If you grew up with a Southern grandma who lived out in the country, you probably remember jars of green beans, tomatoes, okra and more summer veggies lining the shelves tucked away in a dark corner of her house.
Preserving fresh garden vegetables and fruits for leaner months has long been a tradition of people who grew up on the land. But it’s a tradition that hasn’t carried over widely among millennials and Gen-Z.
We’re here to change that with our next Reckon Creates master class.
Reckon Creates is a new virtual community event series that supports Southern growers, crafters, and artisans. But it’s more than a skillshare community. It’s also a place to get to know Southern makers and creators like Trace Barnett.
Barnett is a chef, farmer, entertainer, author, and all around lifestyle genius that you definitely want to know.
If you live in Birmingham, you may have seen him on the local news program “Good Day Alabama.” Outside of the Bham metro? Then maybe you watched his journey as a finalist on Food Network’s “The Next Food Network Star.” And if TV isn’t your medium of choice, perhaps you’ve seen his book Tracing Roots in your local bookstore.
In early July, Barnett joined our Reckon audience through a Facebook Live Q&A where he took us on a stroll through his gardens and beehives, discussed carrying on Southern farming traditions, chatted about some best practices in home gardening, and introduced us to the art of food preservation. And for those who want to learn more, you can dive more deeply into that topic in his Reckon Creates interactive virtual class.
As a participant in Reckon Creates, those who register will explore the skills of Southern makers firsthand. Beyond canning and food preservation & sustainable flower growing and arranging, we’ll also explore ceramics, woodworking, jewelry-making, leatherworking, and quilting later this summer.
How does it work?
When you sign up for a class, we send you all the tools you’ll need for that project. And during the interactive video session, you have the chance to form deep bonds with other participants as you make things together.
Want to know more about Trace before you sign up? We asked him a few questions to help acquaint ourselves with his passion and what it means to be a Southern Renaissance Man:
Tell us about your background. How did you get into farming after living in East Hampton, NY?
I moved to East Hampton after college, after getting a degree in Food Science & Human Nutrition at the University of Alabama (even though I was more on the hospitality and event planning side). When readers see “Food Science and Human Nutrition” I get so many questions, though, like is your book gluten free? Is your book vegan? Is your book diet friendly? And my response…well if you count a recipe with 22 tablespoons of butter healthy, I’m your boy. I started my blog, “The Bitter Socialite,” when I was there. When I moved back in 2016, I renovated an old barn and turned it into my house. The barn had had quite a life — it had been everything from a chicken farm to a fabric warehouse to a store, and it was filled to the brim with everything you could imagine. But I built it out and made my favorite place in the whole world out here in my garden. It’s actually three gardens that grew out of necessity. But that is what I like to emphasize in my classes and in Tracing Roots, that you don’t need acres and acres of land to have a great little garden.
What’s your favorite plant on your farm? Top three? My favorite plant would be Harry, the Australian tree fern. At this point, the entirety of my greenhouse is consumed by him. Following close behind would be zinnias because they are easy to grow — pollinators like them — and they are just happy and bring back nostalgia for most. Can’t forget the Loofas. Yes, like the sponge that you have in your shower! Loofas are a drought resistant vine that encapsulates my garden. They have shown yellow flowers and have large sponges you can harvest in the fall.
What are your first memories with canning? My very first memories in the kitchen are of canning and preserving fruits and vegetables alongside my grandmothers. Using the fresh produce we grew and harvested ourselves, we turned it into pickles, jams, jellies and preserves. It was through my grandmas’ combined years of experience and unique cooking styles that I learned many tips and tricks that make canning an enjoyable process. There is a misconceived notion that the task of canning is daunting and challenging. Most of this is derived from the belief that complex specialized equipment is required. While that is true if you are using a pressure canner, there are other ways to preserve. In fact, I don’t even use a pressure canner anymore due to an incident years ago that resulted in the ceiling of my grandmother’s house never being the same again.
What’s a canning disaster that you’ve had?I would say my biggest canning mistake ever made would be the time that I confused sugar and salt while whipping up some jam. Nobody wants salty jam and the big kicker is I realized it after they were all canned up. I thought it didn’t appear to be thickening right and then made the discovery. Needless to say, label your canisters well.
What are your top three tricks for a last minute party? What’s absolutely necessary? I, you, almost anyone can throw a party in 30 seconds. Literally all you need for a good party is a gracious and welcoming spirit (folks can sense when someone is all nerves when hosting). Never use plasticware, only the good stuff. Have the right group of friends, a dose of humor and definitely booze. And don’t worry about time. Who cares if you end up back in the kitchen! Just go with the flow.
What’s something that all Southerners should know how to do? I think all Southerners should be able to make a mean cornbread. It’s such a deeply personal thing depending on the region where you grew up. Do you use salt or sugar? Yellow or white cornmeal? And I’ve never been anywhere in the country where someone didn’t ask me for my cornbread recipe. I think us Southerners are just linked to it.
If you want to learn more and chat with Trace one-on-one, join us for Trace’s Canning & Food Preservation Class with Reckon|Creates on July 28th, at 6 pm!
**SIGN UP BY JULY 21st to allow for shipping of your class kit!**