Starting Your Own Canning Club

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If planned right, a canning club will help you make the most out of your garden produce by allowing you to share excess harvests with other members as well as benefit from ingredients from their gardens.
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“Preservation Pantry” by Sarah Marshall is an innovative guide to reducing wasted food while canning and preserving; the book includes canning recipes, meal recipes, and an introduction for those who are new to canning.

Preservation Pantry (Regan Arts, 2017) by Sarah Marshall is “a whole-produce approach to modern preservation” with a special focus on eliminated wasted food during the canning and cooking process. Marshall follows sustainable practices for farm-to-table cooking and preservation which has led her to developMarshall’s Haute Sauceas well as recipes for many restaurants local to Portland, Oregon. The following excerpt share how canning can be a community activity.

The first week of the month used to feel weighted by bills, worries about everyday tasks, and to-do lists — leaving few thoughts about the future and more regrets about paying for the past. For the last few years, however, the first Wednesday of every month has instead brought anticipation and excitement. Our organizer Brooke Weeber (also this book’s illustrator) couldn’t have imagined the feelings her canning club would inspire when she reached out to a small group of friends to see if we wanted to meet up and exchange canned goods. Over time, the Portland

Preservation Society has grown into much more than the canned food exchange she initiated — it is a reminder for all of us to spread creativity, joy, and delicious food.

Our meeting spot always changes, which brings with it an extra element of surprise. In the summer, we meet in members’ backyards and on their front porches, taking advantage of the small window to hold outdoor events. In the winter, we get more creative, descending upon offered living rooms, favorite restaurants, and other local businesses. We see each other’s gardens grow and have spent time in one another’s kitchens where the goodies are canned. We assemble where the action happens and gaze upon beautiful jars and shelves packed with cookbooks and canning books, passed down from generation to generation.

When you plant a garden, you don’t know what it will yield, and that is the same kind of anticipation that builds in me in the days and weeks leading up to our canning meetings. The food exchanging aspect of the group takes a bit of the pressure off each of us; no need to worry about canning every single thing you will miss in the wintertime because other members have likely done some of it for you. There is no way to know who will attend or what they will bring, but the natural ebb and flow of people and ingredients is part of the fun.

As each of our guests walks in, they pull their items out of their bags and place them on the table. Sometimes the jars are beautifully decorated with twine and encyclopedia pages, while others come unlabeled or with vague descriptions scribbled on the metal lid. I personally like to decorate my jars simply with origami paper over the lid that identifies what’s inside. Getting my jars ready feels like packing up a piece of myself and giving it to someone special. It is a familiar feeling, akin to knowing you brought just the right birthday present for the guest of honor.

Each time our group meets, we plant seeds for one another by passing on knowledge, ideas, and inspiration. With all the creativity in the group, there is never the worry that everyone will bring the same strawberry jam because it happens to be June. Instead, June’s canning club will see strawberry rhubarb shrub, strawberry cognac salt, and strawberry jalapeño jam. There is no judgment or snobbery. Rather, our creations and hard work are all celebrated because of our shared passion and understanding of the efforts made by each and every member. We know there are sometimes mistakes that will be made — we have all experienced an unset jam or a faded pickle — but we want everyone to keep canning. We offer suggestions for future successes and share stories of past failures.

Our gatherings are not exclusive to the canning exchange; we also can together. Working as a collective is fun and also makes a sometimes tedious process go more quickly. At the end of one particular tomato season, we gathered in my backyard to can 200 pounds of tomatoes! We had been planning for months — sourcing from the right farm, getting the gear, picking the date, and finally we were ready. It had been beautiful weather and we planned for a day canning outside on the propane stove. However, as we began washing our tomatoes, it got windy and cold and a full-on storm moved in. So, we did what any Oregonian would do: We set up my farmers’ market tent, zipped up our jackets, put our heads down, and got the job done. After the rather soggy work, we enjoyed a nice warm feast inside the house. Perhaps it goes without saying, but out of this group of preservation passionates, great friendships have blossomed.

More from Preservation Pantry:

Reprinted with permission from Preservation Pantry: Modern Canning from Root to Top & Stem to Coreby Sarah Marshall and published by Regan Arts, 2017.