Linda Delaquis enjoys canning tomatoes and making salsa each fall. And her family declares it is “so much better than store bought.”
But the Notre Dame resident doesn’t want her home canning experience to stop there. “I’d love to learn to make pickles,” she says.
That’s why, on a rainy fall evening last week, she was among a half dozen women assembled in the Treherne Collegiate’s home economics room to spend an evening learning the basics of home food preservation.
For two hours they watched Basswood area farmer and professional home economist Susan Proven demonstrate how to dehydrate celery leaves, can a corn-and bean-based salsa in a pressure canner, blanch and package swiss chard, and put up nearly a dozen jars of ruby-red crabapple jelly.
At the end of the evening they left reassured that a pressure canner wouldn’t leave a crater where their kitchen once was, and confident about new information or skills obtained.
For some it was a refresher course too.
“I’ve been canning for 40 years and just came to see what’s changed,” said Treherne-area farmer Diane Cain. She doesn’t see dramatic changes to the methods.
The workshop is one of several the Assiniboine Regional Health Authority (ARHA) Health Promotion Team has facilitated across southwestern Manitoba this year to help more Manitobans enjoy eating healthy home-grown foods by honing their skills and getting up-to-date information on preservation methods.
They’d like to see more Manitobans boost their vegetable and fruit intake – the more locally raised the better – and enjoy the benefits of gardening for physical exercise, says ARHA community nutritionist Sandra Smith in Rivers.
These workshops are a way to rekindle skills for living healthier lifestyles.
“We do hear people saying this is something something that perhaps they’ve seen their parents doing, or their grandparents, but they haven’t been doing it and they weren’t really sure how to do it now,” she said. And they don’t necessarily have anyone to ask for help.
Proven grew up in a city and didn’t learn how to preserve food until moving to the Minnedosa area to farm. In the 1970s she had help from neighbours.
“I was very fortunate in that there were older women in the community who were able to help me with this. But a lot of those women aren’t doing it anymore. ”
She saw a sharp decline in these activities during the 1980s, when something had to give as more women began to work off the farm and couldn’t manage the additional workload of a big garden. Women started earning wages and buying food instead.
“We’ve kind of gone through this store mentality that everything is available there, so why would we go to the work,” says Joan Clement, a Russellbased home economist whose also facilitated some of the workshops.
Proven said most questions asked during workshops have related to pressure canners versus the boiling water bath and which foods are low-acid foods. People also want to learn correct methods and procedures. In some cases, they’ve made mistakes.
“I had one man tell me he’d put 100 bags of beans away that he hadn’t blanched,” she said.
The pressure canner is scary. “They hear stories that it’s going to blow up,” she continues. It’s not going to blow up, she assures them, and notes people seem more confident about using it after seeing it demonstrated at the workshops.
Clement said she thinks people need more venues like these to ask questions.
“People in my groups said they don’t really know where to go for information,” she said. Extension services aren’t available anymore. People do look to the Internet but they aren’t necessarily finding reliable or credible information.
And it’s no substitute for a hands-on workshop.
“They went home feeling this jar of three-pepper jelly looks good and I think they also had a real sense of accomplishment,” said Clement. “I think people found this very worthwhile and said they’d were going to put their information into practice.”
The groups’ size have been anywhere from about six to a dozen participants per workshop, Smith said.
“It’s been a mix of people,” she said. “About half are those who have canned for years and are wanting updates and about half are young people who have never canned before and want to start.”
Men have come out too, she added. “They’re gardeners who are looking to can.”
Courses have been offered in Rossburn, Carberry, Virden, Hamiota, Killarney, Minnedosa and Treherne.
One more food preservation workshop is scheduled for Oct. 21 at Melita’s Victoria United Church CE Hall from 7 to 9 p. m. To register or for more information contact the ARHA health promotion team at (204)328-5269. [email protected]