The lights come on and Josh Voth, MCC’s truck driver and canning assistant, fires the boiler for the first day of canning meat at the MCC Central States warehouse in North Newton, Kansas. It’s important to start the boiler early so the steam is hot enough to cook the first batch of meat for the day.
I’m Diana and the East Coast communications coordinator for MCC, but I’m in Kansas this week to show you what a day in the life of canning is like. My hope is that you might decide to volunteer to work on MCC’s canning crew. People in crisis around the world benefit from more than 500,000 cans of meat that the canning crew and more than 30,000 volunteers preserve each year.
MCC needs one more canner, to work from January to May in 2019, and three people to volunteer for a two-year canning term starting in the summer of 2019. (Josh, who works for MCC in Ephrata, Pennsylvania, is just filling in periodically this fall.)
The canning crew is responsible to operate the mobile cannery and safely preserve the meat. Could you be our next canner?
It’s time to begin filling the empty cans with chicken. Volunteers put a teaspoon of salt in each can before filling it with a minimum of 24 ounces of meat and sealing it with a lid. Today’s volunteer groups are from Hutchinson, Kansas, and include people who are Amish and Beachy Amish and those who attend Biblical Mennonite Alliance and Mennonite Church U.S.A. churches.
Tristan Pries, from Loma Plata, Paraguay, is one of two canners who are currently part of what is supposed to be a four-person crew. New this year, Tristan says the job is easier than he expected it to be but I can tell he's tired this morning from yesterday's late night last canning. Here, he is using an electric hoist to lift a basket of cans destined for the giant pressure cooker. The cans need to be heated to 246°F for 2 hours and 23 minutes. He’s working with a volunteer from the Newton area.
At morning break, volunteers and the canning crew enjoy donuts from Druber’s Donut Shop, a nearby shop in Newton. I overhear the Hutchinson canning committee members discuss where the best place to get a donut is in the area. Some say Newton Donut, others Druber’s. I'm not sure, but the donut I had was just delicious. The volunteers have a break until 9:50 while the meat cooks.
Michael Doerksen opens the pressure cooker to remove the cans and places them in cooling water. You can tell this is a job he enjoys. He is from Filadelfia, Paraguay, and is back for his second year of meat canning. The pressure is released before opening the cooker, but some steam escapes as the lid is opened. The cans are then cooled for 10-12 minutes.