Pop. That one sound tells Brenda Avery that she’s successfully stored the taste of summer.

Every year, in her home kitchen in Trenton, Avery puts up about 50 cases, or 600 quarts, of fruits and vegetables. She pickles them, jams them, purees them. She doesn’t like to juice them, but she will upon request. Canning tomato juice is a waste of a good tomato, she says. But she has customers who visit her front-yard stand on N.C. Highway 41, searching for jars they remember from their grandmothers’ shelves. So if someone asks for a quart of tomato juice, Avery doesn’t disappoint.

She understands the importance of tradition. Avery’s mother taught her how to use a pressure canner as a teenager. Forty years later, Avery goes through about two canners every five years.

As the produce comes in, Avery packs it into quart jars, puts them into her canner, and heats them up. Afterward, as the jars begin to cool, the air inside condenses and seals the lids tight. Pop.

Avery’s jars are too pretty to cover up with a big label. She writes the name of the product and the price — $4 for a quart of tomatoes — on top with a black, erasable marker. She doesn’t include her name. But people remember who she is every time they reach back into their pantries, pull out a jar, and pop.

In the Jar

Four main steps ensure Brenda Avery’s vulnerable, fresh produce lasts for months to come.

The first step is to cut the produce to the desired size. Avery uses various methods to suit each fruit or vegetable.
Next, she places the produce into sterilized, glass jars; wipes the rim clean; and puts a lid and ring on the top.
Avery uses a pressure canner to process her produce. Then she removes the hot jars with a lifter.
Once the jars start to cool, Avery listens for a pop and runs her finger across the lids to make sure they are flat.

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