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To former art teacher Marie Hebert, canning is as much an art form as are painting and quilting. In all art, she says, “the finished product is what you can give away or sell or live off of or whatever, but the true artistic action, the creativity, happens in the doing.” In each jar of pickles, preserves, and savory entrées that she stockpiles for the frequent power outages in her rural area, hurricanes, and days when there’s no time to cook, Marie says there’s a little piece of herself. We were honored, then, to be invited into her kitchen one gumbo-canning day to observe the process and to taste her product.
Marie is a true practitioner of the pressure canner, but she did not acquire her canning skills overnight. She credits the Louisiana State University Cooperative Extension Agency as her best teacher. As she encountered questions while learning to can, she would call the agency office in Lafayette and the person on the other end of the line would talk her through a recipe or send her detailed information—pamphlets, recipes, and photocopied instructions. Now that she has a solid handle on canning herself, Marie assists that office, spreading the informational wealth.