Tough economic times spark rise in preserving foods

NEW YORK Thu Jul 9, 2009 10:55am EDT

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NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - Blame it on tough economic times, health concerns or a desire to get back to basics, whatever the reason more Americans are turning to preserving and canning food.

But the apron-clad mother of the 1950s surrounded by jars of home-made jams and jellies, has been replaced by young mothers, foodies and health enthusiasts of all ages and both sexes.

"We don't have hard data but there are numerous indicators (of an increase in preserving)" said Elizabeth Andress, a food safety specialist and the project director of the National Center for Home Food Preservation at the University of Georgia in Athens.

"It is across the board and it is men and women."

The center, which was established to provide science-based recommendations for home food preservation and is partly funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, has seen a spike in hits on its website (www.uga.edu/nchfp) and more requests for information, classes and workshops about preserving food.

"One reason definitely has to do with the economy and people just wanting to garden and grow their own food again in an attempt to save money," Andress said.

With an abundance of home-grown fruits and vegetables ripening at the same time people are turning to preserving to make their harvest last longer.

Food safety issues and recalls of tainted foods have also contributed to the trend with consumers wanting to make sure their food is free of nasty bacteria.

"There is just a natural tendency to say, 'At least I know what I am putting in my food if I put it in myself," said Andress.

"There is also a growing movement around the country of supporting local agriculture and small farmers and wanting to buy locally. It is part of the sustainability movement."

PRESERVING FRESHNESS AND FLAVORS

Lauren Devine, of Jarden Home Brands which makes Ball preserving products, said sales were up 30 percent from 2007-2008 and the momentum has continued this year.

The company has also released a new edition of the Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving, which was first published 100 years ago when preserving food was more of a necessity.

Frenchman Nicolas Appert is credited with developing the idea of preserving food in bottles in the late 1790s. Napoleon Bonaparte, worried about how to feed his armies, offered a cash prize to anyone who devised a method of preserving food. Appert won.

Now new mothers are turning to preserving to insure their children eat only the freshest, purest foods, according to Devine.

"We're definitely seeing an increase in younger people, anywhere from 25 to 35," she added. "People are going back to the sense of 'I am going to do it myself.'"

Whether it is canning, freezing, drying or pickling, Andress said there is heavy interest in all methods of preserving food. The favored method changes depending on the season.

"I think the trend will continue. If a lot of people are doing this because of household economies, I don't personally see that changing very fast in a year."

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