You know the old expression, ''everything that was old is now new again.'' Well, it is true.
For years I kept quiet about the fact that I am a home canner. It was not cool to admit to such a thing.
Now, with the advent of the slow food movement, the growing number of farmers markets and everyone going ''green'' it seems that canning is fashionable again. Classes are even being offered by The Ohio State University Extension Office in Cortland at various locations around the area.
Canning is a way to control what goes into your food. If you grow your own vegetables, then you know where they came from and how they were raised. If you go to a farmers market, you can ask the vendors there about their farming methods. You can restrict sugar and salt, both of which have been associated with chronic medical conditions like high blood pressure and diabetes.
Does that sound like a good reason to start? If you can read, you can, well ... can.
I have been canning since I was a teenager. My mother and all my aunts in the north and the south canned. My mother was a Virginian and those ladies canned everything that did not run away from them. I tried their canned venison and it was good. They also canned about every kind of vegetable, jam or jelly.
I remember visiting my Great Aunt Lilly who lived in the Blue Ridge Mountains. When we sat down to have a cup of tea and freshly made buttermilk biscuits, she offered me strawberry jelly and asked, ''Would you like wild or tame?'' I decided to try wild.
The strawberries were gathered in the nearby mountain meadows and were of the tiny Alpine variety. I do not believe I have ever tasted a better strawberry jam in my life.
Of my northern aunts, Aunt Katie reigned supreme when it came to canning and cooking. She had been a short order cook at Humble's Restaurant, next to St. Rose Church in Girard, for years and she knew good food.
Katie lived across the street from us and come canning season I was her apprentice. We would sit in her back yard, under the grape arbor, and peel two bushels of peaches and two bushes of pears. These would be magically transformed into shining glass jars in her cellar pantry. In fact three walls were lined with canned goods from homemade pasta sauce, to green or wax beans, sour cherries, you name it and it was jarred in Katie's basement.
During the summer, just like my aunts, I am usually busy canning, or ''putting up'' as my Southern relatives would call it, tomatoes, beans, Harvard beets, peaches and pears, applesauce and about five kinds of pickles.
I even took my wares a couple of summers ago to the newly established Cortland Farmers Market. There I sold jams and jellies. Customers came back week after week to try and buy (I always put out samples) such recipes as lemon ginger jelly, triple berry jam, and peach BBQ sauce. It was a lot of work but also a lot of fun
This fall, I am trying something new. I will can things that my husband or I can simply take off the shelf and heat up for a quick meal. This includes beef stew, black bean chili, and a several different soups.
There is a Web site for a group known as Canning Across America. On it you will find creative culinary geniuses who make my little offerings seem positively average. This group encourages its members to hold canning parties in their homes and/or to have ''can-offs'' for charity. This Seattle-based non-profit has revolutionized the way canning is perceived. Check them out at www.canningacrossamerica.com.
I have a shelf full of canning books and am always looking for new recipes. Happily, my husband considers it in his enlightened self-interest to encourage my canning craze. To show his support, he made me a sweatshirt with a photograph of one of all the different things I had canned on it. Over the picture in a fancy font it reads:
''Yes, I can!''
O'Connor is a Brookfield resident. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.