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I showed up for class with my mother’s decades-old pressure canner, in hopes that I’d finally learn how to use it. I remembered her canning green beans in that heavy pot, and warning me to stay away from the steam that emerged from the top. I even remember snapping the stems off the ends of green beans for her. But I didn’t really understand the process.
I’d recently been admiring how so many people are preparing their own foods for the shelf these days, instead of buying cans from the grocery store. I wondered if I could develop the confidence to try it, too. The Slow Food and Farmers’ Market canners had been making it look easy down on Market Square in Knoxville, Tennessee. I was enthusiastic about it. But I still felt a bit uneasy about the food safety details.
Turns out, I wasn’t the only one with these concerns. During Canning College with the local extension service, more than a dozen adults brought their questions, too. Some were beginners like me. Others had canned before, but wanted to hone their skills. So we crowded into two school kitchens, watching, listening, and taking turns getting our hands messy in everything from peaches to pickles.
Instructor Heather Guinn says, “The last three years we have seen a big rise in people wanting to learn to can. And from what they’ve told us from classes, it’s due to the economy. More people are planting their gardens and they’re wanting to learn how to can their produce.” Some in this class also shared my interest in having food on the shelf without preservatives and other additives.