I consider myself moderately quirky. I knit, I own a sweater vest, and I’ve always favored pie over birthday cake. I’m a regular Ramona Quimby. Knowing all this, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that I attended a Dabble canning/pickling class. And yet, I felt very out of place.

Cooking is not my thing. After class I asked a fellow student, whose boyfriend gifted her the class, how big of a cook she was. When she told me she liked to “experiment in the kitchen” I nodded my head pretending to know what that was like. The one time I “experimented” with food I was left with soup the color of Pepto-Bismol.

Canning, as it turns out, is best done by the recipe book, at least when you’re first learning. Armed with this knowledge, I thought I had the process in the bag (jar).

But there was still another aspect that would require some inner strength. Our instructor, owner of The Scrumptious Pantry, an organic food store in Logan Square, told us she’d show us how to can using household items. The one catch? You’re more likely to get burned in a bare bones approach. The hair on my tissue paper skin bristled. I attempted to channel my tough as nails grandmother.

I grew up watching my grandmother can tomato sauce and order us around the kitchen. She’d pull Mason jars from the oven with her bare hands. When lava-hot drops of sauce landed on her bare arms she barely flinched. So, when it was my turn to simultaneously lift a jar with a spatula and grab with a potholder, I struggled. Okay, struggling is being kind. My first idea for removing the Mason jar from boiling hot water was to reach into the water and grab with my POTHOLDER. Like, dip the potholder in water…At the same time I realized what a bafoon I was, the instructor stepped in and didn’t even laugh. God bless her.

The class showed me that canning is a feasible process in a 2012 city apartment. All you need is a Saturday, some unique seasonal produce, and an accurate acidity chart. You also need to feel comfortable in your kitchen. Comfortable taking measurements, multitasking, transporting hot equipment. Spend some time alone, amongst your food and pots and pans. And please, forgive yourself for that awful soup.


Ali Kelley is a 20-something trying to figure out her life one Dabble at a time. Be sure to check back each Wednesday to see her newest Dabble class adventure, and cheer her on with words of encouragement through the comments section below or on Twitter @freegiantparty.