“None of this is hard,” said the instructor. “Most of us just never had anyone to show us. So thank you for caring, and thank you for being here — now go tell everyone you know.”
Yup, I was in the right place.
The instructor? Lyn Deardorff. The class was a canning workshop offered through Preserving Now, her company dedicated to preserving lost arts in the kitchen and the home.
Even though I’ve been canning for several years, there’s always more to learn, so on Saturday, I trekked up to Serenbe Farms in the remarkable Chattahoochee Hills, an area with the foresight to pass a development ordinance that conserves about sixty percent of its green space.
Some of the day’s gems:
- Pickled cherry tomatoes are a new food group in my life, and there will be many, many jars in our pantry this year.
- Jars shouldn’t go directly on the bottom of the water bath stock pot, but you don’t have to buy a clunky canning rack. Hack your own with leftover metal jar rings or with a silicone Blossom trivet, which compresses for storage, never rusts, and can be expanded for large pots by snapping on a second trivet.
- Dried herbs can be added in any amount without changing the acidity of preserved food (the one thing that cannot be altered, for safety), but the amount of wet veg in a USDA-approved recipe should never be substituted or adjusted.
- Fruit butters are a delicious, no-sugar substitute for traditional jams and jellies.
More important than those helpful tips were the camaraderie that quickly developed and the reassurance that there are others committed to supporting local farms and taking a stand against our broken food system. By the end of the day, numbers had been exchanged and summer-tomato canning parties were being planned.
Most folks at the workshop had never watched anyone preserve food, and the unanimous response was one of unexpected delight at how easy it is. So don’t be intimidated if you’ve never tried before. Grab a friend and find a workshop nearby, or take this free, online self-study class offered by the University of Georgia and the National Center for Home Food Preservation.
Why not start this weekend with a little apple butter made with seasonal fruit from the farmer’s market? Watch what a cinch it is to make, and don’t even bother with added sugar — apples are sweet enough on their own — and the required time in the water bath is only five minutes for small jars. I can taste the biscuits now…