservatives and must be kept at a specific ratio. Changing spices is fine.
* Keep it hot. Sterilize the jars and keep them hot. Be sure the jars are covered by more than an inch of boiling water during processing.
* Check the seal: After processing, press on the lid. If you can press it up and down, the seal isn’t complete. Put the canned product in the refrigerator and use within three weeks.
Back at the Sunbury canning class on a recent evening, a half-dozen students gathered in the newly opened two-story space. Two four-burner drop-in stoves, a multitude of stainless-steel sinks and rollaway counters make up the kitchen. A separate section includes two wood tables, cabinets filled with assorted dishes and shelves packed with jars of jams and jellies.
Most of the students had never canned before, and those who had hadn’t done so with any regularity. Some had signed up in search of fun; others were simply looking to try something new.
Pat Vandermark said she tired of her little garden, so she started renting a community garden plots at the Glass Rooster Cannery.
“I wanted to do the whole thing,” Pat said of the plot, where she grows lettuces, snap peas, kohlrabi and cabbage. “Now, I’m learning to put everything up.”
After the students tasted what they would be making, Seabrook divided them into two groups. One sliced cucumbers and onions for the pickles; the other packed green beans tightly into jars, followed by fresh dill, garlic and a sliver of chili pepper.
Next came the making of the brine, which filled the kitchen with the smells of vinegar, sugar, garlic and spices.
For the beans, the brine was a mix of salt and vinegar; for the pickles, sugar and spices.
The students filled the jars with brine, then carefully wiped the rims and attached the lids.
Some of the lids “popped” as they were attached, but Seabrook explained that the sound didn’t necessarily mean the jars had been safely processed.
They had to go into a bath of boiling water.
(Seabrook also teaches classes in pressure canning, a more-complicated process necessary for safe canning of low-acid foods.)
The processing part of canning is what scares most home-canning beginners, experts say.
“I think the biggest misconception is that (canning is) so complicated that’s it’s hard to do well, or you’re going to create something that is unsafe for people,” said Canning Across America’s Sauvage.
Improper canning techniques can lead to food-borne diseases, including botulism.
“If you’re doing it right, it’s going to be fine,” Seabrook told her students.
She explained that the water bath kills bacteria and seals the jars, allowing them to be stored safely at room temperature for a year or longer.
When the jars were removed from the water bath, she had the students check them. If the lid could be pushed up and down, the jars hadn’t sealed properly.
At the recent class, all lids on the students’ pickles and beans were firmly in place.
Each student left the class with a jar of beans and a jar pickles — and, Seabrook hopes, a little more confidence.
“I want to take the mystery out of canning,” she said. “For me, it’s like carrying on history.”
Glass Rooster Cannery is at 1673 Rt. 605, Sunbury. Classes in basic canning are offered from 6 to 9 p.m. Mondays. Pressure canning classes take place from 6 to 9 p.m. Tuesdays. Open canning, for those who have taken the basic canning class, take place from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Fridays. Classes cost $45. Additional classes are offered by request. Call 614-499-2958 or visitwww.glassrooster cannery.com.
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