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Local food movement spurs canning trend: Get those jars ready!

September 25, 2010

By Katharine Lackey, USA TODAY
Merrilee Olson of Sebastopol, Calif., remembers when she was little watching her grandmother can foods.

At the time, she says, she had little interest in learning the technique. Now, at 55, she runs PreserveSonoma, a year-old business and website through which she teaches preserving methods and works with local farmers.

PHOTO: The colorful, uncanny art of canning

Once dismissed as a tradition of a bygone era, canning is making a comeback. “There’s a lot of interest in these old ways,” says Olson, who attributes the growth to the local-food movement and food-safety concerns. “It’s funny because in my generation growing up, we had no interest in this.”

Sales of canning equipment jump

At the National Center for Home Food Preservation, a project established 10 years ago with U.S. Department of Agriculture funding, director Elizabeth Andress says interest in canning has picked up during the past two years. During the first four years of the center’s online course, 3,000 people registered; in the past 18 months, another 3,000 have signed up. Reasons for taking up the hobby, Andress says, range from saving money to keeping home-grown produce fresh to preserving traditions.

FIRST-TIME CANNER? Sterilize like a nurse
LOCAL FOOD MOVEMENT: Helps more eat fresh fruit, veggies

A National Gardening Association survey showed 28% of households that participated in food gardening also preserved food in 2009, says research director Bruce Butterfield.

Sales of food preservation products at Jarden Home Brands, which makes Ball and Kerr canning brands, have jumped 60% from 2007 and have risen about 10% this year, says vice president Chris Scherzinger. Last month, the company launched a Ball canning Facebook page, which has more than 1,500 followers.

Freshness is paramount

Julie Grice, 23, of Ithaca, N.Y., says she started canning in June as a way to preserve some of the food from her garden and produce she bought at farmers markets. Grice, who runs a food blog at savvyeat.com, hosted a canning party over Labor Day weekend, where a few blogging friends came to learn canning.

The green movement, she says, has resulted in “a lot of people wanting to eat local, getting things at the peak of season when they’re fresh, then saving and using them all year.”

At the Culinary Institute of America in New York, Brad Barnes, associate dean of culinary arts, uses canning in his class at the St. Andrews Cafe. “We take care of things when they’re in peak and then have them for different seasons when they’re not available,” he says. “It’s important for students to recognize all the good things that are coming out of the idea of being better with our resources.”

In his farm-to-table course at Stratford University in Falls Church, Va., Mike Lund recently spent two days teaching canning. “Once you do it and see how really simple it is, you can do it,” he says. “You don’t have to have a culinary degree or be a country grandmother.”

Source: USA Today

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