Canning classes have long been offered at local farmers markets and as part of the menu at local cooking schools. Now Atlanta has its own shop devoted solely to the tools and techniques of food preservation. Last week, Preserving Place opened in the Westside Provisions District.
Owner Martha McMillin is no stranger to those interested in canning and preserving. She’s been gathering equipment and taking it to local farmers markets like Peachtree Road Farmers Market and Grant Park Farmers Market for the past year, demonstrating techniques and talking about food safety.
Every time she set up her demo, she would hear, “Oh, I want to learn. My grandmother canned but my mother didn’t.”
She says it was like listening to her business plan come to life.
Now, after months of planning, Preserving Place is filled with tools for everything from cheese making and dehydrating to pressure canning.
Customers can buy equipment and cookbooks and strike out on their own, or they can enroll in the almost daily classes to learn about canning, making baby food and even an introduction to fermented foods like sauerkraut.
Morgan Dooley of south Fulton came in during the first week for Canning 101, McMillin’s class on the basics. Dooley had been inspired to create food presents for her friends as a way of getting ahead of the holiday rush, but she had never canned in her life. She also was wondering about making preserves as favors for her upcoming wedding.
In the same Canning 101 class, Kristin Stockton of Chastain Park expressed a common concern. “I just got off the phone with my dad, and he said be sure to learn about how to prevent botulism.”
If she’s heard that concern once, McMillin’s heard it a hundred times, and she spends the first part of class talking about the science behind canning and why the pH of food determines how it should be canned. She even offers to have her students bring in family recipes so she can advise them on how to make sure the recipe and the canning process used are safe.
Assisting McMillin in class were Lucia Smeal of Alpharetta, a blue ribbon winner for her watermelon rind preserves among other things, and Dawn Nelson of the Westside, who’s been known to put up 300 jars of tomato juice in a season. They helped move things along by boiling jars, warming canning lids and rings and demonstrating techniques for safely dealing with all the boiling water that goes along with hot water bath canning.
One thing the students learned is that canning can’t be rushed. McMillin described the time spent peeling pears, stirring slowly thickening preserves and artfully arranging the contents for pickled okra as meditative.
Smeal agreed, saying the time she spends in her kitchen working on her prize-winning recipes provides an escape from a hectic work life. Smeal is an attorney and professor in the Masters of Taxation program at Georgia State University.
What pleases McMillin most is the community she sees building around what she calls the “local foodshed.”
McMillin is doing her part to nurture that foodshed by buying local ingredients for products such as peach-ginger preserves, lemon verbena simple syrup and tomato conserve. The pears and okra for her Canning 101 class came from the Sun Dog Farm in Blairsville and Burge Organic Farm in Mansfield.
“It’s very exciting to see people interested in enjoying really good food,” McMillin said. “I grew up on a farm in South Carolina and was raised to love and respect the land, so it’s also exciting to open this shop and be able to support that interest and our local farmers as well.”
Preserving Place, 1170 Howell Mill Road, Atlanta. 404-815-5267, www.facebook.com/#!/PreservingPlace.
MORE CANNING CLASSES
Preserving Now Canning Basics Workshop
1 p.m. Sept. 22. Crooked Pines Farm, 355 Harmony Road, Eatonton.
$75 per person. Register at Stefanie@crookedpinesfarm.com or 706-347-0274.
Lyn Deardorff of Preserving Now, www.preservingnow.com, will teach the basics of water bath canning, including the newest USDA guidelines for safe home canning. Hands-on preparation of a fruit, a vegetable and a tomato recipe. Everyone leaves with a home canning notebook with instructions and recipes, and three jars of products canned in class. Appetizers will be served.
Be sure to: wear comfortable shoes and come dressed to cook.
Classes can be scheduled for groups of four to 12 of any age and arranged to accommodate food allergies or dietary restrictions.
Moore Farms, 239 County Road 561, Woodland, Ala. About 90 minutes from Atlanta.
$40 per person. Make arrangements at firstname.lastname@example.org or 256-449-9417. www.moorefarmsandfriends.com.
Laurie and Will Moore teach classes in seasonal organic sauces, jams, fruit butters and more. Arrive at the farm in the morning and enjoy a sample of the preserves that will be prepared that day. Lunch is served and everyone takes home recipes and a jar of each of the products canned in class. Watch http://vimeo.com/26089576 for more information.
A farm tour, too: Meet the people who produce the food, tour the farm and greet some of the animals who live there.
WANT TO SEE WHAT OTHERS ARE DOING WITH LOCAL PRODUCE?
Southeast First, a benefit dinner
4 p.m. Sept. 22. Love Is Love Farm at Gaia Gardens, 900 Dancing Fox Road, Decatur.
$90 per person plus Brown Paper Ticket processing fee. Go to www.brownpapertickets.com/event/446768 to purchase tickets. Proceeds benefit Community Farmers Markets, the umbrella organization for East Atlanta, Grant Park and Decatur farmers markets.
After passed hors d’oeuvres and farm-inspired cocktails from Jerry Slater of H. Harper Station, Joe Reynolds of Love Is Love Farm at Gaia Gardens will take visitors on a tour of the farm. Then guest chefs including Steven Satterfield of Miller Union and Asha Gomez of Cardamom Hill will serve a family-style dinner prepared from food raised on the farm.
It’s all outdoors: Event is rain or shine and held on grass and gravel. Dress for the weather and the terrain.
Atlanta Underground Market
6-9 p.m. Sept. 28. Location to be revealed Sept. 27. Sign up at www.atlantaundergroundmarket.com for an email with the location. 404-955-4982.
$5 admission; children 12 and under free. $1-$5 for items from food vendors.
Each month, the Atlanta Underground Market finds a new location in the metro Atlanta area and sets up shop. This month, there will be 20 food vendors, a DJ and other entertainment. Food vendors are local home cooks and food entrepreneurs, and their offerings include raw, vegan and vegetarian choices.
A promise for the September location: It will be inside the Perimeter and there will be a campfire. Yohana Solomon, who runs the market, says come with an empty stomach and an adventurous palate.
NEED MORE IDEAS FOR WHAT TO DO WITH LOCAL PRODUCE?
Fall Harvest Soups
7-9 p.m. Oct. 1. Decatur Recreation Center, 231 Sycamore St., Decatur.
$35. $30 for Wylde Center members. Register at www.wyldecenter.org.
The Wylde Center offers “Simply Delicious,” a bimonthly series featuring seasonal produce. The Oct. 1 hands-on soup class will teach recipes for vegetable and meat stock and then use autumn fruits and vegetables to create several soups. Participants sample throughout the class.
You never know who’s sharing your space: In early September, the class was enjoying an Italian meal straight from the garden when a group of African dancers came by and provided impromptu entertainment.
Gourmet Campfire Cooking from the Homestead Atlanta
6:30-9:30 p.m. Oct. 17. Lake Claire Community Land Trust, 280 Arizona Ave., Atlanta.
$45 plus $10 supply fee. $30 plus supply fee for members of Georgia Organics. http://thehomesteadatl.com/classes/gourmet-campfire-cooking/.
The Homestead Atlanta offers classes in heritage skills and sustainable living. Cathy Conway of Avalon Catering will teach a class on cooking local vegetables and pastured meats over an open flame. She’ll cover how to pack food for a campfire meal and the basics of building a good cooking fire.
Campfire in the city? This plot of land was purchased from MARTA in the 1980s and is now a privately owned land trust that includes a sweat lodge, fruit orchard and compost toilets.
WANT TO WORK FOR YOUR LOCAL FOOD?
Crop Mob Georgia
October date and time to be determined. Crop Mob for Greenleaf Farms, 201 Highway 36 Bypass, Barnesville.
Free. Register at www.cropmobgeorgia.com and subscribe for information on crop mobs in Atlanta, Athens, Augusta, Middle Georgia or Savannah.
Crop Mob Georgia is a group of volunteers who spend a day helping a small sustainable farm with farm chores. October’s crop mob will be at Greenleaf Farms, about an hour outside Atlanta. What was once a dairy farm is now a farm with Certified Naturally Grown fruits, herbs and vegetables. Volunteers are generally people who want to learn about farming or be part of a community interested in farming. Lunch is always served, often donated by a farm-to-table restaurant.
The biggest surprise? The conversation and the friendships that can be forged over weeding.