A few weeks ago, I was invited by Newell Brands, makers of Ball® Fresh Preserving Products to Fishers, IN, where I spent an action-packed day and a half with three other bloggers to peek behind the scenes and participate in Can-It Forward Day festivities.
I flew in to Indianapolis and met up with Linda and Kathryne, of Garden Betty and Cookie and Kate, respectively (Heather from Whipperberry arrived a little after we did). Our first stop was Minnetrista in Muncie.
Minnetrista is the original Ball family homesite and now houses an extensive collection of artifacts and archival material from the Ball family as well as East Central Indiana. If you’re a jar lover, it’s most certainly worth a visit, but if you can’t swing a trip, start by browsing their collection database online (try the random image search. It’s fascinating).
Their collection includes vast number of unique jars, tea sets, old jar molds, and even a small collection of Bob Ross painting (happy little trees!) I particularly loved the story of the jar pictured above. They were made specially for the Southern Methodist Orphan Home during the Great Depression.
The Home distributed them to residents of Waco, TX and asked that each household fill one or two jars while they were putting up their harvest. This way, the orphans had plenty to eat, even during the leanest of years.
After our tour of Minnetrista, we had dinner at Thr3e Wise Men in Muncie. We had a ton of food, including some seriously delicious fried pickle chips.
After dinner, I snuck away for a couple hours to see an old friend who moved to Muncie a several years ago. I met his kids, held their youngest (just a week old!), and caught up on their life.
The next day started bright and early, with breakfast with the Newell Brands, makers of Ball® Fresh Preserving Products team. After we were fed and had coffee, it was time to take a tour of the packaging plant. I kind of loved the toe protectors we were given to wear (they looked oddly good with my red clogs). Not pictured were the neon vests, hard hats, safety glasses, and earplugs we were also assigned.
Ball® jars are made primarily in a factory north of Muncie, and then they’re transported (stacked and strapped to pallets, like you see pictured above) to the facility in Fishers. This is where they’re checked over, given lids and rings, grouped into boxes, and wrapped in plastic.
The machine they use to put the lids and rings on the jars was fascinating (it was kind of steam punky), but sadly it is proprietary equipment and so I couldn’t take any photos or video of it work its magic.
They process Ball®, Kerr, Golden Harvest, and Bernardin (Canada!) jars in that facility. This is also where they package jars up into smaller lots for various retailers. When you see a fancy jar end-cap display at your grocery store, it probably started life in Fishers.
Looking out at row after row of jars, I couldn’t help but imagine a game show for canners in the style of Supermarket Sweep. Winner gets to run around and grab all the jars they can in just 60 seconds (sadly, it’ll never happen. But it’s fun to dream!).
Once our tour was over, we had a short canning class with Jess Piper. She’s a member of the customer support team at Newell Brands, makers of Ball® Fresh Preserving Products and if you reach out to them with a question or issue, she may well be the one to help you resolve your query. Jess also does the bulk of the on-camera presentations for Ball, is a certified canning expert, and is a delightful human.
You might think I’d feel silly taking a canning class, but I always find it useful to hear how other people present canning information. One tidbit I picked up is the fact that mason jars are designed to withstand a 90 degree F temperature change, but more than that and you risk thermal shock. I hadn’t know the exact temperature range before. Never stop learning!
After our class, we had lunch and then got down to the business of filming the Can-It Forward video segments. My segment was going to be the last to air and so we were the last to film. We demonstrated Habanero-Apricot Jelly (made with dried apricots and perfect for off-season canning!) and Sriracha Ketchup and then used them in a recipe (you’ll have to watch the segment to see what we made!).
The time flew by and before I knew it, we were done. Everyone piled into the bus and we headed to dinner. There had been talk of going to the Indiana State Fair afterwards, but it had been a full day and we were all ready to tumble into our respective beds after dessert came.
The Preserving Summer Canning Series we filmed aired throughout August. You can watch Kathryne, Linda, Heather, and me over on the Ball® Fresh Preserving Products Facebook page. Make sure to let me know what you think!
Disclosure: I am a paid partner for Newell Brand, makers of Ball® Fresh Preserving Products. However, all thoughts and opinions expressed are entirely my own.