Martha Stewart, take note. Deryl and Margaret Schertz have been growing and canning their own vegetables for 63 years. They "put up" (that's canning-speak) more than 400 jars - pints and quarts - every year.
Martha Stewart, take note.
Deryl and Margaret Schertz have been growing and canning their own vegetables for 63 years. They "put up" (that's canning-speak) more than 400 jars - pints and quarts - every year.
They could give the goddess of domesticity classes about how to capture the flavor of summer year-round. Joy in a jar.
"My mother canned and Deryl's mother did. We were both raised on a farm," says Margaret. She's 89 and Deryl is 90, but they still keep a large garden at Snyder Village in Metamora, Ill. "About seven of us here have a garden. We enjoy it."
They appreciate that the staff tills the ground for them.
Though their tomatoes weren't great this year - "we had blight," Margaret says - they still put up more than 90 quarts. They also can their homegrown peppers, carrots, beets, green beans and sweet potatoes. If neighbors have extra potatoes, they will can those. And, come fall, Margaret has a sister who usually supplies them with pears from her tree, and a niece who owns an apple orchard will give them apples.
They will freeze the snap peas, broccoli and corn from their garden.
Not only will their overflowing cupboards keep them stocked through the winter, but they are able to control the salt and sugar they use - something that helps control Deryl's diabetes.
This two-century-old technique of preserving food seems to be making a comeback as more families have a two-fold focus: saving money and eating healthier. Still, statistics are hard to find, but the USDA-sponsored National Center for Home Food Preservation says requests for canning classes are booming.
Also, last summer, the website allrecipes.com surveyed its users and found that 55 percent were planning on canning and, of those, nearly 97 percent were planning on canning more food than in previous years. With nearly half of them age 40 or younger, the demographic of canners could be shifting from baby boomers to the younger generation.
The first-ever Can-A-Rama - a grassroots effort of simultaneous canning parties across the nation pushed by www.canningacrossamerica.com - was held last summer. This year, it was July 24-25. In case you missed it, this year they've added an Eat Up What You Put Up celebration on Oct. 15-16. Again, home canners are invited to host their own gatherings to sample each other's perfectly preserved goodies.
Canning is believed to date back to the early 19th century when Napoleon requested a way to keep food from spoiling on long military campaigns. It still is a great way to keep what you can't immediately eat from your garden, but there is a trick to it.
Canners must follow strict procedures to ensure that spores of Clostridium botulinum, found naturally in soil, don't germinate into botulism, a deadly form of food poisoning.
The National Center for Home Food Preservation currently has a warning on its website that "in the past two years, there have been at least three events of botulism poisoning from improperly processed home canned green beans."
Since Clostridium botulinum is extremely heat resistant, "canning low-acid vegetables, meats, fish and poultry requires the use of a pressure canner," the website warns. "Even hours in the boiling water canner will not kill them if they are inside your jars of beans."
Further advice: "Using up-to-date canning instructions from a reliable source is essential. Scientific knowledge and equipment have changed since earlier generations were canning foods at home. People using boiling water canners or not using pressure canners correctly that did not have their food spoil or make them sick were just lucky."
The center offers step-by-step advice on food preservation - everything from canning to pickling to curing and freezing food - at www.uga.edu/nchfp/.
Margaret and Deryl Schertz always use a pressure canner.
"Don't be afraid of a pressure cooker. It must be used properly, but it's nothing to be afraid of," says Margaret.
And the results, they both say, are so worth it.
Jennifer Davis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
ON THE WEB
Visit the National Center for Home Food Preservation at www.uga.edu/nchfp/