“I spend most of my weekends in late summer and fall canning home-grown organic foods,” says Jennifer Lutz, a tech at Tangles Hair and Nails in West Chester, Pa. “Every Christmas my clients get two jars. This year it’s zucchini relish and pepper jelly. My clients love the organic homemade touch. I make things they simply cannot get anywhere else.”
Lutz developed an interest in canning through her grandmother. “When I was small, we had an acre-and-a-half garden and six people to feed,” she says. “My grandparents both grew up farming. I remember constantly loading up the truck with every conceivable water container we had and tending that garden every day. All fall, we canned.”
Though things have changed a lot since then, Lutz returned to canning in her thirties. “I had a big garden of my own and started canning again — with a little help from my grandmother. There are many resources for proper home canning, what needs to be pressure canned (root vegetables and meats, for example) and what cannot be canned, like dairy. You really have to understand the science to be sure your finished product is safe,” she says.
“Last fall, I was diagnosed with breast cancer, just after canning season. It meant a bilateral mastectomy and the removal of my ovaries. I struggled this spring, but planted my garden. I still struggle to can, but my husband helps me, filling the canning pot, lifting heavy baskets of tomatoes, running tomatoes through the Victorio strainer.”
So thanks to a little help from hubby, Lutz’s clients will receive their usual gift this holiday season. “What’s really important about the canned goods is that I know exactly what’s in every jar. I know that it is organic and healthy,” she says. “Canning is a lot of work, but I think it’s worth it. Nothing tastes like homemade.”