Friday, June 11, 2010

The Canning Experience in Denver

One of the great experiences we get to have is to go to the Denver Cannery and do some volunteer work. The products we do go to the poor and needy and disaster victims, but you can buy some of it yourself.

The LDS Cannery in Denver recently got upgraded to handle meats. So, yesterday we did beef chunks, they also can do chicken and pork and cream of chicken soup, as well as the old standbys of tomato soup and salsa. The USDA inspector comes at least once every day and said he's been impressed by the quality and cleanliness of the volunteers, usually beating the professional meat packers he's also inspecting. I would have loved to get a chance to ask him why he thought that was the case but it was to noisy and busy.

We had about a dozen volunteers doing most of the work, packing the meat into the cans, putting the cans into the basket to go into the pressure canners and packing the finished cans into boxes.

There were 4 missionaries, not the young kids most people see, these are older people doing a couple of years of service who are trained at the process and how to repair the machines and do the more critical/hazardous work like using the crane to move the baskets of cans to and from the pressure canners.

The most amazing thing is how with about 5 minutes of instruction we just self-organized into doing jobs we thought ourselves were best suited for and dove right in.

We blazed through 4 pallets of beef chunks, about 1600 pounds of meat in 4 hours. Even with the lidding machine occasionally eating cans instead of topping and sealing them properly. The cannery itself did 80,000 pounds in the past 4 weeks. Not bad for a place of only about 3000 sq. ft. and a bunch of volunteers.

I was near the front of the line getting the meat from the tubes it came in to the canning table where most people were concentrated. We would dump 25-30 pounds of meat onto to the table every couple of minutes, when things were moving smoothly, to keep the packers supplied with enough meat to not fall behind the cans. We were soon covered in blood up to our biceps. 

Near the end we were getting cramps in our hands from all the work. I couldn't do that work all day, we were warned that it was tough work and he wasn't kidding. But if I had too it wouldn't be too bad if you could rotate out to an easier job from time to time. 

I noticed a lot of the county Food Banks from around the state are signed up to do turns on the schedule: Arvada, Boulder, Larimar, Weld, Food Bank of the Rookies and even The Salvation Army and Jewish Family Services. Next month there is a Mayor's Night, mayors from around the state have been invited to come join in to participate in some canning to get an idea of what is going on in here. 

And all that is just the Wet Pack Cannery, the Dry Pack has its own area, personnel and schedule. 

Most of you don't live by Denver and so I found a list of community canneries by state but it doesn't list the one I know about here in Denver so you'd better look around in your own community.