Last spring I started teaching canning workshops at Common Good City Farm in Washington, DC. Common Good is a fantastic inner-city garden that focuses on providing food for the surrounding low-income community. In addition to providing produce, they offer nutrition, cooking, gardening, and other healthy living classes free for qualifying residents. The same classes are available to others for a nominal fee. Revenue from the classes/workshops goes back into the Farm so that they can continue to support the needy.
I had been told that about 7 people were to be expected at my workshop last night, but nearly 30 people came. I was amazed and delighted. The more the merrier.
It was evening when we gathered close in the middle of the garden beneath a pavilion that covers the farm’s outdoor kitchen. Together we went through the history of food preservation, basic canning principles and practices, and how to go about canning safely and inexpensively in your own home. I had brought a bunch of items from my own cupboard for folks to taste so the group could get a sense of the variety of things that can be preserved. Apple sauce, pear butter, pickled cauliflower, pepper jelly, tomato sauce. It was all gobbled up.
After reviewing terms and methods of canning, we clustered around the stove and counters and together made peach and pear jam as well as dill pickles. Everyone was engaged, active participants and helpers, and asking fabulous questions. While we waited for water to boil, I sent everyone off to take a quick tour of the garden. At the end of the 2 hour workshop everyone had a packet of information to take home with them, including recipes and resources for them to explore, and an item that they had canned themselves.
I was amazed how people lingered, even as the sun was slipping away, and how they wanted to keep talking about their memories of foods. There were lots of people seeking advise on how to recapture flavors that their grandmas had introduced them to– apple butters and jams. One man had memories of working on an uncle’s farm in South Georgia and eating Chow Chow and pickled watermelon rinds, and wanted to know how to make them for himself. Yet others simply wanted to explore new horizons and learn what to do with peppers or juices or other foods that they love and want to process themselves.
The workshop was supposed to be the last of the season, but it looks like I’ll be back again to keep on canning. : ) I am pleased.