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Getting canned can be a great idea

POSTED: July 20, 2010 5:28 p.m.

Keep your fresh summer vegetables for good eats all year long.

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Some people pick it up out of necessity. Some want to learn because grandma passed away before teaching it. And others are simply looking for a way to save some money on the grocery bill.

“My sister lost a freezer full of food when it tore up and she didn’t realize it,” said Homer resident Sue Shaw.

Shaw, like many people, is looking for any way to avoid waste and save money on food. And she’s one of many North Georgians who has turned to the age-old art of canning to do just that.

Whether it’s by taking a class through Hall County Extension, calling up the University of Georgia’s Center for Food Preservation or striking out on their own, the popularity of canning has skyrocketed, according to Hall County Extension agent Debbie Wilburn.

She’s been teaching classes all summer on how to can and pickle items; the most recent one at the East Hall branch of the Hall County Library had 30 people attend.

And even if the power goes out, said Shaw, the canned goods will still be edible. Still, she acknowledged, it can be a daunting task.

“I don’t know how my mother did it,” she said of all the canned goods prepared by her parents many decades ago. “You didn’t have the advantages of today’s appliances.”

Her family dried apples and peaches on sheets, she recalled, and later on the hot tin roof of the barn.

Food preservation has come a long way since then. But the need to feel self-sufficient and economically sound hasn’t changed a bit.

Connie Armour of Gainesville came to Wilburn’s most recent class to make sure she was properly canning the vegetables from her garden.

“I don’t want to poison my family,” she said, adding that today’s sour economy is part of her motivation, too.

The only recipe she has much experience canning is chow chow.

“My daddy used to can tomatoes,” said Armour, who has a small raised-bed garden in her front yard. “I just wanted to learn from the experts.”

But even experienced canners need to update themselves out the latest methods of food preservation and make sure the equipment still works. That’s why Phyllis Ehl of Jefferson brought both of her pressure-cooker gauges to Wilburn’s recent class at the library. The course included testing pressure-cooker gauges brought in by participants, and Ehl wanted “a refresher course” in canning.

Ehl has been canning food for many years and has her own family garden. This year, she brought her daughter Kathleen Ehl.

“A friend of mine took this class and loved it,” said Kathleen. She admits, other than watching her mother, she has little knowledge of food preservation.

And, Kathleen said, she has another reason to learn, aside from the economy — it’s simply a new way to cook.

“I want to be able to make my own organic jams and jellies,” she said.


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