Alice Weger teaches all those who wish to learn at Alice’s Canning Club
Alice Weger was born in Pryor, Okla., on a farm in the days when people put up their own food, knew their neighbors and had a sense of community.
As a teenager, the family relocated to Oklahoma City where they attended a local Catholic church. She almost became a nun, but another type of service lay ahead of her.
In 1968 she joined the Army and became a supply specialist.
Military life took her from Oklahoma to Okinawa, Japan. It was there that she became ill and many years later she would leave the military as a partially disabled veteran.
After the military, she worked for various companies, such as AT&T, utilizing the special inventory control skills she gained while in the military.
However, her health declined until she was 100 percent disabled. Undeterred, she saw it as an opportunity to serve others and travel across the nation teaching the Baha’i faith. She has crisscrossed the nation encountering people of all walks of life.
Something entered Alice’s mind… people forgot how to be part of a community and how to interact with each other like the good ole’ days, on front porches or at quilting bees.
After moving back to the Grand Lake area near Grove, Okla., she dreamed of a way to not only help people but to also bring back a sense of community.
That dream birthed a new, yet old, notion. Create a non-profit club that would teach people how to preserve various foods and develop real relationships in the spirit of the quilting clubs of days gone by.
A canning club.
Quilting get-togethers became a symbol of cooperation arising out of a desire to have pleasurable conversations, a method to pass on knowledge and, finally, to fill a need.
Alice knew that a canning club would meet all these needs and more.
“I grew up canning since I was 10 years old with mother and grandma,” Alice said. “I wanted to teach people how to do it because it is a lost art.”
Her mother and accomplished artist, Alice T. Weger, had an art shop west of Grove, Okla. After her mother’s health declined and she was unable to continue the art shop, Alice refurbished it for the canning club. Her sister bought a new sign and named the club, Aunt Alice’s Canning Club.
Her mother, 93, passed away in December 2018.
The building is now home to freezers, new stoves, dehydrators, a freeze-drying machine and rows of canning supplies.
“I have ladies who do canning that come and help teach those that don’t. We enjoy each other’s company,” Alice said. “We help each other out and people end up with food.”
There are no club dues or money exchanged. People bring what they are able. Some bring new canning jars, others garden produce and others, such as, farmers or hunters donate meat.
Some cannot bring anything but the willingness to work preparing the produce, but no one goes away empty handed. Work done equals a share of the bounty.
Alice feels blessed to be able to provide a building and equipment to educate club members on different food preservation techniques. Techniques like: pressure canning, water bath canning, dry canning, steam juicing with a French steamer, dehydrating and freeze drying.
Different types of food require different methods, although, some methods maintain the flavor and nutritional value better.
Freeze drying retains the nutrients, color and flavor, not to mention staying fresh for years. Just add water to reconstitute. Dry canning works great for food items such as flour, noodles or grains that tend to get buggy on the shelf because once the heat is applied and the jars are sealed any bugs in the product cannot survive.
Food safety is first priority.
Laura Lewis has been coming for three years and has found that she now needs a larger pantry in her home.
“It’s nice because we can just take a jar of deer stew to work and warm it up in the microwave,” Laura added.
People of all ages come; a young family of five to a woman of 85 years, husbands with wives or just men alone.
“One woman came all the way from Oklahoma City just to make jelly,” Alice said.
On average people eat 90 pints of food a month, multiply that by 12 months. When growing a garden, fruit trees or your own livestock…you know what is in your food, save on reusable containers and have a product that can last a few years.
“If people want to come and join the club, all they have to do is call and let me know,” Alice said with a grin. “But make sure to leave a name and number in a message.”