Canning Workshop for Urban Roots

Organic farms produce tons of food for the markets in Texas but sometimes growers and consumers are looking for an item/product that can last long after the season has passed. Before electricity powered our kitchens, it was challenging to preserve food for the winter without salting or dehydrating it. An innovative process brought society new options and this year we are celebrating canning’s 200th anniversary. The canning process expanded our food culture by bringing forth new recipes and confections that have been passed down through generations. As part of Bohemian Bounty’s mission to help people grow their own organic food we encourage preserving your harvest through home canning. Using our family recipes, and some new favorites from Ball’s canning books, Bohemian Bounty has offered canning workshops through the summer. We also had the opportunity to do a community service canning workshop in East Austin.

This July, the Bohemians teamed up with Urban Roots, a branch of the non-profit, YouthLaunch. Urban Roots is a youth development program that uses sustainable agriculture as means to effect lasting change for youth participants, and to nourish East Austin residents who currently have limited access to healthy foods. The farmland cultivated by participants of Urban Roots is situated along Boggy Creek and shared with Helping Hands Farm. On this thankfully breezy day in July, the Bohemians presented a canning workshop to the Urban Roots participants (made up of Austin high school students) and their Program Co-coordinators Max Elliott & Mike Evans. The following is a synopsis and slideshow of our workshop with Urban Roots.


We started setting up the workspace at 9:30am, while the kids ventured up from the crop fields and then carried over the beautiful bounty of okra, bell peppers, jalapenos, and habaneros. The workshop began with James explaining the history of canning, its purpose and benefits, the tools required, and most importantly, safety.


Our canning agenda for the morning was pickled okra and hot pepper jam. To help introduce the kids to canned goods, Jen & James brought an assortment of jams, pickles, and jellies from the Bohemian kitchen for sampling. This included peach jam, jalapeno jam, dilly beans, refrigerator pickles, and wild mustang grape jelly. At first the kids were skeptical, but they ended up finishing off every jar! They were hooked, and eager to try their hand at their own creations.


We started by prepping the okra, trimming the stems and tips so that they fit nicely into the jars. The real fun began when the kids understood that they could customize their jars to their own tastes, by adding more or less garlic and/or jalapenos. The okra, garlic and jalapeno filled jars got some dried dill seed sprinkled on top, and were ready to be filled with the pickling solution. The solution, a mixture of vinegar, salt and water, was boiled and funneled into each jar. After cleaning the rim of the jars, the kids capped them with lids and bands, and transferred them to the water bath. After ten minutes, the jars were carefully pulled out with jar tongs and set aside to cool.


Making hot pepper jam is a spicy experience one never forgets. The Christmas colors contrasted with the dangers of burning your eyes, (please use gloves!) leave inexperienced canners with a story to go along with the jam they eat later. The bell peppers, jalapenos, and habaneros presented a confetti of reds, yellows, and green. The freshly diced bell and hot pepper mixture was combined with pectin and brought to a boil. Sugar was mixed in after a few minutes and the steam from the mix brought tears to our eyes. Next, the kids carefully funneled the mix into the jars, added lids and bands, and placed them into a boiling water bath for processing. After ten minutes, the jars were removed, and although they appeared very tempting to eat, they were set aside to cool and allow the pectin to “set”. As the jars cooled, the kids smiled with each tell-tale ping…signaling that a jar had vacuum sealed.


Bohemian Bounty has had the privilege of watching our gardens and our educational workshops bring people of every ethnic background and multiple generations together. Gardens truly build communities…But this community of young students reassured us that our future is full of hope and surprising spice. As we looked on at our newly trained canning group we also bore witness to the pride that thier families feel as this group completes their time working with Urban Roots. After our canning session, we were all delighted when one of the participant’s mother and sister arrived with trays of enchiladas rojos y verdes to feed the hungry group. Especially touching was the beautiful cake her sister baked and decorated with the Urban Roots logo. There was no special occassion – it was a considerate gesture that exemplifies the joy that sharing food among friends and family affords us in our everyday lives.

As we say in our Bohemian family – Dobrou chut’ (pronounced doe-broe hoot)! Enjoy your meal!