Growing up on a dairy farm, I had the privilege of being exposed to what some might dub a simpler way of life and learned a few life skills and hobbies that seem to be making a resurgence here in the city. I sewed a few outfits for 4-H projects, and now I’m trying to hone my sewing skills in new ways. I helped my mom and dad in the garden growing up, and this year got my own little plot at a community garden to try out the adult version of my green thumb. But one thing I never thought I would try is canning my own food.
Even though I grew up gobbling up a fair amount of delicious canned goods from both my mom and my grandma (berries for a little lunch, anyone?) I have never been that interested in canning, largely because I have an unwarranted fear of it. When I tell people this, they assume that it’s a fear of botulism. No, that’s not it – I grew up on a farm with 4 younger brothers. Germs and bacteria are not scary to me! I grew up on raw milk (and never got sick, thank you)! I could care less about botulism. No, I am afraid of boiling water and breaking glass. See, my memories of canning on the farm are of keeping myself and the younger bros the heck out of the kitchen because it was DANGEROUS. Well, true enough. With five kids under 4 feet tall running around boiling water and hot, hot glass, canning probably is a potentially dangerous activity. But as an adult, probably not so much.
Nonetheless, I’ve relegated canning to one of those skills deemed unnecessary to develop. I mean, there are plenty of food companies that do this for me at a pretty affordable price! And I don’t buy much packaged food anyway, so making a concession for canned food doesn’t seem so bad. But when my neighbor asked me to join her at the Food Preservation Network Community Can-along this weekend, I jumped at the chance. What a perfect opportunity to get over my fear of boiling hot glass…and wear my super cute apron in public?!
And so, on Sunday afternoon my neighbor and I headed out to to embark on a tomato canning adventure. We, along with 4 other novice canners and about 4 volunteers from the Food Preservation Network, cored, blanched, peeled, chopped, and packed tomatoes for a couple of hours in a community kitchen at Midtown Global Market. Everyone got a chance to work at each station, and by working together in a larger kitchen, we were able to put up about 30 quarts of tomatoes in about 2 hours. Plus, we got to try out all the gear – the lid lifter was my favorite.
I’m not so sure I’d want to can on my own, mostly because I’m not fond of maneuvering around in my barbie-sized kitchen and also because I’m sure that on my own, canning would be a much more time consuming process. But one of the goals of the Food Preservation Network is to make the public more aware of the large number of community kitchens available here in the city. Now we’re talking! I think getting a crew of people together to embark on our own canning adventure would be, well, an adventure!
I highly recommend taking a course from the Food Preservation Network. It was really informative and fun. I hope they offer more courses soon!