Shoppers at the Phoenixville Farmers Market can buy fresh and then learn how to prepare those locally grown foods in a free cooking class.
Market manager Liz Andersen said the market holds regular cooking demonstrations on Saturdays beginning at 9 a.m., followed by a musical performance at 10 a.m.
Since they've added a stage to the venue, they are now able to host more community events, Andersen said.
She said the cooking classes allow consumers to learn different meals that can be made from the fresh fruits and vegetables they're buying.
'We just want to get people cooking,' Andersen said, adding that they've hosted demonstrations of vegetarian meals and preparing meats with market ingredients.
On Aug. 16, the market held a canning demonstration to celebrate International Can-It-Forward Day.
Attendees learned how applying heat to food enclosed in jars and creating a seal stops spoilage.
Andersen said a lot of fresh produce comes in during August, which makes the month a great time to start preserving.
'Literally you pick it and it goes right into the can,' she said. 'You use crops at the height of their freshness.'
Executive chef Donald Stauffer with Bon Appetit Management Co. at the University of Pennsylvania taught the canning class. Stauffer has done several cooking demonstrations through Cooking Spotlight, a business in Phoenixville that provides hands-on cooking classes among other events.
Paulette Midgette of Philadelphia had never canned before, but attended Stauffer's demonstration as a learning tool.
She said she was motivated to start canning because she wants to live a healthy lifestyle.
'I feel that canning my own local products would be much healthier for me,' Midgette said.
Before attending the class, she thought canning would be hard but after the demonstration, Midgette said she's excited to get started.
She said Stauffer used several of the same tools her grandmother used to can foods.
'Unfortunately I did not try and learn anything from her cooking-wise while she was alive, so now I'm trying to figure it out on my own,' Midgette said.
Stauffer said he was a beginner just five years ago and failed miserably at his first canning attempt. He said his first canning experiences were so unsuccessful that he even quit for a while.
'I got frustrated and stopped,' he said.
Stauffer said he got better after visiting with his 80-year-old mother and relearned the canning process. He said in the last two years, his canning has gone really well.
'The more you do it, the more comfortable you get with the canning procedure,' he said. 'You learn to trust your instincts.'
Stauffer said he advises beginner canners to follow a recipe. He said as a chef he tends to try to find his own method rather than use a recipe, but that didn't go so well when he began canning.
'If you're a beginner and you want to do jelly, follow the recipe that comes with the pack,' Stauffer said.
About 50 people watched as Stauffer went over step by step how to preserve marinara sauce and fresh garden salsa in cans. Several shoppers at the market event even stopped to learn some canning techniques.
For the demonstration, Stauffer used the water bath method to can. He said there are two methods for canning. The water bath method uses boiling water while the other method uses a pressure canner.
Stauffer said high acid foods are great foods to use in the water bath canning method.
'If it isn't something that makes your mouth pucker, I wouldn't attempt canning it,' he said.
Stauffer said foods that are highly acidic and great for canning are limes, vinegars and tomatoes. He said several of those high acidic foods are fresh and currently available at local farms and markets.
'This time of year, tomatoes from the local farms are perfect,' Stauffer said. 'This is part of the reason I got into canning because right now all that produce locally found is available and makes great product.'
He said in the winter, tomatoes found in the stores won't be good for making sauces. He said canning allows consumers to preserve those sauces now and enjoy them in the winter months.
Stauffer said he's a big proponent of buying local and does so for his position at the University of Pennsylvania. He said college students often ask him why the fruit has spots on it and he explains the sun spots are proof that the fruit was grown on a tree in an orchard. He said the ones in the grocery store are manipulated so they have perfect sun, gravity and hang to get that magazine look.
'I love seeing those spots because I know that the farmer put his heart into what he's producing as opposed to what you see in the grocery store where it's growing in laboratories,' Stauffer said.
Stauffer plans to add even more local products to the Phoenixville Farmers Market next year with his own relish company.
'It's a vegan, gluten-fee, kosher product line,' he said, adding that it will include jellies, chutneys and relishes.
The Phoenixville Farmers' Market is open Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. It's located under the Gay Street Bridge at 200 Mill Street. For more information about future events visit the website www.phoenixvillefarmersmarket.org.