It was a scary cooking challenge.

“When I have you put this weight on, it will scare you and you’ll jump back,” Jeannie Seabrook told one of the students as she handed her a pressure cooker regulator weight, “but not because you’re hurt. It’s only because it’s a shock.”

Mention a pressure cooker to most people of my generation (Generation X) and older, and their eyes widen as fear washes over their face. Same goes for a pressure canner. Hearing those words prompt recollections of horror stories of yesteryear to that time when the pressure cooker and/or canner exploded while on the kitchen stovetop.

Seabrook of the Glass Rooster Cannery in Sunbury, Ohio, grew up pressure cooking and canning and studied it in school. She wants others to learn the craft through classes on her sustainable farm. Pressure canning prevents botulism in low-acid foods, unlike using the hot water bath method (boiling the filled jars in water). It also expands what the cook can preserve (i.e. recipes with meats). The cannery focuses on eating local and Jeannie teaches other food preservation classes such as water bath canning, fermenting, and dehydrating. Cooking, and soap and lip balm making classes are taught, too.

As I seem to be on the never-ending quest for destressing and unplugging from technology, spending a couple of nights at the Glass Rooster Cannery’s guesthouse was perfect for rejuvenating my mind and soul.

OLD HEN HOUSE

Called the Old Hen House, staying in the three-bedroom farmhouse was like staying in the home of an artistic and fun-loving great auntie. The interior is decorated with a combination of antiques and artwork, much of it created by the former homeowner, the late artist Susie Schmidhammer, older sister and business partner of Seabrook. The farm’s grounds are sprinkled with colorful flowers and more art, much of it made by repurposing materials that some people consider trash, like old or broken dishes and glass.

Sunbury is one of Delaware County’s adorable communities I spent time in during my three-day stay. Located in central Ohio and about a 35-minute drive north of the state’s capital, Columbus, Delaware County’s population is estimated at 204,826. It also is the home of Ohio Wesleyan University. The other communities I visited are Delaware, Galena, and Lewis Center. Reflecting on my visit, I feel as though I uncovered a hidden gem.

THE GREAT OUTDOORS

The outdoors is always calling, and I satisfied my need to connect with Mother Nature at the 97-acre Deer Haven Park. With my dog, I walked the 2.2 miles along the Havener Park Loop Trail and admired wildflowers, listened to calling birds, and watched butterflies flutter. Along the trail we met other leashed canines and their owners.

At Alum Creek State Park, I hopped on a stand up paddle board from Alum Creek Marina. Alum Creek Lake was constructed during the early 1970s as part of the Flood Control Act of 1962. I opted to paddled along the shore and in a sea of green, I noticed a couple of trees showing their fall colors with leaves in shades of oranges and reds. The scenery was lovely, but I imagine paddling during autumn with all leaves in their vibrant hues of yellows, oranges, and reds, is something to see. Hiking, mountain biking, and fishing are some of the other activities within the 4,630-acre park.

HONORING FALLEN HEROES

I spent time and reflected at the Ohio Fallen Heroes Memorial. Founded and established in 2005, the memorial serves as a remembrance of those who have fallen in the War on Terrorism since Sept. 11, 2001. Row after row of white crosses and some Stars of David indicate the ultimate sacrifices 290 service members from the state of Ohio made. An eternal flame burns and overlooks the memorial markers and loved ones leave mementoes such as photos, figurines, and medallions. The white crosses and Stars of David are lit at night and stand out in the darkness. Sunbury was selected as the site for the memorial because it is almost the geographical center of Ohio making it accessible for all in the state to visit and pay their respects.

On a Sunday evening, I threw a blanket down on the grass of Bicentennial Park in downtown Delaware and listened to Big Band sounds of the Buckeye Ballroom Big Band. Each Sunday during July and August, Summer Harmony in the Park invites music lovers out for an hour of free and breezy music.

Downtown Delaware is adorable with a collection of independently-owned shops and restaurants. Because it is home to Ohio Wesleyan University, the town has a youthful, edgy, yet traditional vibe. The university’s Richard M. Ross Art Museum hosts exhibits with artists from around the world and oftentimes ties in works and projects from the students and alumni.

DINING OUT

Delaware County is full of delicious eateries with many owned and operated by young entrepreneurs the world should watch.

Surve in Sunbury opened in December 2018 by Joseph Sauvie who has a background in corporate food and beverage operations. The building housing Surve was built in 1901 and Sauvie spent about a year renovating it, doing much of the work himself. Serving lunch and dinner, the restaurant has a small freezer to hold ice cream, otherwise, everything is served fresh. While enjoying lunch of chicken salad made with tender Gerber’s Amish Chicken and a side of roasted Brussels sprouts, I heard locals talking to each other about how much they enjoyed the restaurant and how it is their new favorite.

Down the street is Sunbury Grill for breakfast or lunch and you can have breakfast or lunch any time they are open. The eatery has been grilling for about 80 years and Kenny White purchased the Grill about seven years ago. Family owned and operated, they are known for their home fries which are crispy outside and tender inside. If you are overwhelmed with what to try, the server, who may be Cassie Meyer, White’s sister, will guide you. Save room for the sweet, fried pecan rolls.

Sunbury Grill is another local favorite and by 8:30 a.m. on a Monday, all tables and booths were full. One couple began their anniversary celebration with a Sunbury Grill breakfast. An eclectic mix of memorabilia adorn the walls and seating areas including items celebrating the Ohio State Buckeyes and pop-culture. Name badges at place settings are part of the décor. It started when one patron’s name badge fell off. He was going to throw it away but after chatting with Kenny, it was stapled to the counter. More followed which adds more character to the diner.

Some of the country’s best barbecue is tucked away in a Sunbury, Ohio, neighborhood. Smelling the smoker about a quarter-mile away was a clue I was heading toward something delicious. Clint Long opened Oak Hill Barbecue five years ago and the casual roadside joint serves up flavorful lunches and dinners. My beef brisket was tender and accented with a smoky flavor. My side dish was a cup of smoked cabbage which was equally tender. With its smooth, buttery texture and smoky, spicy and savory bite, I had no idea cabbage could taste this good. Whether you have fried chicken, a burnt ends sandwich, or pulled pork, save room for either the wood-fired cheesecake or chess pie.

VINE & BINE TRAIL

Executive Chef Braden Henderson is part of a group who owns Old Dog Alehouse & Brewery in downtown Delaware. The building dates to the late 1800s. The alehouse opened in November 2018 and offers indoor and outdoor drinking and dining. Dogs are welcome on the patio and during my visit, a dog rescue was there meeting and greeting patrons in hopes of finding their fur-ever homes.

The food menu is refreshingly creative and I chose the Steak Tacos with marinated steak, kimchi slaw and Korean barbecue in soft shells. They were sweet and sour with a spicy bite. The Parmesan fries are popular with patrons, too. While enjoying lunch, dinner, or Sunday brunch, sip the Louie’s Paw, a pale ale and the pub’s signature beverage.

Old Dog Alehouse & Brewery is part of Delaware County’s Vine & Bine Trail, a way to sip and celebrate the area’s wineries and breweries. Six breweries and four wineries are on the trail and many incorporate local ingredients in their beverages.

And speaking of sipping beverages, the Coffee Vault in the town of Galena serves coffee and light bites in a former bank which left behind the vault. Sip and savor your cup of Joe in the vault or walk the spiral staircase downstairs to a cozy, brick-walled setting where the telecommuters gather.

As for my time with the Glass Rooster Cannery, although being around the pressure scared about all of us in the class, we successfully survived. As a class, we baked crunchy-crusted bread and made a tomato-based soup. What we did not jar and preserve in the canner, we sat together at a long table enjoying what we had made. Before I left the next morning, I picked up my jar of soup. I will save it for one of those cold Florida days and while enjoying it, I will remember my visit to Delaware County, Ohio.

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