Renewed interest in old-fashioned skills

Home canning | Younger generation at the forefront of a trend to bring back home canning techniques

TORONTO — Home canning is undergoing a renaissance among a growing number of consumers who want to know what’s in the food they eat.

Entries in the home crafts categories at this year’s Royal Agricultural Winter Fair exceeded 400, up from last year, said Peter Hohenadel, the fair’s director of agriculture and food.

Recent additions to the 92-year-old fair include salsa, heritage pickles and jam plus two youth categories for those under age 18.

“There’s a lot more city people entering,” he said, citing trends in fresh, local food.

The fair showcased last year’s champion, a raspberry chocolate jam, by creating 750 jars for purchase.

Gabrielle Marroccoli, a senior food scientist with E.D. Smith Food in Ontario, judged the jams and jellies and found that entrants put a new spin on an old art.

“People are so creative and imaginative and are breathing life into this category,” she said, citing additions of Riesling wine, chocolate liqueur, agave nectars, maple syrup and cinnamon blended with fruit.

There were also beets cut into the shapes of butterflies.

Marroccoli praised the effort and innovation of those who entered.

“You can’t make jam in an hour,” she said.

A blueberry and allspice jam entry was the grand champion at this year’s event, with a raspberry jam picking up the judge’s choice award and a razzle dazzle raspberry jam winning the youth award.

Bernardin sponsored the jam and jelly categories this year, said Emerie Brine, brand manager and executive chef with the home canning company, which has seen annual double digit growth during the last decade.

Brine, who conducts canning workshops in Canada, has seen the most interest among 20 to 40 year olds, most of whom are females.

“Not their mothers but their grandparents did it and they want to bring that back,” he said.

“They’re very interested in local food, sustainability and reducing their carbon footprint.… Folks want to know what they’re feeding their families and want to control the ingredients.”

Many have gardens or buy locally.

“If they purchase from the farmer, the money stays in the region,” said Brine.

Saskatchewan home economist and food writer Sarah Galvin said home canners must carefully follow reliable recipes, such as those provided by Bernardin.

She warned against preserving low acid food with the water bath method.

“You have to put it through the water bath process if fruit or higher acid food because you have to force out all the air so there are no air bubbles in there,” she said.

Throw away preserved products if the lids are bulging or easily pop open.

Galvin said the popularity of TV cooking shows and novel and gourmet food flavours are behind home canning’s popularity, citing her own success selling out of her sea buckthorn, apricot and haskap jams at the local farmers market.

She said home canning comes with a cost, citing the processing and storage equipment needed to do it.

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