Neil and Vicky Rudy are can-doers.

The west Daviess County farmers are keeping alive the practice -- and some say lost art -- of canning vegetables.

"A lot of people just don't eat and drink off their land anymore," Vicky Rudy said. "... But it's healthier and you don't have the preservatives."

Neil Rudy said people have prioritized convenience over quality as well.

"People would just assume to buy in the store but it's not near as good as this homemade tomato juice," he said.

Vicky Rudy, 59, said she was raised a "city girl" and didn't learn the canning process until after she became an adult.

"I learned how to can from my ex-mother-in-law," Vicky Rudy said. "But that was 40 years ago."

Nowadays, the Rudys limit their canning and preserving to a few vegetables -- tomatoes, corn and green beans.

But there was a time when the menu included much more.

"When my kids were little, we did grape juice, pickles, kraut, strawberry jam," Vicky Rudy said. "... It was a lot of work."

Still, Vicky Rudy canned 3 bushels or 150 pounds of green beans this year. That requires snapping the green beans and placing them inside Mason jars filled with water.

The jars are hermetically sealed with a pressure cooker. In total, Vicky Rudy canned 73 quarts of green beans.

"I about died because I had never canned that much green beans before," Vicky Rudy said. "It's usually an all-day job but it actually took me two days this year."

The Rudys used to grow enough tomatoes to can their own juice. But now they buy their tomatoes from West Louisville farmer Keith Riney who sells "canners" or "seconds" to people like the Rudys.

This year the Rudys purchased 100 pounds of tomatoes from Riney.

And the Rudys will set aside a half-day or more, working as a team but dividing duties.

Neil Rudy will cut the core out of each tomato and run them through an electric juicer that separates the skin and seeds from the juice.

"We used to crank by hand but we advanced to an electric one; it saves a lot of time," Neil Rudy said.

Vicky Rudy's job is to boil the juice until its cooked down enough to skim the foam off the top. They both will fill the Mason jars -- one pours the juice while the other caps them. They add a little salt and citric acid to each jar for flavoring.

For tomato juice, a pressure cooker isn't necessary because the hot temperature of the juice will self-seal the lids.

They have dedicated a large shelf in their garage to green beans and tomato juice that they have painstakingly canned themselves.

Neil Rudy said he'll often have a glass of tomato juice for breakfast.

"I'll have about 100 quarts of tomato juice," he said. "And that will last me until this time next year."

Don Wilkins, dwilkins@messenger-inquirer.com, 270-691-7299

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