Preserving and Canning Food with Joan Martin

Joan Martin with a Water Bath CannerJoan Martin with a Pressure Canner

As the summer is quickly reaching its peak, Anderson County gardeners will soon be ready to harvest all their fruits and vegetables.  To help preserve the bounty, Joan Martin from the Anderson County Extension Office will be offering a variety of classes on freezing, dehydrating, and especially on canning.

Joan explained that many who want to preserve their own food do it because it can save considerable money, it allows full control over what ingredients are added, and it is also a tradition among many families in the county.  Canning, which uses glass jars that are either boiled in a water bath or pressure cooked, is the primary process that allows preservation of just about any type of vegetables, fruits and meats without needing to refrigerate or freeze.

For many in the county, if they’re already growing or hunting their own food, canning is a great way to save money.  According to Joan, the costs of the canning equipment would be recouped in about a year.  For someone who isn’t yet gardening, it would probably take a bit longer, around 2.5 to 3 years, due to the equipment and preparation costs needed to start a garden.

Another benefit of canning, Joan explained, is being able to control what goes in the jar.  “One of the primary reasons that people are preserving food are for health concerns,” Joan said.  By doing it yourself, additives and preservatives can be removed, and the amount of salt added can be adjusted.

Many families also can together as a tradition.  With certain vegetables that all tend to ripen at the same time, generations of a family come together to process a whole harvest of vegetables at a single time.

However, Joan explained that there has been considerable changes in the canning process and what worked just a few years ago, may not be safe now.  With botulism being the main concern, a lot of research has gone into the process to ensure safe practices are met with changing varieties of vegetables and equipment.  “It takes a pinhead worth of botulism to kill,” Joan said.

Joan gave three major examples of changes that older recipe books and reliable sources now list incorrectly.  First, tomato varieties have changed over the years to produce less acidic tomatoes and now require the addition of lemon juice or vinegar when doing water bath canning.  Another major change is that the lids for the jars don’t have to be warmed anymore to ensure a good seal, and the jars themselves don’t have to be sterilized before canning as long as the processing time is more than 10 minutes.  Steam canners, which aren’t pressure canners, are also now considered reliable if the instructions are followed accurately.

To fully explain all of the equipment, hazards, and safety, the extension service and Joan will be offering two sets of classes at the extension office in the county park to go over the proper way to preserve and can to not only ensure safe food but also to prevent injuries during the process.  The basics class, which will have sessions on July 8th at 2:30pm-4:30pm and 6pm-8pm and July 19th from 7pm-9pm, will go over all the equipment, the processes, and science behind canning.  “It’s one thing to tell someone, you need to put green beans in the pressure cooker, and then give them the reason why,” Joan said.  The class is free but is required before taking the hands-on classes.  There will also be an American Sign Language interpreter for the session on the 19th.

After the basics classes, Joan will be offering hands-on classes where attendees will be doing actual canning.  Students will be grouped together and each student will go home with at least one jar.  Produce, meat, and jars will be provided with a nominal cost for each class.  Classes are limited to those 12 years old and up (with a parent or adult) and require registration by calling 502-839-7271 or emailing Janet McDowell at

Joan will be offering the following hands-on classes from 6pm-9pm:

Canning Meat & Vegetables ($10), July 28th
Making Jam & Jelly ($5), July 29th
Making Pickles ($5), August 5th
Canning Fruit, Freezing & Dehydrating ($5), August 12th

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