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Farm Market Canning Demonstrations

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Think you’re just too busy to preserve any of the summer’s fresh foods yourself?  Or concerned that it’s too complicated?  Casey Littell says if you can boil water, use a timer and follow basic directions, you’re ready to start canning.

Littell volunteers on behalf of Slow Food Knoxville to teach canning techniques at her local farm market. Market Director Charlotte Tolley says the response has been positive. She and Kimberly Pettigrew administer the program at the Market Square Farmers’ Market in downtown Knoxville, Tennessee. They have sponsorship from the parent company for Ball, the folks who make canning jars and lids. Tolley says their market is one of only 50 nationwide who received the special Ball grant for canning education. So if you stop by the market during a demonstration on a Wednesday or Saturday, you might also get some coupons, canning booklets and free samples of pectin.
Slow Food volunteer Casey Littell demonstrates how to make black raspberry preserves

This Wednesday, Littell was heating black raspberries, adding ingredients and showing onlookers how to safely prepare jars.  She stressed cleanliness and safety, but encouraged anyone to try canning at home. “Anybody can boil water, watch your time, it’s the same as anything else.  You don’t have to be intimidated, you just do it, as long as you make sure you’re getting your sealed lids, it’s safe and it’ll keep for years.”  She showed how just four cups of fresh berries could stretch into several pints of preserves.

Littell fills jars with black raspberry before completing the preserving process

For this demonstration, Littell used berries from a local source. “I don’t have any berries this year, but I grow my own tomatoes.”  The Slow Food leadership board member says much of her inspiration comes from what her grandmother taught her as a child.  “I used to sit and break beans, do the pressure cooking, make jam, with my grandmother, I’ve done this my entire life.”  Littell admits that canning with the pressure cooker, which low-acid foods like beans require, can add an extra level of difficulty.  So, she recommends that beginning canners start with high-acid foods like berries that can be heated using the waterbath canning method.

One older market-goer who stopped to watch the demonstration said she hadn’t canned for years, although she knew how. Sometimes, it’s an entirely new experience. Tolley shared that a medical professional who learned about canning via the market program decided to use a simple freezer jam technique as a form of therapy for patients.

Market Square Farmers’ Market’s Kimberly Pettigrew and Market Director Charlotte Tolley

Following canning directions closely is important, not only for taste, but especially for food safety.  You can learn more about Ball’s recipes and tips at FreshPreserving.com.  See what SlowFoodKnoxville is doing via this link.  Learn more about community efforts and try recipes at the MarketSquareFarmersMarket.org. .  You can check for a free or low-cost class on food preservation with your local university extension office.

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