Crates of tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, onions, watermelons, and pinto and garbanzo beans fresh from the Immokalee farmers market filled the Juanita Osceola Center Feb. 12 and 13. Boxes of Mason jars, large pots of simmering water, knives, cutting boards and other tools of the trade were at the ready to make shelf-stable food from the fresh produce.
Last year the canning class was a big hit, so Naples Community Education Outreach Coordinator Sandra Osceola brought it back due to popular demand. Osceola’s daughters Jessica Osceola, Karie Gamez and Marissa Marie Osceola were among those who requested the class.
“This was the only way we got our vegetables as kids,” said Sandra Osceola. “We are trying to bring the farm to table movement home. This is something to involve the community, it’s something anyone can come to and be together.”
This year the group also made sweet pickled watermelon rind, onion relish and bread and butter pickles. But the first day was all about tomatoes.
Using the water bath method of canning, participants used their own recipes to make jars of tomato sauce specific to their taste. Some were plain, others had a kick. Personalized ingredients in their sauces included items such as garlic, onions, herbs, seasonings, jalapeno, habanero or Italian hot peppers, brown sugar, salt, pepper and more.
There was plenty of warm conversation among the steaming pots of water. Everyone in the room was busy shucking, blanching, peeling, chopping and filling those jars. Once the sterilized jars were filled, they cooked in the water bath for about 45 minutes. The pressure from the cooking vacuum seals the lids, which keeps the food fresh for up to a year.