UPPER MARLBORO, Md. – When Kiva Slade makes biscuits for her family on Saturday mornings in January, she has fruit from a nearby farm to spread on top – despite the fact that she lives in Upper Marlboro, Md., and it’s freezing outside.
How does she do it? Canning. The kind that involves ladles, timers and lots and lots of glass jars. The kind your grandmother used to do.
“It’s our own little Smucker’s,” said the 38-year-old mother of Alexandra, 7, and Zechariah, 5. “It’s fun … and I like a challenge.”
Canning isn’t just for your grandmother anymore.
People are finding new ways to enjoy the time-honored pastime, creating canned concoctions from gardens and local farmers’ markets.
“Home canning the last couple years has really taken off,” said Brenda Schmidt, brand manager for fresh preserving products at Jarden Home Brands, the company that makes Ball jars and other canning supplies.
“We did a study with IRI (Industrial Research Institute) right about a year ago, this time last year, and this study looked at consumer information … what we found was a younger generation is buying our product,” Schmidt said.
For Jarden, a younger generation of canners means strong profits – retail jar sales are up 12 percent this year to date over last year, Schmidt said.
“Fresh preserving meets their lifestyle needs. If a person wants to go local and green, they can. … We find many consumers that are very concerned about controlling the food products that they eat,” Schmidt said.
“Home canning lets them be in control of the food versus buying the food in the store,” she added.
The Jarden Corp.’s freshpreserving.com even lists, “Gardening and home canning can lower your grocery bill,” as its No. 1 reason to can.
But while many people can food because they believe it’s cheaper, Slade said with the amount of time needed to grow or buy food, prepare it and can it, it probably isn’t any cheaper than store-bought food.
“I’m not sure if it saves me money, but even considering that I would still do it,” she said. “We did try to give him (Zechariah) some Mott’s applesauce, and he was like, ‘I don’t want that, Mommy, it doesn’t taste good.’ … You have to kind of keep doing it at that point because they don’t want anything else.”
Beth Hulse, a 41-year-old registered nurse from Bel Air, Md., in her second year of canning, said that in addition to being tastier and more economical, she feels the food she preserves is healthier.
“You don’t have all the preservatives, and I feel that I get a fresher product,” she said. “There’s a lot of difference between buy-off-the-shelf canned green beans and the green beans that we’re able to can.”
Lisa Winters, a master gardener with the Anne Arundel County, Md., Cooperative Extension, has been gardening and canning food her whole life.
She teaches gardening classes at the extension, but this is the first year she’s taught canning classes.
“People are starting to think about where their food is coming from and they want to make sure that they have healthy food,” she said. “I think it’s just the resurgence of everybody growing their own food. It kind of started last year and this year people are getting better and now they want to can it and freeze it and take it one step further.”
As for Slade’s 7-year-old daughter Alexandra, who likes peach preserves best and enjoys using her mother’s apple peeler-corer-slicer to help make preserves and applesauce, the appeal is all in the jar.
“I like it,” she said, “because we get to have lots of food for the winter.”