Competitive Canning 101

I went to a Canning Seminar over the weekend.  Josh planted 38 tomato plants, so I figure I better get prepared. I went to the local nursery holding the seminar having no idea what to expect.  There were all types of people that showed up to the seminar. But we all had one thing in common.  We all valued growing our own vegetables and getting precious information from our elders.

I knew I was in the right place when I saw her. She was an older lady with a straw hat and a shirt that read " Attitude is Everything. Better pick a good one." She was bright and cheery. It was obvious she LOVED sharing knowledge with others. Little did I know that she was a professional. She had been winning blue ribbons at county fairs for years. Matter of fact, she said she had someone call her that morning wanting her to judge a canning competition. Good thing we had our appointment with her first.   The first thing she did was bring in a 12.5 lb cabbage. No ladies and gentlemen that’s not a typo. She entered it into a contest and lost by 9 oz. She wasn’t upset though. She said she could have easily beaten the competition, but she got her plant out late. I guess there’s always next year. The cabbage, by the way, was to teach us how to make homemade sauerkraut.

Next we learned how to make dill pickles. She gives us very specific instructions. Lay your jar on its side, insert the branch of dill. Then you take a clove of garlic and lay it in the indention the "a" in "Ball" makes on the jar. Someone asked why that was important. She stopped, turned around and said, "Its for presentation!" A veteran canning student said that we were actually in "Competitive Canning 101". The teacher looked at him and said, "Well, if you are going to do it, you might as well do it right." She went on to hand pick cucumbers that were close in the same size and color. Of course, they have to all go stem up in the jar. The smaller your cucumber, the crisper they are. Someone asked what type of cucumbers she used because she was going to go to the store and get them. She looked at her like she was out of her mind. She had an heirloom white cucumber that was her great great grandmothers. We were secretly plotting on how we could snatch a cucumber for the seed and sell it on the black market.  Also as an FYI, you must use canning/pickling salt and pure cane sugar. Nothing else will do.

She started to get confused, because she "has thousands of recipes in her head and its hard to keep them straight!" had to reference her cookbook for measurements. I swear I heard angels singing as she pulled it out. It was a 3 ring notebook FULL of recipes. Several of us were wondering, and someone finally asked how you get one of these cookbooks. She said you can’t, they quit making them. People thought they’d have a hard time selling them. My heart sunk. What do you MEAN I can’t get one. That is the BIBLE of cooking. I HAVE to have one!! So me and a new friend of mine broke out our assignments on our quest to get a copy of this cookbook. SOMEONE has to have some left. I’ve emailed the publisher and the society that organized the cookbook. I am anxiously waiting their response.

People just don’t live like that anymore. Mrs. Marjorie grows all her own vegetables and lets nothing go to waste. She said why would you buy a canned vegetable and not know what all is in it. You know, she’s right. I think there is something to be said for having the pride of growing your own vegetables. Keeping things "organic" and keeping life simple. Get your exercise by plowing your field to feed your family. Our society has gotten lazy by depending on Kroger to bring our food to us.   The sad thing is, as these people slowly fade away, their art of simple living will fade with them. We must get every nugget of information we can and cherish it so we can pass it on to generations to come.

Next week I go back to learn how to make preserves and jellies. 

2 Responses to Competitive Canning 101

  1. Lauren says:

    And just where did you get your 38 tomato plants? I don’t think I heard dad say ya’ll came by. My feelings may be hurt. Dad only sat about 400 this year. I think he’s getting soft in his old age.

  2. Candice says:

    I just prepared some corn to freeze the other day…I totally don’t care how much money that I saved! It was a lot of work!! I highly doubt that I would ever do it again. Who knows? I would enjoy knowing how to can things though. That seems like a good skill to have. Plus homemade pickles are delish!

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