"This is new for me, doing the pressure canning," said Karen Allcorn, who works as a speech implementor for Ava Public Schools in Douglas County. Allcorn is in her kitchen, filling her pressure canner with water before heating it up on the stovetop.
When schools closed down last Spring due to the pandemic, she started dehydrating food. But she felt like it took too long. So she bought this pressure canner. Basically, it's a very large pressure cooker that can fit several jars in it at once.
A pressure canner is different than a water bath canner, which will work for acidic fruits and veggies like jams, apple butter and some tomatoes. But experts say a pressure canner is needed for canning pretty much all other vegetables and meats.
In Ava, a USDA program started supplying fresh produce boxes to rural Americans during the pandemic, and that meant Allcorn had more vegetables than she could cook. That's what led her to buying a canner.
Today, her walk-in pantry is lined with shelves stocked with glass jars of the food she's canned.
"Yeah, my my goal is to get rid of all of the store bought canned stuff," she said.
The pandemic basically gave her time to start and explore this new hobby.
And she says it makes cooking meals a lot faster. She cans shredded chicken, for example, which can be a quick ingredient in special dishes.
"And so it's just really easy to pull something off the shelf and have the chicken all ready. Chicken and dumplings is a favorite, chicken and cheese enchiladas, casseroles that need chicken...I mean, most anything you'd put chicken in, you can do," Allcorn said.
This hobby, which she says reminds her of her ancestors, has her toying with the idea of starting another hobby from days gone by.
"My Granny used to make lye soap and I'm like, 'I kind of like to try making, like, soap just just to have that connection with her.' I don't know if I'd use it that much," Allcorn said.
As for the reviews on Allcorn's canned food?
"So far, so good," she said. "No one's complained anyway."