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Gwinnettians learn how to can and preserve food properly

Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan France Hernandez, a volunteer with the Gwinnett Cooperative Extension Services,  explains the process of canning and preserving vegetables to participants Anita O'Connell, Teresa Gutierrez and Thomas Robinson during a class at the Centerville Community Center in Snellville on Thursday.

Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan France Hernandez, a volunteer with the Gwinnett Cooperative Extension Services, explains the process of canning and preserving vegetables to participants Anita O'Connell, Teresa Gutierrez and Thomas Robinson during a class at the Centerville Community Center in Snellville on Thursday.

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Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan Examples of canned green beans, pickles and carrots are on display during the canning and preserving class at Centerville Community Center in Snellville on Thursday.

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Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan Family and Consumer Science Agent Ines Beltran at the University of Georgia and Gwinnett Cooperative Extension Services instructs around 40 people how to properly preserve fruits and vegetables during a hands on class at the Centerville Community Center in Snellville on Thursday.

SNELLVILLE -- John Kitchens of Duluth had never tried canning his own produce until he had a chance to get elbow deep in a steaming pot on Thursday afternoon.

"I've always wanted to learn how to can on my own -- it's very interesting," he said while at his first canning workshop. "Today I've learned how to pickle, can and learn the scientific parts to it, plus boiling the lids and the jars and what that does -- and that it's important to follow recipes."

More than 25 people came out to the Centerville Community Center for the UGA and Gwinnett County Cooperative Extension Service's interactive demonstration yearning to learn more about the age old -- and safe -- methods of canning food.

For the live demo, Kitchens was the lucky audience member who volunteered to help Beltran prepare pickled baby carrots step by step. The Duluth resident wasn't the only first timer who was in the crowd.

"I hope to one day have a garden. I have a 3- and 6-year-old, so I've realized this isn't the time in my life for a garden," said Allison Lindsey of Grayson. "I've got tomatoes and cucumbers growing right now, but one day I would like to just be able to put away a good use of food and not let it spoil."

Attendees learned how to use boil water canning, pressure canning and a freezing technique to preserve food for up to one year.

"Freezing is the most popular method because all you have to do is wash the produce, cut it, cook it for 3 to 5 minutes, put it in cold water right away and freeze. Done," said Ines Beltran of the Extension Service.

Although the other two processes take time, many people use these techniques to save food or give the jars out for gifts around the holidays.

"It's like a hobby and it takes time," Beltran said. "I don't think people make time for anything now. Everybody is so busy and everything is so easy and accessible. If I go to the store, I can get a can of beans and vegetables -- everything is frozen. Why bother if I can buy it? I hope that people walk away from this class thinking, 'I can do this' and try it out."

Exact measurements, two different preparations, acid levels, water temperature, type of food, killing bacteria and sanitation are all crucial when it comes to household canning and preserving.

"And your timer is your good friend," Beltran said.

This type of food preservation takes time, patience and an eye for detail, which makes it a little overwhelming for some people, but that doesn't stop them from planning for future canning adventures.

"I'm going down to south Georgia next week to one of the peach farms and bring them back to can," Kitchens said. "I'm going to pick some peaches for the winter."

The Extension Service offers two more canning demonstrations this summer: Aug. 18 and 24. For more information, visit www.gwinnettextension.org.