LONG BEACH — Dale and Doris Shoemaker wanted to teach kids from their church — Ocean Beach Presbyterian in Seaview — a skill they could use the rest of their lives. While the art of canning fruit used to be something passed down through generations, it seems to sometimes have gotten lost in the shuffle of today’s busy lives. But more than a dozen kids, ages 11 to about 16, now know exactly how to put up peaches and pears.

Speaking from his Long Beach home, Dale recalled how, “Three Sundays ago,” the kids from his church’s youth group “canned five boxes of peaches. Then two Sundays ago, they went through three boxes of pears.”

Dale, armed with specific notes on the procedures, led them every step of the way. But before he could teach them, he had to learn the skill himself. He did just that over the summer.

“I went to two canning classes in Longview, because I knew this was going to be happening. Bob’s Sporting Goods sent out an advertisement in the Daily News that said ‘free canning classes,’ so Doris and I drove up two times to find out how they do it.”

The instructor was Linda Peppers, a master food preserver for the Washington State University Extension office in Clark County. She says there has been a renewed interest in food preservation. She often gives classes in canning fruits, vegetables, pie fillings, jams and jellies. Preserving meat and relishes are also on the list of things she not only teaches, but has been doing for her own family since the early 1970s.

As she gave the classes at Bob’s, Dale paid close attention to each of the many steps in canning peaches and pears. “I told her what I was going to do — teach the kids how to do this — and she thought that was really neat.”

In addition to what he leaned from the class, Dale also bought a case of instructional books. “I bought a book for each kid,” he said. “It’s a professional Ball canning book — the ones canners buy at the store.” He said that when the day came to pass out the books. One girl held hers up, “like it was a baby and she kissed that book.”

Adults join in

It turned out that the gatherings at Dale and Doris’ house for the canning events weren’t just a kids’ thing. Youth group leader, Charlotte Kelly was there as was her fifth-grade daughter. Karen Brownlee was also present. Her 12-year-old daughter, Bella, was in on the activities. Karen had never had any canning experience and she said she doesn’t believe Kelly had ever canned, either.

Brownlee said with a smile, “It was really fun. They got super messy. But they learned all the steps. They did peaches one weekend, then pears another weekend. We had different stations all set up, so the kids could do each step. Dale and Doris have a covered patio. They had the kids taking the peaches out of the crates and peeling them. Then, they’d move onto the next station to be cut and another station, to be washed and still another station to get heat washed. They had the syrup being poured in at a certain temperature. Then they wiped off the jars and transferred them indoors to get sealed. After that, they were brought out from the hot water to a cooling station.”

Karen said “women of the church,” donated some of the jars, “but Dale and Doris bought tons of them.” They also purchased and donated the crates of peaches and pears. Karen is grateful her daughter had the opportunity to learn this skill. “Dale had so much information and he passed it on. It was such a nice experience. They are so gracious. They’re just super people.”

Hands-on learning

In spite of all the information he had, according to Karen, “Dale is not a micro-manager. He’d tell them what to do, then really let them do it. They didn’t just watch it happen. They made it happen.” She chronicled the happening with a video clip, which she posted on her Facebook page, along with some still photos.

She said, “Every kid that helped got six or eight jars of peaches and about four or five jars of pears.”

“They enjoyed it thoroughly,” Dale said. He can recite all the canning steps like an extension office pro. And he adds, to sum up the long process, “The peaches were cold-packed, but with the pears, we did what’s called hot-pack.”

Are their more food preserving classes in the future, for the kids of Ocean Beach Presbyterian Church? Maybe so, according to Dale. He said that, “One of the guys at our church catches a lot of fish and cans a lot of them.” Speaking of that family, Dale said, “I’m hoping one of them can teach the kids how to can with a pressure cooker.”

But for now, the kids are probably still absorbing all the steps to what they’ve learned over the last few weeks. Dale is glad he could give them this experience. And, he said, “It pleases God when he sees kids learning to do neat stuff like canning.”

Recommended for you

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.