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My Experience With National Can-It-Forward Day 2011

Editor’s Note: As we gear up for the Can-A-Rama weekend next week, we look back at last year’s event as seen through the eyes of one of our backstage helpers!

A sunny Saturday at Seattle’s Pike Place Market is bound to be mayhem with crowds of foodies. Last August 13 in the midst of fruit vendors, fish throwers, and coffee roasters, the Canning Across America team set up shop under a pop up tent on the cobblestone streets eager to show off their knowledge, creativity, and playful attitudes for the National Can-It-Forward Day event. With various cooks from the gluten-free favorite Jeanne Sauvage to the rabble rousing Shibaguyz, the day was packed with innovative demonstrations and delectable samples. Each demo alternated between the creation of a canned product and example of how to use it in other dishes, showing passers-by that canning isn’t just about jelly.

I was located in the prep station, conveniently partitioned off to the side of the kitchen set-up. Surrounded by boxes of jars, produce, and gadgets, we back-stagers were in charge of getting every ingredient and tool ready for the show. Sound hard? The quick turnaround of dicing veggies and scrubbing pots in our makeshift wash-basins was not a stressful race as one might expect with so many culinary demos. It was full of laughter, interaction from playful bystanders, and so many delicious samples and snacks. The Ball Canning crew really knew what they were doing and kept churning out finished products as fast as we had the ingredients prepared. Between the crowd, the lively team, and the beautiful weather, the day was both jovial and informative. Thankfully technical difficulties were minimal, no fingers or eyebrows were lost, and through the curtain separating stage from sideline, I gained more knowledge about canning techniques than I ever thought possible.

The morning began with Jeanne, who whipped up a beautiful mixed berry jam that was served to the audience on fresh baguettes from Le Panier. After the demo, retro pastry chef Kelsey Angell of the Pink Door Restaurant swooped in like Lucille Ball meets a Hell’s Angel to show how to use that jam to make a Mixed Berry Torta with a flaky golden lattice that left us gluten free’ers salivating. Next up was a pickling tutorial by Allrecipes’s Judith Dern. The cooked cukes were turned into dill pickle and cream cheese sandwiches by Diane LaVonne of Diane’s Market Kitchen generating much excitement from the crowd for the how-to of such a simple treat. Who knew that with the help of the Ball Home-Canning kit, pickling was literally as easy as one, two, three? The next project stayed on the savory course with canned tomatoes, (courtesy of preserving blogger Brook Hurst Stephens) which were transformed into an aromatic seafood soup by French chef Phillipe Thomelin of Olivar Restaurant. With the help of a few additions including saffron, fresh scallops, and olive oil, Chef Thomelin had heads turning and necks craning. “I thought this was a canning demo?” one man said out in the peanut gallery. It is! Look what you can whip up with a dash of fish! Last but not least were the Shibaguyz Shannon and Jason Mullet-Bowlsby, who kept energy high for the finale of pepper jelly, a spicy addition to the bunch. Several stragglers stopped by the prep station asking to buy a jar of the hot sweet treat. Although no products were up for auction, they weren’t left empty handed but directed to the Canning Across America recipe section to make their own!

With rising trends in locavorism, home-growing, and community gardens, it’s no wonder that canning has stepped up as a serious new fixture in the food world. The concept has changed from a technique to survive winter into a wonderful way to enjoy seasonal flavors year round—while also getting really creative. Sorry jam, your glory days are over. Pickled vegetables, chutneys, jellies, syrups, and pie fillings have bumped up from their status as artisanal treats purchased in gourmet shops to the latest DIY projects. Pickled lemon asparagus, ginger fig jelly, or spicy peach tomatillo salsa anyone?

Not only is canning fun, but it’s affordable. As a college student, I’m on a tight budget but would rather cook than eat cheap, processed foods. Making my own is a bit more laborious, but a labor of love that I find relaxing, educational, and comforting. I’ve loved canning ever since I starting playing with the surplus from my aunts fig tree. It has only been a few years but has become a seasonal ritual that allows me to indulge in nostalgia for other seasons and regional flavors. It’s economical, especially if you grow your own produce, and it’s fun to do with friends or family. Last summer my mom and I made blackberry jam (a hysterically messy, laughter infused process) that I am still giving as gifts.

Last fall, I used my canning equipment for autumnal flavors. I went to the farmers market then made pumpkin butter, applesauce, and pickled cauliflower using the jars from the polished off strawberry and fig jams I made this summer! Unfortunately my canning bath is at home in Seattle but I make small batches in my pint-sized New York apartment. You don’t always need to make an event out of it, sometimes it’s nice to just experiment a little, especially if you’re prone to stockpiling your cabinets with surplus but take your time getting to the bottom of a jar. I also like to make one big batch of jam or fruit butter and add different spices to different jars at the end. That way I get to see which flavor combinations I like the best without making a dozen batches.

Canning isn’t only about tradition anymore–it’s also about freedom of expression. Work with what’s in season with the help of local markets, reuse your jars, swap with friends, and get crazy. Don’t forget to read the safety book on safe home canning though as it’s crucial to do it properly– you don’t want your loved ones to get a gift that keeps on giving (in a bad way!).

CAA Contributor Kayla Harvey is in her senior year of undergraduate studies for photojournalism at Eugene Lang College, The New School for Liberal Arts in New York City. She is an avid baker and canner during her summers at home in Seattle and drags her concoctions back across the country to savor Northwest produce year-round. She is working on a photojournal on educating children about nutrition through community gardens and school programs.


Save the date: Can-a-rama

For the fourth year in row, we’re putting on a party — of can-tastic proportions!

We’re thrilled to announce Can-a-Rama 2012, a weekend of putting up, preserving, pickling and canning, coast to coast, from sea to shining sea.  When a merry group of us in Seattle formed Canning Across America, we envisioned a day or series of days when home food preservationists of all levels would belly up to the canning kettle and preserve summer in a jar.  As far as we’re concerned, the more the merrier, so we’ll hope you’ll join us July 20-23, and put together your own canning party in your town.

From recipes to giveaways, we’ll be giving you all kinds of resources and tips on joining the Canvolution.


Can-It-Forward Recap

Canning Across America crew on Can-It-Forward day

We are catching up on sleep, but still basking in the glow of Can-It-Forward weekend.  Over two days, we presented a total of seven canning demos and three chef “use up what you put up” demos. If you  aren’t inspired by now to “put up,”  we don’t know what will!  We had so much fun, and we hope you either stopped by Seattle’s Pike Place Market to say hi or checked out the live Web cast on   For those who couldn’t participate over the weekend, the archived videos will be available in coming days, so stay tuned for those details.  For now, we’ll give you some eye candy, a photographic journey of some of the weekend’s most delicious moments.

And since this week is our third annual Can-a-Rama, tell us what you’re canning this week.

Me? Inspired by Lucy Norris’s pickled jalapeno demo on Sunday, I’ll be pickling some chile peppers.

{Photo credits: Stephen Brashear/AP Images for Jarden Home Brands, Len Davis/Pangeality, Shannon Kelly/In Your Head, Lindsay Durr/360 Public Relations}


It’s a Can-A-Rama!

Our preserving celebration launches today with our third annual Can-a-rama, a week of home canning parties and seasonal preserving nationwide. From August 14th to August 20th, we encourage you all to gather with your friends and family around the canning kettle.

Today in Seattle, we have more free and open-to-the-public demos at Pike Place Market. At Noon, join us for an Apricot-Raspberry Jam Demonstration by Rebecca Staffel, of Deluxe Foods, a Seattle artisanal preserves company, or at 2:00pm to learn how to can Pickled Jalapeno Peppers by renowned pickle expert Lucy Norris.

If you can not join us in Seattle to kick off our Can-A-Rama, Rebecca and Lucy have graciously shared their recipes.






Can-It-Forward Day Demo Schedule

Can It Forward


In our third season of spreading the love for “putting up” food, Canning Across America is cooking up its most exciting endeavor to date. Mark your calendars for the weekend of August 13-14, when Canning Across America will be preserving up a storm at Seattle’s Pike Place Market.

As part of the first-ever National Can-It-Forward Day, Canning Across America members will teach the basics of water bath canning and some of the most popular summer canning recipes. The day-long event is free and open to the public and will include several how-to canning demos that will be streaming live on 8:00 AM – 4:00 PM PST. Viewers will be able to ask questions and post comments in real time. 



8:00 a.m.

Mixed Berry Jam Canning Demonstration featuring Ball® RealFruit™ Classic Pectin by Jeanne Sauvage, Canning Across America, Gluten-free baker & author

9:00 a.m.

Cooking Demonstration by Kelsey Angell of The Pink Door Restaurant featuring Mixed Berry Jam

10:00 a.m.

Canning Demonstration of Kosher Pickles featuring Dill Sandwich Slices recipe from Fresh made by Judith Dern, and cookbook author

11:00 a.m.

Cooking Demonstration by Diane LaVonne of Diane’s Market Kitchen featuring Dill Sandwich Slices


Canned Tomatoes Packed in Own Juice Demonstration featuring the Ball® Salt for Pickling and Preserving by Brook Hurst Stephens, Blogger,

1:00 p.m.

Cooking Demonstration by Philippe Thomelin of Olivar Restaurant featuring Canned Tomatoes Packed in Own Juice

2:00 p.m.

Mixed Berry Jam Canning Demonstration featuring Ball® RealFruit™ Classic Pectin by Jeanne Sauvage, Canning Across America, Gluten-free baker & author

3:00 p.m.

Pepper Jelly Canning Demonstration featuring Ball® RealFruit™ Low or No-Sugar Pectin by Shannon and Jason Jason Mullett-Bowlsby, Urban gardeners, canners, DIY masters & authors


The preserving celebration continues Sunday, August 14, with more free and open-to-the-public demos from Seattle’s most seasoned canners. It also marks the kick-off to Canning Across America’s third Can-a-Rama, a week of home canning parties and seasonal preserving nationwide.


Apricot-Raspberry Jam Demonstration by Rebecca Staffel, of Deluxe Foods, a Seattle artisanal preserves company

2:00 p.m.

Pickle Jalapeno Chile Peppers by renowned pickle expert Lucy Norris

If you do not live in Seattle area, we encourage you to host a party in your in your neighborhood and watch Can-It-Forward Day Web TV on August 13th! Sign up for Can-It-Forward Day here.


Canning Across America Cans

One day in July, a group of us were waiting furtively in a Safeway parking lot for the goods. We were a bit uncomfortable — worried that someone would bust us for parking in the lot without going into the store. I’m sure we all looked a little weird, hanging out in the back corner. We are, for the most part, middle-aged men and women. One of us had a toddler. We sure didn’t look like your average hang-around-in-back-corners-of-parking-lots types.

Finally, our supplier arrived in his Toyota Prius. He got out. He was tall, handsome, clean-cut, and dressed in a plaid flannel shirt. He’d been driving all day to make the transfer. We were immensely thankful–we had been promised top of the line stuff and we couldn’t wait. We had never met him before, but he was like an old friend. We all hugged him and took our photos with him.

Of course, since this is a canning site, the “stuff” I’m talking about is fruit. Specifically, extremely fresh and amazing cherries and apricots. Our “supplier” is James Michael, a farmer. He is part of the Washington State Fruit Commission and Northwest Cherries. And we could not believe that he had more than 50 pounds of fruit in his car (have you seen a Prius??–it’s a tiny car!). After we chatted for a bit, we started divvying up the fruit amongst ourselves. There was a lot and it was so pretty. Wow. After we divided it up with promises to share our canning adventures with each other (and with you, our readers), we each drove home and contemplated our stashes.

A couple of days later, a small group of Canning Across America founders got together and canned all day, using the fruit we got from farmer James. We had several pounds each of apricots and cherries. And we were excited to get started. Each of us came with a recipe or two that we wanted to try.   Kim R brought her favorite recipe for Raspberry Chipotle BBQ Sauce w/Raspberry, from The Berry Bible by Janie Hibler.  Since we had cherries, we changed it to cherry barbeque sauce. I brought two recipes that I was dying to try — the Apricot Mustard from Amy Pennington’s new book, Urban Pantry, and the Apricot Jam from Alice Waters’s Chez Panisse Fruit.   Kim O’D wanted to make the Plum Dipping Sauce from Sherri Brooks Vinton’s new book Put ’em Up!, substituting apricots for plums. And Myra came as our official cheerleader and taste tester.

After donning aprons and taking inventory of the fruit and jars, we put a canning kettle of water on the stove to boil.  While we washed  jars, lids, and rings in hot soapy water, the kettle heated up.  It’s important to start the kettle first thing–otherwise you risk having your jam (or whatever) reach the perfect canning stage and your canner isn’t ready.  We placed the lids in a small saucepan full of water and set that to simmer on another burner (we simmer the lids for a few minutes to sterilize them and prepare the sealing compound and then turn off the heat and let them sit in the hot water until the cans are ready for them).

As the kettle was heating up, we got to work on the recipes.  We figured out an order for the day: the BBQ sauce would be canned first, then the apricot jam, then the dipping sauce, then the apricot mustard.  But each of these things needed preparation before canning.  I started on the apricot mustard.  I  prepared the seeds for soaking in the vinegar and prepared the fruit mixture for maceration. 

Kim O’D and Kim R worked together on getting the BBQ sauce going.  It is fairly easy and required the least amount of cooking.  We all know each other so well by now, that we have an easy relationship in the kitchen.

While I prepare the apricot mustard, Kim and Kim pit the cherries. We mix up the rest of the ingredients and cool everything down to the right thickness.  Myra snaps photos and provides running commentary on what we’re doing.  We chat and joked, talking about our previous weeks and our plans for the upcoming days.  We comment on the lovely view (the place where we are canning is right on the beach — heaven).

When it’s time to fill the jars, we all seem to know instinctively who’s going to do what.  One of us removes the hot jars from the water bath  (where they have been sterilizing), one person fills the jars, one wipes the rims and secures the lids and rings.  We transfer the jars into the canner to process; meanwhile, we chat and clean up,  getting ready for the next batch of jars.

Next up is the apricot jam from Chez Panisse Fruits.  I was intrigued by this recipe because it uses the technique of boiling the jam with a few of the apricot kernels for more flavor.  (See an earlier CAA essay for a humorous story about what can happen when you do this).  I am one of those people who loves to try new things in the kitchen just because they are intriguing.

After pitting and chopping the apricots and mixing them with sugar for macerating, I spent an enjoyable half an hour hitting the pits with Kim O’D’s mallet, exposing the kernel in the middle.  It became something of a game and also a meditation for me–how to hit the pits just right so I exposed but didn’t break the kernel.  Such fun!  For days afterwards I wanted to get a mallet and go around and hit apricot pits.  I am canner, hear me hit the pit! (apologies to Helen Reddy).

When the apricot/sugar mixture had macerated for about 30 minutes, we put it on the stove to cook.  I chopped a few of the kernels to cook with the mix as well.  Even though I got the kernels out of all of the pits (many of them whole, I’m proud to say), we only chopped and used about four.  The almond flavoring in the kernel is quite strong, so you don’t want to completely overwhelm your jam with it.  You want the apricot flavor to be just brightened with the almond essence.  Delish.

Then we did the dipping sauce.  Kim O’D and I had done this sauce before and knew it was scrumptious.  And substituting fresh apricots straight from the farm for the plums was a treat.

Finally, we made the apricot mustard.  This mustard is a heady combo of sweet and spicy — a perfect pairing to meats and a special treat on sandwiches.

By late afternoon, we had finished. All of the jars were cooling on the counter. They were beautiful — the apricots and cherries created finished goods that were lovely deep jewel-tones. We divvied up the jars and kissed each other goodbye and drove off into the night, singing Farmer James’ praises for providing us with the fruit that we transformed into jars of summer for the winter months ahead.


Raspberry Chipotle Barbeque Sauce

Chinese Dipping Sauce (with plums or apricots)

CAA Contributor Jeanne Sauvage is the editor of the CAA website. She is also an accomplished gluten-free baker and shares her recipes on her website, Art of Gluten-Free Baking.


Dispatch from Dallas: A Can-A-Rama Event

group canning2

A group of twelve convened Saturday afternoon, August 29th, to undertake an ambitious canning adventure. The group was comprised mostly of Slow Food Dallas members–some had home canning experience, others none. All shared a love of good food. Three recipes had been chosen based on the recommendations of the group. We would make Peaches in Brandy, Watermelon Rind Pickles, and Chow Chow (actually Piccalilli, Carmen’s Great-Grandmother’s recipe).

Two of the recipes, the Watermelon Pickles and the Chow Chow, required some advance prep work followed by a resting period. Otherwise all the prep and production work for the three recipes would be completed on-site that afternoon by those participating.

wtermelon pickles2We started the day with a 25 pound case of peaches, a 25 pound case of green tomatoes, eight dozen jars, at least 15 pounds of sugar, and countless other spices and ingredients. We devised a strategy based on prep and process time and determined it was best to start with our peaches recipe. Once the peaches were in jars and ready to start processing in the hot water bath, we moved on to the watermelon pickles. As soon as those were ready to go into jars we ramped up the chow chow processing. In just four hours time we had everything processed with only the clean-up remaining.

peaches2 One of the most amazing and unplanned aspects of the afternoon related to our utilization of leftovers. Our team of twelve showed great dexterity and creativity when it came to our by-products and overages. It was an impressive display of imagination and resourcefulness with a goal of nothing going to waste. The remaining simple syrup from the peaches went on to become Gloria’s mojitos and Jim’s hummingbird food. The leftover peach slices went home with several people in extra mason jars–mine became a delicious peach and lavender tart. The water the peaches had been boiled in (to loosen their skins) was so beautiful no one wanted to throw it out, so it became a tea infused with a rich peach essence. The watermelon meat was divided and shared. Some of the remaining green tomatoes went on to be served for dinner as fried green tomatoes. And, the last bit of them were cooked up on Sunday in an additional batch of chow chow using a different recipe. The peach pits and skins were the only waste we generated and that went into Jim’s compost to live another day as food for his garden.

We had agreed to share all the costs and then divide the output. When all the receipts had been totaled we had spent $206. For the modest sum of $17/per person, we each netted 3 half-pints of Peaches, a pint Chow-Chow, and a pint of Watermelon Pickles. We had extras of a few things, plus the remaining peach slices, so everyone helped themselves to a leftover of their choice as a bonus.

Midway through the afternoon, we created a small, unplanned feast to fortify our energy. Kathryn makes fig jam, using figs from her own tree, and brought a jar of it to share. She also brought a baguette.  Jim located a wonderful hunk of cheddar cheese in his fridge. We had loads of tasty watermelon. The snack helped propel us towards our big finale.

Canning Across America and Ball had sent a canner and accessories which I had designated as a door prize. Everyone put their name in a bowl and at the end of the day we drew the winner’s name– and Kate won.

All and all, it was a great experience. There we were shoulder to shoulder, all pitching in, enjoying an afternoon of community, good cheer and fellowship with one another.

Later, as I was reflecting back on the day I thought what a natural, primal thing it is to do–cooking with others. Since the dawn of time, cooks have been gathering, tending their fires, and feeding their people.

CAA Contributor Kelly Ingram is a sales executive, writer, and a passionate champion for good food, gardening and canning. She comes from a long line of home gardeners with many early memories assisting her family’s canning projects. She has taken that expertise into her own kitchen and over the past several years has been perfecting her signature product – Dill Pickles. She is the Program Director for Slow Food Dallas in Dallas, TX.


Can-A-Rama Prep: Tips for Canning With Children

The Can-A-Rama weekend starts tomorrow and goes through Sunday (Aug. 29-30).  Are you ready?  If you’re canning with children, check out our Tips for Canning With Children by Emily Paster.  Kids love this process and it’s fun to include them!