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Canning is making a comeback

Staff writer

Three or four years ago, Sarah Spencer of rural Marion had more beans from her garden than she could use. That prompted her mother-in-law, Roberta Spencer of Circleville, to visit her and teach her how to can vegetables.

“Without her, I wouldn’t be canning,” Spencer said.

Over the next few years, she added other canning recipes to her repertoire, including pickles, carrots, relish, sweet and white potatoes, and pickled okra. Her latest addition was salsa.

This summer her experience with canning arrived full circle, as she taught a couple of friends how to can. And Spencer is not alone.

So many friends have asked Norma Horinek of Pilsen to teach them how to can she has considered constructing a building to house her canning equipment. She would use the building as a practice kitchen for people to learn to can. An added benefit of using the practice kitchen would be keeping her home cool, she said.

“There’s an awful lot of interest in canning out there now,” Horinek said. “It’s so neat that people are interested in canning, because it’s a passion of mine.”

According to a May 27, 2009 New York Times article, canning equipment sales by the Jarden company, which makes Ball and Kerr canning supplies, increased more than 50 percent from 2008 to 2009

Horinek thinks the recession has contributed to interest in canning, because people are looking for ways to save money. Home canning jars and equipment are reusable. The only single-use items for canning are ingredients and lids.

“It saves you a lot of money to can your own food,” Horinek said.

But home canning has advantages beyond just saving money.

“I enjoy it, and I like the taste of the pickles and vegetables I can over store-bought stuff,” Spencer said.

Horinek also likes having control over how the food is made. She has high blood pressure and has a diabetic relative, so it’s nice that she can make batches of food that are either salt- or sugar-free as needed.

“I know exactly what’s in it,” Horinek said.

Amy Pagenkopf of rural Lincolnville enjoys the ability to fine-tune flavors as she prefers. When she cans tomato juice, she also puts a hot pepper in the jar.

“It gives it a nice little kick,” that she can’t get with mass-produced juice, she said.

Horinek said meat was her favorite thing to can, but other people are reluctant to can meat.

“It’s nothing to be afraid of,” she said. “Canned meat has a wonderful flavor.”

For Pagenkopf, canning brings a sense of accomplishment.

“There’s nothing better than walking down in the basement and seeing all my jars of food we can eat all winter,” she said. “I think if more people realized how easy it is, they would do it.”

Many foods that can be canned. Pagenkopf has put up jars of peaches, tomatoes, spaghetti and pizza sauce, green beans, dill pickles, multiple kinds of jelly, salsa, tomato juice, beef, rabbit meat, and “glorified” cucumbers, which are cinnamon-flavored candied cucumber strips.

“My grandma used to can everything,” Pagenkopf reminisced while making jelly recently. “I think that’s how I got so interested in it.”

Pagenkopf still has her great-grandmother’s pressure cooker, but she can’t buy seals for it anymore. She said she e-mailed the company that made the pressure cooker to ask if they had any. The company replied that they hadn’t made seals for that model since the 1960s.

The company offered to buy the antique pressure cooker, probably for a museum or private collection, but Pagenkopf turned down the offer. She said she valued it as part of her family history too much to sell it.

“(Canning) is not just a way to preserve stuff,” Pagenkopf said. “It’s a connection to our past and part of our heritage.”

Last modified Sept. 2, 2010

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