Patrons interested in preserving their own food brought their ideas and fears to a lesson on proper food canning and fruit and vegetable preserving techniques Jan. 20 at the Ascension Parish Library’s Galvez Branch.

Shelly Miller, of Gonzales, has canned her own food several times and said one can never be too cautious about following the right procedures.

“Even though you know how to do the right thing, you’re still paranoid,” Miller said.

While canning food and preserving fruits and vegetables are making a comeback, it can be dangerous, said instructor Cynthia Clifton, area nutrition agent with the LSU Agricultural Center for St. John the Baptist Parish.

As she talked about the steps for canning, Clifton stressed safety first.

“It’s something that’s easy to do, but you have to have it in your mind that this is what you want to do so you do it safely,” she said.

More than a dozen people, from first-time to veteran canners, attended the program to learn new canning secrets and share old ones.

Librarian Donna Scanlan said library patrons asked for the program on numerous occasions before she enlisted Clifton’s expertise.

“There is a renewed interest in canning,” Clifton said, adding that the demand for the food canning and preserving program is up in St. John Parish as well.

Kim Harryman said she attended the program to find another way — other than her freezer — to preserve food for her family.

Andrea Kling said she wanted to perfect her technique.

“Plus, I think it’s a dying art,” Kling said. “I think it’s (canning) coming back because people are making everything — their own soaps, their own candles.”

“There’s a lot of us our age (mid-30s) that want to make sure it doesn’t get lost,” Miller said.

Kling said canning and preserving food also is a healthier way to feed her family. Instead of grabbing a bag of chips to feed her hungry children, she can grab a jar of preserved fruit.

“I learned there are things I didn’t even know we could can,” Kling said.

Miller said she’d be happy if she can now can pickled okra correctly. Her previous attempts at canning the delicate vegetable have been unsuccessful. Miller learned that baby okra is easier to preserve than more mature pieces.

Clifton suggests that those interested in canning start by taking a class, such as the one at the library; researching methods on the Internet; or reading books about how to best preserve food.

To learn more about library programs in Ascension Parish, visit www.myapl.org.