The Rapidian

Local canner brings talents to community

Grand Rapids resident Diane Devereaux has extended her canning secrets and recipes for the world to enjoy and gives a new meaning to the word diva.

Contact the Diva

Canning Diva website

Canning Diva with fresh produce to be canned.

Canning Diva with fresh produce to be canned. /courtesy of the Canning Diva

Michigan native Diane Devereaux has been involved in traditional food preparation and preservation her entire life. As a young teenager, she began to can her own produce, herbs and meats, and now she has opened her doors and brought the joys of canning to West Michigan as the “Canning Diva.”

“It’s ingrained in who I am,” says Devereaux. She is proud of growing up on a farm that used composting and crop rotation to keep products as healthy and close to nature as possible while avoiding pesticides, too. She hopes to continue this tradition of food preparation and storage through canning for her family and her community.

“I’ve never learned to garden and grow food another way,” she says.

With a change in culture and food processing and preparation, canning became less of a necessity and an art only older generations knew how to do, says Devereaux. Five years ago the Canning Diva set out to change that. Last August, she launched a Facebook page and began sharing her garden and canning skills with other locals so they could begin to do what she’s known as valuable her whole life. Diane Devereaux was officially transformed into the Canning Diva during January.

“I look to take something ordinary and making it extraordinary. That’s what being a diva is to me,” she says. Devereaux always smiles when reflecting on her newfound nomenclature. She claims her cousin is responsible for the wonderful name, but she wants a positive connotation of a diva, something she knows she is.

“I have a larger than life personality, but I put the tiara on the jar,” explains Devereaux. "It’s really about the canning.”

Devereaux also wants to pass on to her children as well. Her family meals always contain something innovative and her shelves are stocked year round with staples such as tomatoes, green beans, fruits, jams and even canned meat. To her, canning is more than just a way of keeping food longer. She knows it may be easier to grab a can of food from the store, but buying locally and preserving food yourself assures quality, she says.

That is exactly why Devereaux is going past a Facebook page to demystify the fears and apprehensions of canning. With her classes, she hopes to inform everyone what fun proper and safe canning can be. After all, it’s more than just tomatoes and green beans.

“I really feel like I’m all over the place,” she says, and she’s right. The Canning Diva is known around the country and even internationally. Each week, she’s booked between Beacon’s Cooking School, Uptown Kitchen and home classes, and still somehow finds room to continue her working on a novel on the side.

Her joy has quickly become the joy of others, says Devereaux. Her weekly beginner’s class, held every Thursday, continues to grow. Canning hopefuls bring their own produce and cans and walk out every week with the valuable canning skills and armloads of canned goods.

Her favorite concoction is her strawberry salsa.

“It’s like your typical salsa, but you remove the tomatoes and add in the strawberries,” she says. Like this strawberry salsa, there are many misconceptions on exactly what is up for canning or even pickling.

“Who says pickles have to be green?” she asks.

Devereaux makes homemade juices and marinades which can be presevered in all their freshness if canned and stored properly. She stresses the importance of safety precautions right from the beginning. That’s one of the many things she teaches at great length in her beginner classes.

“I literally have put together a textbook for beginners, and it can be used as a reminder for anyone,” she says. In the textbook, she outlines canning safety and instructions. She advocates a pressure canner, which is the safest and most effective method for canning. There are four simple things to remember when canning, Devereaux says: the time of the canning process, the temperature, the acidic value (some things like tomatoes can with less preparation) and the content mixture.

Devereaux is the first to admit she has made some blunders along the way even with her many years of experience.

“Try not to get distracted while canning, especially if you’re new to canning or using a pressure canner,” the Diva laughs, remembering her trip to the doctor when she forgot just how hot pressure canners can be.

“But if you’re careful and knowledgeable,” she reminds canning hopefuls, “canning can be a fun, safe and healthy way to preserve your food for any budget.”

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