Home Canning Enjoys New Popularity
MELISSA BLOCK, host:
The jar is back, the old-fashioned art of canning and preserving fruits and vegetables is cool again, thanks to a big boost from foodies and locavores. Some are even organizing swaps to diversify the flavors in their pantry.
North Country Public Radio's David Sommerstein has that story.
(Soundbite of conversations)
DAVID SOMMERSTEIN: A couple dozen people spread out at tables in a church hall in the upstate New York village of Canton. They line up bell jars of salsas and jams and pickled everything.
The short-term idea behind this canning exchange is to diversify your pantry, says co-organizer and farmer Bob Washo. Turn your bumper crop into a cornucopia of wintertime eating.
Mr. BOB WASHO (Farmer): For instance, if someone ended up with a surplus of blueberry jam, they might be able to trade that for garlic that might not have done well in their garden or at their farm this year.
SOMMERSTEIN: There's a bigger picture too - a more sustainable food system supporting local farms and seasonal eating. The Corse family will rely almost exclusively on their harvest all winter long. They canned 327 jars. Thirteen-year-old McKenzie Corse arranges a rainbow of them into a pyramid: orange peaches, purple beets and yellow beans.
Ms. McKENZIE CORSE: It makes me feel good that my whole family is eating food that came off our land and we're not, like, buying stuff that came across, like, the country.
Ms. FLIP FILLIPPI (Farmer): If you haven't already, just try to label even if...
SOMMERSTEIN: Organizer Flip Fillippi lays out the ground rules. No money exchanges hands. No tasting. Those would violate public health rules. Just trading.
Ms. FILLIPPI: All right. Happy trading.
SOMMERSTEIN: And it's on. Jon Montan, maple syrup in hand, beelines across the room.
Mr. JON MONTAN: I traded one quart of maple syrup for three quarts, looks like, of dilly beans, sweet and sour for sweet.
SOMMERSTEIN: Fillippi and Matt Kidwell are deep in multi-jar talks worthy of a blockbuster sports trade.
Mr. MATT KIDWELL: Consider a ketchup in the mix? If you added okra to it?
Ms. FILLIPPI: Oh, yeah. I didn't get that. Yeah, totally. Yeah, I want to do that.
SOMMERSTEIN: Hey, wait, wait. Let's review.
(Soundbite of laughter)
Ms. FILLIPPI: In the end, we went - I got Matt's fuchsia pickled turnips, the peppers, hot peppers and pickled okra.
Mr. KIDWELL: In exchange for ketchup, tomatillos salsa and blueberry jam.
SOMMERSTEIN: Today, there are canning blogs and canning cookbooks. A national organization, Canning Across America, teaches folks how to can safely. Swaps like this one are popping up all over. Here, there's kimchi and fig wine and chutney. Half of the swappers are in their 20s and 30s. And they're really into it.
Ms. LOUISE GAVA: Why wouldn't you love sitting around hull - you know, shelling beans or something like that on an afternoon instead of watching a movie?
SOMMERSTEIN: Oh, maybe not everyone's idea of a good time, concedes Louise Gava. But she says canning and swapping builds on tradition and conversation around food.
Ms. GAVA: And we're talking about recipes. We're saying, oh, apple ketchup. Well, what's in that? Is that tomatoes or is it - oh, no. It's just apples but with ketchup spicing. And what would you use that for? Oh, meat. Well...
SOMMERSTEIN: Farmer Flip Fillippi says a canning swap extends the joys of the harvest.
Ms. FILLIPPI: It's like you're taking home everyone's little slice of garden or the way that they like to turn their food into something they can eat in the winter.
SOMMERSTEIN: And on the darkest, coldest days of the year, there's nothing better than a reminder of summer.
Ms. FILLIPPI: You know, so what do we have here?
SOMMERSTEIN: For NPR News, I'm David Sommerstein in Canton, New York.
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