One of the most gratifying aspects of this daily practice is the amazing people I meet. Not too long ago, I read a blog post by a fellow photographer who expressed the view that you should take your camera along for the ride, but picture-taking should not be the sole purpose of the trip. I see what he was getting at, not wanting the camera to become a distraction or worse, an obsession. But I can attest to the other side of this argument. My desire to practice making pictures, fuels my sense of adventure. This practice gives me a reason to wander and investigate.
While roaming Hanover County, I came across a sign near Taylor Park – “Cannery Open.” I made a U-turn and let my curiosity lead the way.
Canning, the old practice of preserving fruits and vegetables has traditionally been done in the home. Hanover County has a cannery that also operates as a commercial kitchen where residents, non-residents and commercial customers may process their produce on commercial-grade equipment.
Inside the cannery, I met Miss Carol and her helpful assistant Chrissy. They were cleaning the equipment, readying to close the cannery for the winter. Nevertheless, Miss Carol stopped what she was doing and gave me the full tour. Miss Carol says that most any produce grown on a farm can be canned – peas, beans, cucumbers, tomatoes.
With careful attention to detail, Miss Carol showed off the electric Foley food mill used to make applesauce and tomato soup, the potato peeler, and the machine that strips corn kernels from the cob. A small conveyor belt, that looks a bit like a toy train track, carries cans down the line and a machine puts lids on the cans. The Hanover Cannery allows for both glass jars and metal cans, and they all end up in the pressure cooker where food-spoiling germs are killed.
There’s something called a thermal recording device (looked kind of like a time clock to me) and a counter weight on the pressure cooker, both of which act to prevent the whole mess from exploding under pressure. (This is the fear I have with home canning). The average processing time from start to finish is about 5 hours, including cooking time.
The canning process is really a beautiful combination of art and science. Born of necessity in this agricultural community, the tradition thrives because of people like Miss Carol.
Miss Carol declined to have her picture taken, but gave me free reign to photograph anything else at the cannery. I had a really hard time choosing my favorite picture because I loved each one so much. I can’t wait to go back during the growing season to take pictures with the food in process.