By Loren Lindler
As the seasons change and you find your garden filled with fresh, home-grown, vegetables, you can't help but wish that you could bottle them up and enjoy them year-round. But, that's where canning and preserving come into play. Whether you're looking to preserve your fresh summer green beans, or combine your fresh vegetables for vegetable soup to enjoy all winter long, canning has allowed us to do just that for decades.
It is no secret that canning is a labor of love - it's hard work to get those vegetables just right, and by the end of the day, your kitchen is a disaster. But, a number of canning facilities throughout rural Georgia have allowed that task to be much easier to accomplish. In fact, there are many canning facilities dispersed throughout rural Georgia, spanning north to south, and east to west.
We visited the Gilmer County Cannery to learn about their facilities and what they offer to the community. Members of the community can make an appointment to preserve fresh produce, meats, and so much more. When it comes to canning, the possibilities are endless - baked beans, squash, pickles, apple butter, which happens to be their most popular product, and more.
With all of those ripe, red tomatoes harvested in the summer and fall, Gilmer County residents are finding ways to turn those decadent treats into something to be enjoyed year-round, whether whole, or as a juice, sauce, or salsa that way the fresh tomatoes are never-ending.
If you're wondering how anyone ever mastered the art of canning, don't worry, we had the same thought. But, Cooperative Extension at the University of Georgia has you covered. In 2014, they published their latest cookbook with all of their tips and tricks to canning. "So Easy to Preserve" covers everything from canning and pickling to jams and syrups. Coined as "the canning bible," the residents of Gilmer County believe it contains everything you will ever need to know about canning and preserving.
While we were visiting, the canning facility was cooking up something special. One of the couples there shared that they had been coming there for years. Between the two of them, they've canned enough green beans, baked beans, and a number of other items, that will last for years to come. They shared, “We wouldn’t be able to do what I do if it weren’t for this cannery here.”
If you've been shopping at your local farmers market this season and have an abundance of produce, or if you're already planning for your summer harvest, you may consider using a canning facility near you, that way you can enjoy them through each season. With an expert canner on staff and "not your grandmother's pressure cookers," you're sure to leave with the best canned goods you've ever had. As a plus, your kitchen at home won't be a mess.
To find a cannery near you, check out the list below. Or, for more information on canneries in the state, check out this source of Georgia Agricultural Education Food Processing Centers.