Canning is a family tradition in Rowan County
By Susan Shinn
A recent Associated Press story about the resurgence in home canning may have some folks around here scratching their heads.
In the southern and western parts of Rowan County, especially, canning is simply a longtime family tradition.
It’s a tradition more people are considering as prices as the grocery store rise.
The Post heard from many people after making inquiries about home canning.
Here are some of their stories.
Canning from a large garden is certainly nothing new for Leanne Stanley.
“I’ve always helped my mom,” says Leanne, 39, who lives with her husband and three children in Mount Ulla. “I was nine months pregnant with Mary Beth and picking green beans and canning.”
Leanne loves gardening, but says that it was tough to do with teaching school. She’s been a teacher for the past five years at Clearview Christian Academy. This year, however, she’s homeschooling her two younger children, Meredith and Michael, so she’s planning to have a garden again next spring.
Mary Beth, a sophomore at West Rowan High School, requested pickled okra. She and her grandmother made it together.
Leanne’s mom, Mary Lou Howe, is a retired teacher. Mary Lou and her husband, Michael, have always had a big garden.
Leanne says she like the benefits of knowing there are no chemicals or pesticides on the food she preserves.
“The taste and flavor is so much better, and it saves money, too,” she says.
Traci Burleyson also thinks that home canning saves money.
“I grew up canning,” she says. “My mom canned. But I don’t do green beans. I hated it when I was a kid. I enjoy the fun stuff and I like to share my jellies.”
Traci’s husband, Patrick, keeps bees, so the couple jars quite a bit of honey. She also makes pickles ó her girls love ’em ó along with peach preserves and pepper jelly.
“It’s almost like an addiction,” she says of canning. “I felt like I had to preserve everything.”
Traci has also started using Seal-A-Meal to vacuum seal her foods for easy freezing.
According to the AP story, Ball canning products have seen an increase in sales of 30 percent this year, with sales of its plastic freezing containers having doubled.
Traci says that at one point this summer, she could not find jars for her jelly.
“Most people my age don’t know how to can,” admits Traci, 32. “I want my girls to have those skills.”
Traci and Patrick have three daughters, Macy, 9, Carly, 7, and Jillian, 5.
The family lives in a home built by Traci’s great-great-grandparents.
“I’m sure there’s been a lot of canning in this kitchen,” Traci says.
There’s been a lot of canning in the kitchens of Kathy Pulliam’s family over the years, too.
Kathy, 55, writes, “My mother, Kathryn Graham, and I have been canning some this summer. I grew up on a farm here in Rowan County and my mother and both grandmothers always canned tomatoes, green beans and more during the summer.
“It was kind of given that the children would help as well, so I am quite used to canning. With our pantry empty of canned tomatoes and green beans and a plentiful supply of these veggies from my mother’s garden, we decided to can this summer.”We first did green beans and canned 35 quarts and then we did tomatoes and canned 28 quarts of them.”My mother and I had an enjoyable time reminiscing about my Grandmother Graham and her canning days in the ’40s and ’50s on the farm in Cleveland.”
So, too, has there been a lot of canning in southern Rowan.
“I’ve always canned,” says Stephanie Wensil-Purviss, who grew up in Kannapolis and now lives in China Grove. “The garden was punishment when I was a kid. We lived on what we put up in the winter. We canned all summer. It was just a way of life.”
Now Stephanie and her husband Roy continue that way of life. So much so that her husband built her a canning pantry in the garage for all her supplies.
Stephanie, 40, who teaches at Rowan-Cabarrus Community College, is able to work her schedule around her garden.
This summer, with the help of her parents, Jerry and Valta Wensil, the couple put up more than a 100 quarts of tomatoes. With the tomatoes, they also made salsa, sauce, juice and spaghetti sauce base.
They preserved plums, blueberries, apples, pears and peaches, making jellies, preserves and chutneys.
They froze squash, zucchini, corn and okra.
“There’s hardly anything we don’t put up,” she says.
The couple gets help from neighbors Leonard and Mary Patterson, who plant and tend the garden for them.
“They are the greatest neighbors,” she says.
Stephanie says her parents can’t help but chuckle, because she swore she’d never can food.
But she admits that the POP! of a sealed jar “sounds really good.”
“It’s just what we do,” she says.
Newcomers this season to the canning process were Jack and Maria Thomson, who live in the Historic District of Salisbury.
Maria writes, “I love reading about sustainable living and the idea of being able to live using resources our parents and grandparents once used, but with a modern organic flair.”
She and Jack, both 34, she says, were especially inspired by the book, “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle,” and decided to try their hand at gardening.
“We planted six tomato plants, one eggplant, three different variations of pepper plants and nine sweet potato plants. We have one blueberry bush, one raspberry bush and one seedless grapevine.
“We were given 50 ears of corn from a friend’s farm and two bushels of early apples as well.”
The Thomsons also planted a variety of herbs.
With the help of Google, her mother’s 40-year-canner and her mother-in-law’s recipes, the couple set to work.
They froze strawberries, blackberries, apples and eggplant, and made strawberry and blackberry preserves. They canned peaches, bread and butter pickles, tomatoes, corn and green beans.
Maria had a good laugh when asked about any major mishaps.
“Did I mention we also just had a litter of puppies?” she writes. “The night we were canning our beans, our Brittany went into labor. My parents were coming over for dinner and to help us finish the beans. Dinner was being prepared, the beans were being pressure cooked and Lady starts delivering.
“Dinner plans were halted, we forgot about the beans and we promptly took care of delivering our new litter of pups. Thankfully, someone remembered the beans were pressure cooking on the stove. Nothing too dramatic happened, but when we took the beans out for this particular batch, most of the water was below the beans. Either we are going to have some very dry beans or we will be eating those pints of beans very soon.
“If that is the worst, then I am OK with continuing canning.”