Canning workshop preserves more than food

By Haley Mitchell Godwin

On Jan. 31, the Crenshaw County Extension Office hosted a canning workshop on soups and stews at the Tom Harbin Ag Center. 

The entry fee was $10 per person. 

All participants took home a jar of vegetable soup canned during the event and a free “Home Canning Soups, Stocks, and Stews” pamphlet from the Alabama Cooperative Extension System.  

The workshop was a refresher course on safe canning practices for those that already enjoy canning and an informational and instructional session for those wanting to begin using the age-old method to preserve food. 

Bridgette Brannon, an agent with the regional Extension Service, led the canning workshop in Luverne.

According to Brannon, there has been a recent upswing in interest in canning. 

“The increased interest in food preservation isn’t just about the economy,” Brannon said. “It is also about knowing where your food comes from.” 

The recent growth in farmer’s markets has made canning and home preserving more viable for the masses.

Those in attendance learned about food safety in canning high and low acid foods, what should be canned in a pressure canner or by water bath canning. This was an integral part of the workshop, with the main focus being on food safety.

Regional Extension Agents like Brannan have a history of teaching food preservation classes to local communities. During World War I when housewives were encouraged to plant “victory gardens,” and then again during the depression in the 1930s, canning methods were taught through home demonstration classes and publications by the agents at land-grant colleges and universities.

Mallory Wright of Rutledge attended the event. “I started canning in the summer of 2020 with jams and jellies,” she said. “This past summer I started canning vegetables and soups.”

Many at the event said there was a generational gap when it comes to canning and preserving.

“It’s a lost art, really,” Wright said.

Everyone in attendance agreed that there were a lot of good memories associated with canning.

Mary Ann Norris of Honoraville said that some of the most precious memories she has of her mother are from when they were canning together.

“I want to keep the art of canning alive,” Norris said. “It really is a little bit of history.”

Although she didn’t  start canning much until after her mother’s death, she has many fond memories of helping her with it when she was a child. 

“Throughout my growing up years. I watched her all the time. I do wish younger people would take more of an interest in it. It is a skill that needs to be preserved for so many reasons, not just the functionality of the process or the end product, but for the sake of our history.” 

“Canning is something you have to do and get it right,” Brannon said.

Based at Alabama A&M and Auburn Universities, with county offices across the state, the Alabama Cooperative Extension System was formed in 1915.

It has a long history of serving people and communities through impactful, and relevant educational resources. 

Its goal is the advancement of urban and suburban communities through improvements to the quality of life for residents in Alabama as a whole. 

For more information on this topic and many others, For more information call the Crenshaw County Extension Office at 334-335-6312.