Home Canning with Family and Friends
Washington family’s home canning tradition continues the old-fashioned art of preserving food.
Caroline Jaffee and Katie Jensen, Barb’s granddaughter, prepare tomatoes for salsa.
courtesy Kim McIntosh
Jars and jars of gleaming applesauce, dilly beans, salsa, pepper jelly, peaches and raspberry jam line the counters of Barbara McIntosh’s kitchen in Pullman, Washington. It’s mid-August, and the home canning marathon just ended.
Here, on a 1,000-acre spread, Barbara and Rhod McIntosh raised three daughters, one son, numerous dogs, a few cats and a herd of black Angus cows.
“We’re basically retired now,” Barb says. “One daughter and one son are married and have children. Our two oldest daughters have careers. Five years ago, my second daughter, Kris, said, ‘Mom, I want to learn how to can.’”
“You want to learn now?”
“Yes, and so do my friends, Lisa and Caroline.”
“I haven’t canned much since I began teaching full time, and that’s been 32 years ago,” Barb told her daughter. Yet she knew she hadn’t forgotten how.
“I have a few friends who might enjoy that,” Barb said at the time. “Mary, my longtime friend and neighbor, loves to can, so I’ll ask her.”
And that’s how the idea began and eventually grew into a fun-filled, busy canning time.
After a fifth successful canning marathon, daughter Kerri came up with a name: Four Mile Canning Creek Society.
Work up to the pace
“It’s easy to start a canning group in your home,” Barb says. That first year they had just one electric canner. They ended up with close to 400 jars of peaches, applesauce, relish and salsa, and they tried a few jars of pepper jelly, which has become one of their main products. All the canners were enthusiastic and wanted to come back the following August.
“Now it’s three full days, and 10 people is tops for our space. We have three electric canners going. I clear off all the counters, including the coffee pot. Our work table is 10 feet long, and every inch is used.”
Last year they bought 200 pounds of tomatoes for the salsa. “We had tomatoes everywhere! We decided not to make that much again,” Barb says.
At the McIntosh gathering, the dads and Grandfather Rhod entertain the children. One year, they built a raft for a nearby creek, christening it The USS Salsa.