Ashley Savoy cans. A lot.
“There’s canning stuff everywhere in my house,” she said on a recent afternoon at Brew Ha-Ha coffee shop, where she works.
It started, as so many things do, with her grandmother and recipes for fig preserves, blackberry and mayhaw jams and jellies. Now she makes an average of 25 flavors and sells them in Brew Ha-Ha, 711 Jefferson Highway, Baton Rouge, and on her Etsy site, http://www.etsy.com/shop/grinningjupiter. She’s shipped them all over the country, and even into Canada.
“Sometimes, they pay more for shipping than for jam,” she said.
Her brightly decorated jars have found favor with brides looking for wedding gifts, as presents for holidays and birthdays, and with those who just love a good jam. Her own favorite is peach melba, which is peach nectar with a raspberry puré e, though her family prefers blackberry pepper jelly and Brew Ha-Ha loves her raspberry spicy mustard.
“My 5-year-old nephew eats the blackberry pepper jelly with a spoon,” she said.
Savoy, 35, prefers using all local ingredients, so what farmers have available often dictates what’s on her shelves. She also uses the ends of batches to come up with her more exotic flavors, like the mango pepper jelly. She’s also working with a friend in Georgia to combine healing herbs with her jams, jellies, salsa and pickles.
“It’s eating to feed your body,” she said.
Savoy is one of a new wave of younger canners, many of whom learned the almost-forgotten science at the side of their grandmothers. With a sputtering economy, home gardening and food preservation is suddenly back in fashion.
Social media sites such as Facebook and Pinterest abound with canning recipes and photos. No one knows this better than food blogger and cookbook author Marisa McClellan, 33, of Philadelphia. Her blog, http://www.foodinjars.com, recently spawned a cookbook, also called “Food In Jars.”
“I think the times right now have created sort of a perfect storm for canning,” she said. “There’s the economy, everyone’s trying to save money. There’s the fact that everyone’s concerned about what’s in their food. A lot of people want to eat locally and one way to eat locally all year-round is to preserve.”
McClellan learned to can from her mom, but her mom didn’t learn from McClellan’s grandmother.
“She was not comfortable in the kitchen at all,” McClellan said.
Growing up in Oregon, McClellan said they put up blackberries and apples.
“It seemed the right thing to do,” she said. “To preserve what was growing all around us.”
Then, as McClellan grew up and moved away from home, she stopped canning. Until one day, when she was 26, she and a friend went blueberry picking. Stuck with 13 pounds of blueberries, she decided to make jam.
“There was something about it that clicked and stuck,” she said. For the past 31/2 years, she’s been sharing a recipe a week on her blog, and her cookbook came out last month. She also teaches classes on how to can.
“Don’t be scared,” she said. “You’re not going to kill anyone with jam.”
She also said that people are amazed by the science behind the canning, even with simple recipes like refrigerator pickles.
“I love that people get so amazed by homemade pickles, because really and truly they’re just not that hard,” she said.
For a well-equipped canning kitchen, she recommends the basic tools like a jar lifter and a wide-mouth funnel, as well as vinegar with 5 percent acidity, granulated sugar, pectin, spices and a few vanilla beans “if your budget can bear them.”
A good starter fruit, she says, are blueberries.
“They have a lot of natural pectin already, so you’re going to get a good set out of blueberries without a lot of pain or agony,” she said.
Strawberries are also good — and usually a lot of people’s first jars of jam —but they’re a bit harder to get a good set out of. Pairing them with a fruit like rhubarb will help, McClellan said.
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