Jarring economy spurs rise in home canning
August 25, 2008 By The Canadian Press
August 25, 2008 – Canning and preserving fruits and vegetables are increasing in popularity once again.
August 25, 2008 – To Amy Hobbs Harris, a dozen jars of strawberry preserves are worth $391 – the amount she estimates she’ll save in a year by canning the fruit herself.
Not that she normally would spend that much on jam. But the savings add up once she factors in other uses – giving them away as gifts, for example, or stirring the preserves into plain yogurt instead of buying pricier flavoured cups.
Harris, 33, of Tipp City, Ohio, started canning for the first time last summer, putting her a bit ahead of a trend seen around the country: as food prices rise and the economy declines, more people are turning to home canning.
“I started canning to save money,” said Harris. “I really love the self-sufficiency of it, that I know where the produce started and what the process is.”
Though she has a garden, most of what Harris cans comes from her local farmers’ market.
“Especially in the winter, when I go down in the basement to get the jars, it’s a nice feeling,” she said. “So many things are unknown with the way food is produced that it feels really good to keep control of it.”
The trend is reflected in the sales of the popular Ball canning jars and supplies, said Chris Scherzinger, vice president of marketing for Jarden Home Brands, maker of Ball and Bernardin products. Retail sales of Ball canning products have increased nearly 30 per cent this year, and sales of the company's plastic freezing containers have doubled over last year, according to market data from Information Resources Inc.
Alice Mullen of the University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension said the canning demonstrations she offers at farmers markets around the state have begun attracting larger crowds. In Florida, the Citrus County Canning Center has seen a steady increase in customers this year, said manager Cindy DeVries.
Customers bring their own produce and jars to the centre, which has been open since 1935, and can use the kitchen’s community stoves and sinks.
Paula Stotts, who runs a small farm with her husband in Mechanic Falls, Maine, began getting calls in February from customers interested in buying their produce through a community-supported agriculture program.
“If I had 1,000 acres, I don’t think I would have been able to accommodate all the phone calls I had,” she said. “And the next question I was frequently being asked was, ‘Do you teach canning?’”
She didn’t, but she arranged for a cooperative extension educator to offer a class in the area and has another planned for later this summer.
Johnson, who was one of 12 participants in the first class, came away impressed and determined to can the 14 different fruits and vegetables she has planted this year.
Cramming everything from tomatoes to zucchini into glass jars is part of her family’s overall plan to insulate themselves against economic uncertainty, Johnson said. They’ve also cut down on driving and are installing a wood stove.
“We’re working at more long-term solutions as opposed to being so dependent on oil and grocery stores, which seem to be whacking out right now,” she said.
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