With August, brought a series of canning and cooking workshops! We partnered with Carter County Extension here in East TN to put on a series of canning and cooking workshops for our participants. They are all free and each family went home with tasty food they cooked or a jar of whatever we canned.

Water Bath Canning

Our first workshop was water bath canning where we learned to can tomatoes. Rachel Dean, of Carter County Extension, taught the class and was really good about prefacing each session with a lesson on food safety and the importance of following a tested recipe. Then we prepped the tomatoes. Rachel removed the skins prior to the workshop to cut time, so participants helped with cutting up the tomatoes. Knife work is always a good skill to continue to develop! We cooked them down in a pot and then started jarring. Each person got to fill their own jar, check head space, remove bubbles, wipe the rim, and screw on the lid. While the tomatoes were processing, we talked about other recipes you can water bath can, extension recommended recipe books, and more!

Cooking Classes

Our next two workshops were cooking classes. In the first class, we made veggie pinwheels and tri-color pepper salad. I wanted to make sure each cooking class we did had a strong emphasis on recipes folks can cook with the veggies coming out of their gardens. So we made sure to make farm fresh recipes. Another goal was to use veggies in a way that people wouldn’t normally think to use them. Veggie pinwheels were made with tortillas, cream cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, peppers, onions, and more. This was a great one to really experiment with and make to your liking. Lastly, we made tri-color pepper salad was a blend of peppers, onions, balsamic vinaigrette and feta cheese. So yummy!

In the second class, we made a cantaloupe and watermelon salad, pico de gallo salsa, and butternut squash soup. These were all a really big hit. Because we all liked them so much, I thought I’d share some recipes below!

Cantaloupe and Watermelon Salad

2 cups of cubed cantaloupe

2 cups of cubed watermelon

2tbsp finely chopped mint leaves

1 tbsp finely chopped walnuts (optional)

2 tbsp lime juice

1 tbsp vegetable oil

1tbsp honey

3 ounces crumbled feta cheese

  1. Mix first 4 ingredients together. In a separate bowl, mix juice, oil and honey together. Toss feta into dressing mixture. Combine fruit with dressing mixture.
Fresh Salsa (Pico de Gallo)

1/2 to 1 jalapeno, seeds removed

2 cups diced tomatoes

1/3 cup finely diced red onion

1/4 cup chopped cilantro

2 tbsp red wine vinegar (or lime juice)

1/4 tsp salt

A pinch of pepper to taste

  1. Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Eat immediately or refrigerate for up to 3 days.


Butternut Squash Soup

1 tbsp butter

1 tbsp olive oil

1 small or medium onion, diced

1 to 2 stalks celery, diced

2 cups chicken broth

1 butternut squash (about 2-3 pounds), peeled and cubed

  1. Heat a large saucepan or Dutch oven on medium-high heat. Add butter and olive oil. Add onion and celery. Sauté until vegetables are tender.
  2. Add chicken broth and squash. Cook covered until squash is tender.
  3. Puree soup with food processer, blender, or immersion blender until smooth. Stir then serve.


Pressure Canning Class

Last but not least, we hosted a pressure canning class which was our most popular food preservation class by far. I think in the past few years, since Covid began, canning has become trendy and more people have learned to can, especially in the gardening community. This year, a lot of out gardeners seem to know how to water bath can and cook, but less know how to pressure can. In this class, we learned the do’s and don’ts of pressure canning. And then we learned about food safety, how to prep and can carrots, went through processing, and talked about other great recipes for pressure canning.


Planning for Next Year

After each class, we send out follow up emails with all the resources we talked about in class and all the recipes we cook. I think the classes came at a good time when everyone was struggling to preserve the abundance coming out of their gardens. But, I would’ve liked to offer more classes throughout the growing season. So next year we are planning to offer 1-2 food preservation classes per month starting in April or May so people can be more prepared. We also want to cater to different skillsets. So we plan to offer: water bath and pressure canning, cooking, dehydrating, fermentation, pickling, and maybe more!