Lauderdale County Cannery: ‘A Wonderful Deal’

Johnny Roberts is still drinking the homemade tomato juice he and his wife, Norma, canned last summer at the Lauderdale County Cannery.

Carolyn Smith’s family is still eating from the 40 quarts of purple hull peas, the 40 pints of salsa, 320 quarts of tomato juice, 100 quarts of whole tomatoes and the canned green tomatoes she put up at the cannery last year.

“The cannery is a wonderful deal,” said Roberts, who canned 50 quarts of tomato juice. “The employees are the best help, and it was fun doing it. It’s so much better than canning at home.”

The Lauderdale County Cannery is open and free to any resident of Lauderdale County, said JC Dupree, director/extension agent III, Lauderdale County Extension Office, and manager of the cannery.

The cannery, which will open around July 10 this year, follows the tomato harvest season for its opening and closing dates, he said.

Its equipment includes a tomato juicer, pea sheller, cookers and steamers. Best of all, cannery operators Melinda Smith and Geraldine Wright are on hand to explain how to
use the equipment and help as needed.

“It’s a place where you can put up the produce from your garden,” Dupree said. “All you have to do is show up with your produce and canning supplies.”

Once it opens for the season, the cannery is open 7 a.m. to noon on Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday. It closes at noon because it has no air conditioning, and it gets hot in the summer weather.

The cannery will close this year around September 18.

Roberts buys his tomatoes from a local produce stand, while Smith grows her vegetables on her farm.

“I like my family to have real food from the garden,” she said.

Along with other produce, she plants 450 tomato plants.

The cannery opened around 1970 and has seen increased use in recent years.

“People realize they can save money by doing their own canning, and they don’t have to clean their own kitchen,” Dupree said.

Smith agrees. She made about 20 trips to the cannery last summer, often with her daughter, Stacy Crowder, and grandson, JB Cannon. Each time, she saved herself a cleanup in her own kitchen.

“Canning at home is a mess,” she said. “We help them clean up at the cannery. It’s wonderful. I love the cannery.”

In fact, she’s on a double mission, she said. The first is to talk up the cannery so that more people use it. The second?

“This summer, I’m going to be on a mission to can my spaghetti sauce, too.”

The cannery at a glance

  • Proposed opening date: Wednesday, July 10.
  • Proposed closing date: Wednesday, September 18.
  • Hours: 7 a.m. to noon Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.
  • Address: 433 Commerce St.
  • Bring your canning supplies and produce.
  • No appointment necessary.
  • Cannery is free and only open for Lauderdale County residents.
  • For more information, call the Lauderdale UT/TSU Extension Office at 731-635-9551. The cannery does not have a phone.
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