Stories

New Cooking and Canning Classes added in Summit Lake

June 24, 2017 
By Bob Downing

Jan Green and Grace Hudson know their way around a kitchen.

The two Akron women are sharing their expertise and experience by directing expanded cooking and canning classes offered through the grass-roots initiative, Let’s Grow Akron. The classes are small, informal, friendly and extremely helpful, regardless of your skill level in the kitchen.

Evelyn Stiggers participated in one demonstration-based class on making salads, and another on canning strawberry jam, that were taught by Green and Hudson. Both classes were extremely helpful, she said. Evelyn admitted she is addicted to cookbooks and enjoys meeting people at the cooking classes offered by Let’s Grow Akron and other community groups as well. She said she intends to switch her food regimen to a plant-based diet in order to “clean my food.”  Evelyn even brought along her granddaughter, Marie Stiggers, who said she was not intimidated by the steps needed to successfully can jams and jellies. “It’s a lot to process, but I think it’s something that’s easy to learn,” she said. Her grandmother confessed that it’s been years since she canned tomatoes, green beans and pickles by hand.

Cooking prep in the kitchen
Photo by Bob Downing

Let’s Grow Akron, a non-profit group known for its nearly 100 community gardens in the area, has expanded its classes thanks in part to a $10,000 grant from the Akron Civic Commons, according to Lisa Marie Nunn, the group’s executive director.  For her organization and for those attending classes at the Summit Lake Community Center, the grant is “a very big deal. It’s a way for us to reach more people, and that’s important.” The grant has enabled her group to offer stipends to volunteers and to bring outside chefs in to provide “new flavors,” Nunn said in an interview.

About half of her group’s community gardens feed neighborhood food pantries and support community meals, including Catholic Worker, the Peter Maurin Center and the Miller Avenue Church of Christ. The non-profit group is also focused on healthy food preparation and preservation, teaching youngsters skills in maintaining worm farms, urban honey bees, community composting, growing and selling produce, and staying active at the Pump House Agricultural Center in the Summit Lake neighborhood.

There are four key elements to Let’s Grow Akron’s expanded cooking and canning program: the summer cooking class, the canning program, community canning and cooking demonstrations at the Summit Lake Neighborhood Farmers’ Market, plus working with children, Nunn said. Its summer seed-to-table cooking classes are offered at 2 p.m. Saturdays at the Summit Lake Community Center, 380 W. Crosier St., Akron. According to Green, the idea is to learn and share ideas of preparing fresh-grown produce from gardens. The schedule is as follows: July 15, Get Your Wrap On with Dannika Stevenson; July 22, Eating Healthy on a Budget with Abraham Nabors of the Mustard Seed Market; Aug. 19, Healthy Chips and Dips with Stevenson; Sept. 30, A New Twist on Your Old Favorite with Green; and Oct. 21, Ethiopian Cabbage with Hudson.

Mr. Grace cooks strawberries for canning
Photo by Bob Downing

 

The first cooking class featured Green and Hudson preparing asparagus, tomato and feta salad with balsamic vinaigrette, a kale and quinoa salad, and a Mexican pasta salad. Recipes are provided, and all experience levels from beginner to expert are welcome. Guests are encouraged to bring their own harvest, and canning equipment and assistance will be provided.

Sponsors include the city of Akron, and the canning classes are offered from 2 to 4 p.m. Saturdays at the Summit Lake Community Center from August into October. The dates are: Aug. 5, pickles; Aug. 26, green beans; Sept. 9, tomato sauce and salsa; Sept. 23, vegetable soup; and Oct. 7, applesauce and apple pie filling.

The first canning class in June featured Green and Hudson turning five cups of sliced strawberries into a canned jam. Brenda Mayes, 67, is a veteran Akron canner who typically puts up about 300 jars per year but she was attending the class to learn a few new tricks, she said. According to Mayers, her mother had canned when she was a child.

Rene Rice, 64, of Norton said her mother had canned when she was a young, as well. But it’s something she has not done and wants to learn how to do it. “There are a lot of rules for safety, but it’s not that technical,” she said. “I know I can do it.” Rice said she wants to grow fresh produce in a garden after she retires. “Canning will be a way back to basics and fresh, healthy food,” she said.

Let’s Grow Akron also offers a community canning program from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Thursdays from June 15 through Nov. 3 at the Front Porch Fellowship, 1095 Edison Ave. Bring your own harvest. Canning equipment and assistance will be provided.

Canning help and instruction is also available from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays from mid-June through late October at the Summit Lake Community Center. The dates are July 8 and 29, Aug. 12, Sept. 2 and 16, and Oct. 14 and 28. Bring your own harvest. Canning equipment will be provided.

Sponsors include the city of Akron and Akron Summit Community Action.

Let’s Grow Akron also offers cooking demonstrations with samples and recipes on Tuesdays from June to October at the Summit Lake Neighborhood Farmers’ Market. It runs from 4 to 7 p.m. from June 20 through Oct. 3 (no market on July 4) at the Summit Lake Community Center.

For information, contact Let’s Grow Akron at 330-745-9700 or go to www.letsgrowakron.org.