July 11th, 2016

canning-626204_640Out in my garden are a half-dozen tomato plants which means that in a month or so I will be bursting at the seams with tomatoes. Every year I freeze tomato puree but always run out of space before I run out of tomatoes, so maybe it’s time to give canning a try.

Despite the fact that my parents have always canned everything from peaches and raspberries to tomatoes and pickles, and that my grandmother was actually featured in an Iowa newspaper for her canning prowess, I have to admit that I have always been intimidated by the whole process.

What I have found, however, is that it really isn’t that complicated. There are two things to bear in mind when you start thinking about canning: destroying the microorganisms which can cause food to spoil, like bacteria molds and yeasts, and sealing your containers to prevent those same organisms from entering. For beginning canners the water-bath canning method requires a minimal investment in supplies and the process is fairly straightforward. It is safe for any high-acid food like most fruits and many vegetables, so no worries of exploding jars or spoiled food! Once you’ve got the hang of it you might want to try pressure canning which is safest for low-acid foods.

There is a reason cooking shows are so popular-many of us learn best by watching someone else. Over the years CCPL has hosted a variety of canning programs by local cookbook author J.R. Coffey. On Saturday, July 16 @ 11:00 am he will be at the Perryville Library to discuss the water-bath canning method. He will demonstrate how to prepare your food and materials, discuss how to process your jars, and answer any question you might have. A tasting of some of his homemade products will follow.

If you can’t make the program you can always check out many of the books we have in our catalog, including a list of specially selected materials, or consider taking a look at Mother Earth News Food and Garden magazine available through Zinio, where you can download magazines to your home computer or device. I also found articles on canning through our Hobbies and Crafts Reference Center available through CCPL’s online resources. CCPL has a great canning Pinterest board, too.

If you’re inspired by the new homesteading trend you can access Gale Courses through our website, where you can take a free six-week course, Start Your Own Edible Garden, which covers everything from setting up your garden and deciding what to grow, including a discussion of a variety of vegetables, fruits, berries and herbs, to a lesson on preserving your food and canning.

What will your first canning project be?


June 13th, 2016

vegetables-790022_640Are you interested in learning more about backyard farming this summer? Check-out these homesteading programs at your local branches:

Backyard Chickens 101
Cecilton Branch Library, Tuesday, June 14 at 6:30 pm
Get an introduction to backyard chicken keeping from Beth Tumas of Aristos’ Harvest Farm and Apiary.

Canning with J.R.
Perryville Branch Library, Saturday, July 16 at 11 am
Get canning with J.R.! Local cookbook author, J.R. Coffey, will demonstrate the water-bath method, with a tasting to follow.

Local Bees and Honey with Myrl Stone
North East Branch Library, Monday, July 18 at 6:30 pm
Chester County Beekeeping Association President Myrl Stone talks about the importance of pollination, how his bee farm operates, shows off a honeycomb, and takes your questions about working with nature.

If you’re ready to learn more, CCPL has a sizable collection of books and magazines on homesteading and related subjects. You can also download current periodicals through Zinio where you’ll find magazines like Mother Earth News Food and Garden, American Patchwork and Quilting, Field and Stream, and Organic Life. Through our digital library you can access a comprehensive periodicals collection supporting research in agriculture in the Agriculture Collection. Also in the digital library you’ll find our Gardening, Landscape and Horticultural database.

One of the benefits of holding a CCPL library card is access to free online learning through Gale Courses. Explore the course catalog and you’ll see that it isn’t just about developing workplace skills. You’ll discover courses under Personal Development, including Health and Wellness, where you can find courses like: Introduction to Natural Health and Healing, Start Your Own Edible Garden and Handling Medical Emergencies.

What’s your favorite part of backyard farming: caring for the animals, growing the plants or the canning the harvest?

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