Canning Makes Comeback, Saves Cash

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(Memphis) "I'm growing probably about four or five different types of heritage tomatoes, we've got some heritage eggplant," says Sara Studdard.

It's still early in the season, but Studdard's abundant harvest a few years ago became the inspiration for her new passion.

"You can only eat eggplant a certain amount of ways and then you're over it," Studdard says. So why not make? "These are canned eggplant which I throw in my soups," explains Studdard. 

She also shows us some canned tomatoes, pickled peppers, plus the fan favorite, jalapeno pepper jelly, "It's kind of the most popular item I make.  I have kind of a list."

"Oh you have a little following," I ask?  "I don't know.  Sure, I have a following, I'll go there," adds Studdard laughingly.

The throwback food preservation technique of canning is making a comeback, and helping a whole, new generation save cash.

"So in the winter, I don't have to go out and buy staples like canned tomatoes or green beans," adds Studdard who also says canning forces her to cook more at home.

In addition to her garden, Studdard gets the bulk of her produce from the Cooper Young Community Farmer's Market.  It's open Saturdays.

"I wake up in the morning, I walk down to the Cooper Young Community Farmer's Market.  I get to talk to friends of mine that are farmers.  So, I get to be part of a community and I get to come back and make yummy things that I can share with my friends and family," adds Studdard whose grandmother also canned. 

She and her mother learned to can together a few years ago.

Studdard gave us a quick lesson which starts with cleaning, then sterilizing the jars,  "Then you can begin packing with whatever you're going to be canning."

It's tomatoes on this day.

Step one is to core, then boil.

A quick ice bath helps with peeling.

"You want to make sure all the skin is off because the skin is more prone to bacteria."

Studdard cooks the tomatoes for up to 10 minutes, then she says they're ready for packing.

She pours the tomatoes in the jar and adds a drop of lemon juice to prevent the spread of bacteria. 

Studdard then wipes the jars clean and adds a sterilized seal and lid.

She then drops the jar into a pot (pressure cooker) of boiling water and leaves it for about 40 minutes.

The process may seem intimidating, but Studdard says canning is easier than people think, "We have these images of our grandmothers in the kitchen canning, and it's not something that's gonna take all day and once you get the hang of it, you can knock it out in a few hours."

Those few hours of work then yield food that's stocked up for months, even years.

UT/TSU Cooperative Extension will be hosting a Food Preservation Class Thursday, June 21 from 5:00-7:00 p.m. at Southwest Community College, Building A. 

The class will cover pressure canning, freezing and canning for jams and jellies.