Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Preserving the Harvest: ISLAND Apricot Canning Workshop

In the dead of a Northern Michigan winter, few things warm the soul like opening the panty or cellar to an array of colorful jars, each one packed full of a piece of the Earth’s bounty. It may be hard work, but few labors provide you with year-round sustenance, like the diligent canner.  To eat good in the winter months requires these labors of love during hot, humid and beautiful summer days that stretch on forever.
Thursday August 5 at King Orchards was once such summer day. ISLAND, in partnership with King Orchards and Grand Traverse MSU Extension, began their canning workshop series, elbows deep in fresh-picked apricots. King’s kitchen sparkled with stainless steel pots and bowls, clinked with mason jars, and smelled like you were standing in the middle of the orchard, nose-to-fruit with vibrant orange apricots. Decked out in aprons and name tags and armed with knifes, the participants, ten in total, sliced and cored the fleshly fruit, creating orange mounds in bowls on each table. Jennifer Berkey of MSU Extension, perused around the room, answering questions and lending advice on the best practices of canning, while ISLAND’s own canning guru, Yvonne Stephens, led the group through a step-by-step process, ensuring the tastiest apricots around.

Outside, under a white-puffy-cloud blue sky, burners heated up; red and orange flames licking the stainless steel pots full of sugar water to be mixed with the fresh fruit, steam rising off the top as the liquid neared boiling. The sights and sounds of canning were in full force. Throughout the evening, people mingled, shared stories about their lives and even exchanged contact information upon a discovery of something they had in common. 
For some, it was the first time ever canning or at least the first time
canning apricots. For others it was a chance to spend time with friends, meet new people or learn a few tricks of the trade. Regardless of the reason, it was a community. A community putting to use their sustainable living skills, learning about and from one another, and continuing a tradition that has helped many generations survive long winter months. Thanks again to King Orchards for their generosity and help in making the canning workshop such a success!

Come join the canning fun! ISLAND will hold a dilly bean and cucumber canning workshop August 12 at Birch Point Farms in Leelanau County and a tomato canning party September 8 at Dhaseleer Events Barn in Charlevoix. For more information visit www.ARTmeetsEARTH.org or call Yvonne Stephens at 231-480-4515.                                  



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