Alamance Public Libraries and the N.C. Cooperative Extension plan canning classes
EDITOR'S NOTE: The incorrect time was published for the Graham Public Library's Food Preservation class on Aug. 3. The correct time can be found below. Also in the story, a pressure cooker is referenced when it should be a pressure canner. This has been corrected below.
The art and science of canning plays a prominent role in the book “Station Eleven,” which the Alamance County Public Libraries selected for this summer's Alamance Reads program.
Written by Emily St. John Mandel, the 2014 science fiction novel tells the story of the survivors of swine flu pandemic that has killed most of the world's population.
To that end, the library is hosting classes that pertain to different elements in the novel, including canning. One will be at 6 p.m. July 9 at the Mebane Public Library, 101 S. First St., Mebane. The other is at 3 p.m. Aug. 3 at the Graham Public Library, 211 S. Main St., Graham. The classes will be led by Eleanor Frederick, a Family & Consumer Sciences extension agent with the Alamance County Center of the N.C. Cooperative Extension Service, 209-C N. Graham-Hopedale Rd., Burlington. For a list of other Alamance Reads events, see E2 today.
“Canning was almost a lost art, but its popularity is picking back up,” she said. “People are becoming more concerned with where their food comes from, growing their own or buying locally. Canning gives them an opportunity to preserve it for next week, the following month, or a year down the road. But try to eat it all up within a year — quality starts to suffer after that.”
Canning is one of the simplest ways to preserve food for a long time. There are two types — water bath and pressure. The former simply uses a pot of boiling water; the latter uses a pressure canner The water bath method is for acidic foods such as fruit. A pressure cooker is necessary to can meats and vegetables.
"My favorite thing to can is probably the classic — green beans," Frederick said. "They're easy and I love the way they look when they're done, all standing up straight in the jar. The weirdest thing I've ever canned was chicken. Prior to that experience, I didn't realize that you can can meat, but it is possible."
According to Frederick, canning originated in France, invented by Nicolas Appert for Napoléon Bonaparte, who needed to feed his army on long trips.
“Incredibly, modern canning hasn’t changed much,” she said.
In her presentations, Frederick will go over the basics of canning, including safety.
“While it is not common, there have been numerous outbreaks of botulism linked to canned food in the U.S. in recent years,” she said. "Botulism, the foodborne illness caused by C. Bot, is far more severe than most cases of food illness. Symptoms resemble a stroke — paralysis, numbness of limbs — and can result in death if not treated quickly. A special antitoxin has to be flown in from the CDC where it is kept in case of an outbreak. Botulism is not to be messed with, but it shouldn’t deter anyone from trying to can."
Here is the equipment you need to start you on your canning adventure, courtesy of Frederick:
• A tested recipe — good sources include Ball Blue Books, UGA's So Easy to Preserve, USDA Complete Guide to Home Canning.
• Canner — water bath or pressure canner, depending on what you're processing.
• Canning rack — this comes with your canner; it fits inside to keep jars from resting right against the bottom of the canner.
• Jars, lids and bands — bands and jars can be reused; new lids must be used each time.
• Headspace tool/bubble remover — one end measures jar headspace, the other end helps remove bubbles from filled jars.
• Jar lifter — to transfer hot jars into and out of the canner.
Optional, but helpful to have:
• Funnel — for getting food and liquid into jars without making a mess.
• Magnetic lid grabber — it keeps fingers off of lids and helps get one lid at a time.
Reporter Bill Cresenzo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 336-506-3041. Follow him on Twitter at @BillCresenzoTN.