With summer crops now in the height of production, one local woman is on a mission to preserve that garden goodness for her family to enjoy throughout the year and she is teaching others how to achieve that goal as well. Kendra Lynne, a 32-year-old mother of four, began canning a few years ago and she recently released a how-to DVD on the subject.
“About five years ago my husband and I decided that we wanted to move more toward locally grown, naturally produced foods, so we started raising a garden,” Lynne explained. “The natural progression was once you start raising your own food and having an abundance you have to preserve it, so the next step was learning to can it.”
Lynne grew up in California and moved to Yadkin County as a teenager. She said she didn’t grow up, like many native Yadkin County folk, with a mother or grandmother who canned.
“I honestly didn’t even know that people still canned until not that long ago when I met some ladies who were canning all of their families’ food,” Lynne said with a laugh. “I was blown away and I wanted to learn because at that point I saw the frugality of it. Plus it’s more nutritious and I know what’s in it.”
As the produce began coming in from their first family garden, Lynne said she got to work researching how to can and preserve it, but she found lots of holes in the information.
“There were a couple of DVDs and a lot of books and tutorials online, but all of them seemed to assume that I knew something about canning and I knew absolutely nothing. I didn’t know what head space meant, I didn’t know what pounds of pressure meant. I was left with a lot of questions,” she said.
But she kept on researching and experimenting and took a brave leap into the world of home food preservation.
“I was a little nervous especially with the pressure canner, because I had never been around anyone who had done it. I didn’t grow up doing it, I didn’t see anybody doing so it was really a learning experience,” Lynne said. “Once I got started it wasn’t as difficult as I thought it would be. Once I started canning jellies and the easy things, I wanted to can everything that I could possibly get my hands on.”
Her advice for first-timers using a pressure canner was to closely follow the instructions and safety precautions. She said she read the manual for her canner at least 10 times before attempting it.
“That first experience with the pressure canner was a little scary because it hisses, it rattles, there’s steam and I had never seen it in action before,” she said. “It was really a step of faith for me because I had to believe that what I was doing was right and it was not going to explode. Once I got over that hurdle and realized it’s going to be OK, I just followed the directions and thought this is going to be good.”
While canning can be a time-consuming process, Lynne said it is fun for her and more than a little addictive. She has canned everything from green beans to pickles, jams, pie fillings and sauces. Lynn said she really loves to prepare meals in a jar most of all.
“You can make a batch of beef stew or chicken soup ahead of time and can them,” she explained. “It’s kind of like people are in to freezer meals right now, but you don’t have to worry about the freezer going out with a canned meal. You can prepare big batches and have the meals prepared ahead of time so on the nights it’s five o’clock and you don’t have any idea what to make for dinner, instead of going out to eat and spending a lot of money, you can just pop open a jar and feed your family nutritious home-grown foods. That’s my favorite.”
After five years of learning the process and perfecting her own canning skills, Lynne said she knew she wanted to help pass on her knowledge to others who might be interested.
“I felt like it was time to create a product for people who were like me,” she said. “Who were just starting out and had no clue what they were doing and go through the process step by step from the very beginning to the very end.”
In 2012, Lynne reached out to All American, the company that makes her favorite pressure canner, and pitched the idea to do an instructional DVD about home canning. She previously had done her own instructional YouTube video as part of her blog “New Life on a Homestead” and the company had seen her video so they agreed to produce the DVD. The DVD, “At Home Canning for Beginners and Beyond,” is now available at Amazon.com and on Lynne’s blog, www.newlifeonahomestead.com.
Lynne said that she would love to do a series of DVDs on her other favorite topics like gardening, candle and soap making and wild foraging.
“Our generation didn’t grow up doing these things and these are skills that are being lost,” she said. “I want to revive it with the younger people. I don’t want people to look at canning and say ‘oh, that’s a grandma thing,’ because it’s not. This is great for everybody.”
For folks looking to begin their own own home gardens, Lynne said she recommends starting out small.
“Start with maybe some tomatoes, just a very small vegetable garden and expand as you get experience,” Lynne said. “You don’t want to overwhelm yourself starting out, but the great thing about canning is, you don’t have to grow it yourself. You can go to the farmers market and buy in bulk from local farmers and can in-season freshly picked foods.”
Not being dependent on the grocery store for food items is something very important to Lynne and her family, and the health benefits from eating freshly grown foods.
“For us it’s about knowing where our food comes from, knowing what’s been on our food and how it’s been handled,” she said. “And being able to harvest it at the peak of ripeness when its nutritional value is the highest.”
She said having a garden and canning her own food has been empowering for her and fun for her children.
“It feels so good to go out to the garden and pick your lunch or whatever you need for dinner and to just let your kids go out and graze, they love that,” Lynne said.
Peas and carrots are some favorites of Lynne’s children, who are ages 10, 7, almost 5 and 3.
“I think it’s the joy of just being able to harvest stuff and the excitement of pulling up the green tops of carrots and there’s a big carrot and it’s like ‘let’s find a bigger one.’ It’s exciting to them.”
To learn more about Kendra Lynne’s gardening and canning endeavors, and other helpful family tips, or to purchase the DVD, visit www.newlifeonahomestead.com.
Kitsey E. Burns may be reached at 336-679-2341 or on Twitter @RippleReporterK.