GAINESVILLE, Fla. — As a little girl, Melanie Thomas would ladle hot fruit into glass jars with her grandmother or watch from afar as her parents canned fruits and vegetables in the kitchen.
“I was one of those who was afraid of the pressure canner and left that job up to my mom and dad,” said Thomas. “They always seemed like they knew what they were doing and had it under control.”
Now Thomas is a fearless advocate of preserving your own food. She and her mother, Jackie Schrader, join forces each month to teach canning classes through a University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension program. Once every month, they gather students in either Duval or Clay County to instruct on everything from pressure canning low acid foods, including vegetables, meats and soups, to adding just the right amount of sugar and spices.
Their next class is scheduled for January 22 at 9:00 a.m. at the Clay County Extension office in Green Cove Springs. The February class is set for the 12th in Duval County.
When asked for any expert tips or tricks, Schrader said, “We just follow the rules and procedures for safe products. No shortcuts for anyone!”
That’s because there is some risk with canning, namely the possibility of botulism poisoning if it is not done correctly. Or an explosion of the pressure canner, although most new models come with a safety shutoff switch.
“Make sure you are using current United States Department of Agriculture-approved recipes and that those recipes NEVER be altered,” Thomas said. “Canning is not a place where ‘recipe experimentation’ takes place. Doing so can be harmful, if not deadly.”
Thomas said canning home-grown fruits and vegetables allows people to know the exact origin of their food.
“We have a big movement today to eat clean and simple,” Thomas said. “Home canning allows you to do just that. No preservatives are used and salt is strictly added for flavoring.”
And her mom added: “It is a money saver if you have a free or very inexpensive source of products.”
For tips on canning, go to the UF/IFAS Electronic Data Information System page:
January 22, 9 a.m.
UF/IFAS Extension, Clay County
2463 State Road 16 West
Green Cove Springs, Fla.
February 12, 9 a.m.
UF/IFAS Extension, Duval County
1010 N. McDuff Ave.
By Kimberly Moore Wilmoth, 352-294-3302, firstname.lastname@example.org
Sources: Jackie Schrader, 904-284-6355, email@example.com
Melanie Thomas, 904-255-7450, firstname.lastname@example.org
Ohoto: UF/IFAS Extension Agents Melanie Thomas, left, and her mother, Jackie Schrader teach canning classes in Duval and Clay counties. Photo courtesy Melanie Thomas