This week’s interview is with the ever inspirational Kelly Ferry. Kelly lives in northeast Ohio with her husband and two children, where she is market manager for a mid-sized year-round producers only farmers market that is starting its 20th season. She’s also an avid gardener obsessed with leafy greens, and with turning her property into an edible forest, from which she hopes to supplement food costs for the vegetarian cafe she’s working on opening with a friend in their downtown. She thinks out loud at Kitchen Garden Table.
1) How long have you been canning and how did you learn?
I started canning 18 years ago, when my son was just a toddler. I taught myself with the help of my best friend, who also has a son the same age. We both put in gardens and worked in them together, and visited a local organic farm to buy larger quantities – wanting to preserve the flavors of the season and to save money. I remember my mom making batches of bread & butter pickles when I was a kid, and thinking, as I ran my fingers across the neat row of bright jars, that one day I would make my own.
2) Tell us about your canning philosophy. What inspires and motivates you to practice this art?
It’s all about capturing the magic and flavor of the season. I do less massive batch preserving now than I did when I wasn’t working outside of the home, but I still try to capture as much as possible in small batches, which has allowed me to try many different recipes. I love to eat my garden strawberries while they are ripening – often just standing in the middle of the bed, with the juice running down my chin. I also buy larger amounts from the farmers market so I can I freeze some for winter, and I always make jam. This past year I made a couple of batches of strawberry balsamic jam for the first time, and it’s a huge family favorite. Even though we’ve had a strangely mild winter, and never felt iced in and so far from the bounty of summer, it’s still been such a pleasure to taste the hint of sunshine and soil in that jam.
3) What’s the best piece of advice you would give to new or novice canners? How about advice for the seasoned canner facing burnout?
Read the recipe carefully, several times so you understand all of the steps involved. Prepare your work area so that you can move through the steps without having to go looking for something important like a thermometer, or the jar lifting tongs when you need them immediately. Think carefully about what you will realistically use. One year in the early days, I made 100 jars of dilly beans, and even after giving away dozens as gifts, we still had about 25 jars left over two years later, and they had to be thrown out. When you’re feeling burnout, which is exactly what happened to me when I began working full-time, instead of being at home in the garden and kitchen full-time, move to small batches for a while. There are great books of recipes out there for working in small batches, and it’s a great way to satisfy the need to put food up, and to try new recipes without the half-day investment large batch canning often entails. I did much of my canning in a couple of hours after dinner, or on the weekend this last year.
4) Care to share a favorite canning recipe?
Here’s a link to my favorite Bread and Butter Pickles recipe, along with a couple of other pickles.
This one comes closest to my memory of those beautiful jars of B&Bs my mom made when I was a kid. She didn’t do it every year, maybe two or three times ever, but they made a lasting impression, and bologna and mustard sandwiches without them have never tasted quite right.