As summer slowly starts to fade into fall, local gardeners are beginning to wrestle with how to best use the last of those summer veggies and fruit.

Just a few short generations ago, many local kitchens would be getting ready for canning season to store summer's bounty for the coming winter months.

Though some families might have lost their link to the art of preserving what has been home grown or grown locally, not everyone has opted to purchase all of their food from the store.

Canning has been experiencing a comeback with increased interest in locally sourced food and whole foods. In Grayson County, those who don't have a family canning expert can gain advice from the folks at the county's historical museum Frontier Village & Museum. This summer's offering of a canning class filled up so quickly that they had to offer more sessions.

Charla Harris, president of the Grayson County Frontier Village board of directors, has offered classes in the somewhat lost arts of things like canning, sewing, quilting and more.

“I was raised by my grandparents and we always had a family garden,” said Harris. “My aunts and my grandmother always got together and they canned. So you didn't sit still. If you were there, you got to work.”

She picked up the process when she was a child and teen. Then when she grew up, she decided she wanted to go back to the basics because fresh just taste better.

In addition to being a great way to save money and reduce waste, she said, canning is the perfect way to customize the food to one's own taste. For example, the pickles could have some hot peppers added in for flavor if the family likes things spicy.

Harris had two children and used canned goods to stretch her food budget saying her family didn't just can pickles and tomatoes. They would put together all of the vegetables needed for soup and can them in big jars so that when winter rolled around and they wanted to make a stew, they would just pull the meat needed out of the freezer and add in the canned vegetables.

“Beats the Veg All from the store,” she said.

In addition to being able to use the food that they or their families grew to stretch their grocery budget, Harris said canning allowed her to spend time with her children and pass along a tradition to them.

While canning can be an inexpensive way to preserve food, starting the practice can call for a small investment.

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First, one needs to decide what kind of canning is going to be done. Harris said some people use a pressure cooker to can but she would not advised that form for a novice.

She said the boiling water bath method is much more forgiving. To start that sort of canning, one needs a pan big enough to hold the jars while they are being boiled. A pan made especially for that is called a canner. Other necessary tools include a set of tongs, a jar lifter, and a funnel that will fit regular and wide-mouth jars.

Some stores sell canning kits that come with all of the above plus a magnetic lid lifter, a lid wrench, a jar rack or insert for the canner. For those who have not canned before also necessary would be jars, lids and rings.

The first step is to prepare the jars for use by washing them in hot soapy water before rinsing them.

Harris said it is important not to use cold jars when canning. Some instructions call for boiling the jars in water to sterilize them.

Then, prepare whatever is going to be canned. That can be as simple as slicing cucumbers for pickles or as complicated as mixing the spices for grandma's famous spaghetti sauce with tomatoes.

Fill the jars with the food and then “burp the food” or use a tool, a spatula or another utensil, to remove all of the excess air from the product being canned. Put the lids and rings on the jars and add the jars to the canner that is filled with boiling hot water. Make sure that the jars are about one to two inches under the boiling water. Boil for 10 minutes if using the 4, 8, or 12-ounce jars or 15 minutes if using 16-ounce jars.

Follow individual recipes for specific times to boil.

Let cool for 10 minutes before removing the jar from the pot and leave them out on counter to cool for up to 24 hours.

Harris noted that the use of tongs or a jar lifter to remove the jars from the boiling water to be safe. To make sure the product has properly sealed, press down on the lid of a cooled jar. If the center of the lid doesn't pop up, it is sealed.

Properly sealed foods are good for a year and can be stored on a shelf in a pantry.

For more information on canning, see