Each One Teach One

I've been canning a little while now, perhaps you have too. Over the past few years, putting up food has made its way into the fabric of my life and my year. There's citrus in the winter, strawberries in June, leading to a wealth of summer fruit ripe for picking and preserving. Perhaps you do this as well. But have you ever considered teaching canning?

I'm not talking about teaching classes to the public - that’s serious stuff and often you need to be certified. I’m talking about teaching people in your life who might be interested in learning how to can.

That's what I did last summer. Whenever someone I knew mentioned they wanted to learn, I invited them over for my next canning session. Some of these were only acquaintances - people I had met briefly through friends. They all accepted the invitation happily, and over bowls of fruit and vats of boiling water, we became friends.

I was able to pass along the little tricks I've learned along the way. I showed how I use kitchen tongs with rubber bands wrapped around the section that grips, so the cans won’t slip accidentally. I showed them how I don’t use pectin any longer for my jams, and how I've managed to reduce the sugar in my recipes. My friends will find what works for them, but it’s nice to have a few pointers to start them outright.

Mostly, I think, it’s nice for them to see the process. Canning can be intimidating - a form of cooking that could potentially make people sick. I'm sure many are scared of giving it a try. But by following some basic precautions it's not that scary. I like to think that seeing how it works was helpful for my friends in building their confidence.

Soon I was getting back reports of what they were making in their own kitchens. Sandra made the jam. Andrea made pickles. I was delighted to hear of their further endeavors. It made me feel like a canning fairy godmother.

In the end, though, it was what I would have been doing anyway - putting up the harvest as best as I can. This year, if you are in your kitchen slicing and sterilizing, consider inviting someone who is interested to watch and learn. It feels good to pass along what knowledge I've accumulated - and an extra set of hands never goes to waste.

What if, this year, we all teach someone how to can? Maybe next year they’ll teach someone else. Imagine the impact.

Pass the knowledge, spread the joy, share the jam. This year, why not teach someone how to can?

CAA Contributor Tara Austen Weaver is a writer, novice gardener, and avid canner. She is the author of the book, The Butcher & The Vegetarian: One Woman’s Romp Through a World of Men, Meat, and Moral Crisis.

Comments (3)

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    That's precisely what I've done the past three years! This year, I’ve had over a dozen different women in my kitchen, learning how to put up various things. "Peach Day" this year set a record; there were nine ladies here. We water-bathed over 450 pounds of peaches in less than four hours.

    This summer, I’ve helped people learn how to can tomatoes (sauce, diced, whole, ketchup, cocktail sauce), pickles (cucumber, green tomato, pepperoncini, cherry pepper), peaches, pears, grapes (jam), plums (puree & jam), applesauce, roasted bell peppers, garlic, onions, beef broth, green beans, and refried beans. The high acid foods were water-bathed; the low-acid ones were pressure canned.

    I'd love to teach canning more formally, but I have no idea what kind of certification is required. My degree isn't in food, anyway. I'm just a former farm kid that decided to keep up the tradition, along with learning the newer techniques.

    Great post!

    Thanks for the post! I am new at canning and love your tips. Now I have tons of questions - what do you use in place of pectin, how do you reduce sugar in your recipes, etc., etc. I am loving canning and would love to teach someone once I feel like I have it down. It is true that canning can be very intimidating, but it’s much easier than I thought it would be. It’s a lot of fun, too!

    Neat thought! I know I wish we had had someone to teach us when we were learning to can. We felt like fish out of water.

    Canning, if you’ve never done it before, can be scary!!