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Pittsburgh Canning Exchange seeks to demystify the food-storage process

Besides classes, a canned-good Exchange Party is being organzied

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Pittsburgh's canning revival continues with the Pittsburgh Canning Exchange. The group promotes local agriculture and refrigerator-less food storage. Its online newsletter, launched in July, already has 170 subscribers. And its first Community Canning Party, held Sun., Sept. 8, at Friendship's Earthen Vessels Outreach, sold out its 12 slots.

Guided by the group's four twentysomething founders — two of them canning novices themselves — participants chopped, pressed, cooked and canned fresh local tomatoes, peppers, garlic and onions. They preserved 85 pints of home-made salsa (mild, medium and hot).

The Sprout Fund-backed Exchange emphasizes that canning is both useful and not that hard, says co-founder Gabe Tilove. All you need is a stovetop, counter space and some inexpensive supplies, including the widely available glass jars. Even sterilizing the jars — a big worry for newbies — is easily mastered. "Canning is, ‘Follow the recipe exactly,'" says Tilove.

Tilove and his fiancée, Chelsea Burket, can 40 jars of locally sourced tomatoes a season. "It's really nice to be able to eat local tomatoes, local peaches into the winter months," he says. "They're great gifts, they're great for dinner parties."

Next up: a Sat., Sept. 21, canning party for pickled peppers, at the home of a veteran O'Hara Township canner. The cost is $5; new and seasoned canners are welcome.

The Exchange also plans a Nov. 3 swap (i.e., trade your tomatoes for some jam), at a location to be determined. For details, visit the Exchange's Facebook page.

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