Delaware News

Old-school simplicity is cannery's calling card

Folksy Glass Rooster spreads preservation know-how

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LILY WIEST/THISWEEKNEWS
Wildflowers welcome customers to Glass Rooster Cannery, located at 1673 state Route 605 S. in Harlem Township.

Walking into Glass Rooster Cannery is like walking straight into a child's fantasy.

Visitors to the Harlem Township business walk through the open gardens before being welcomed into the large canning room by the smell of home cooking. The walls are cluttered with every kind of figurine and heaps of folk art.

The owner herself, who sported colorful rain boots one day earlier this month, would not be out of place in a Roald Dahl book.

That woman, Susie Schmidhammer, along with her sister, Jean Seabrook, opened the cannery in May 2011. Located on Schmidhammer's property, the cannery hosts cooking and preserving classes two to three times a week. It also sells used cookbooks, handmade scarves and art.

Schmidhammer, originally from Columbus, had been living in Florida as an accounting manager before she decided to retire and buy a 100-year-old dairy farm in Harlem Township 10 years ago.

"When I retired, I wanted to do something completely different," she said.

Once Seabrook also left her job, the sisters began working on plans to construct a canning building behind Schmidhammer's house.

"Both Jean and I, in our own ways, are nostalgic about keeping old methods alive," Schmidhammer said. "(We wanted to) have a place where we could have our big family and also have troubled kids come out and get away from the city."

That dream came to life in more ways than one.

The sisters reach out to the community through their classes, which Seabrook teaches, and which have become popular.

"Everyone's trying to go back to simplicity and know what's in their food," Schmidhammer said.

All the food used in canning is either from the sisters' gardens or other local farms.

A special series of classes runs for children in grades 1-6. It was a group of young cooking students that named Schmidhammer's cat, Pedro Martinez.

The sisters also have been able to impact teenagers through a partnership with the Graham School in which students serve as interns.

"Jean teaches them how to cook, and I do either work out in the yard or arts and crafts," Schmidhammer said.

The Glass Rooster fulfills its purpose of bringing together the owners' large family as well. Seabrook's husband, Bill, makes all the necessary repairs around the farm, and her daughter, 24-year-old Rachel Shiel, now works at the cannery. She and her sister both were married in the large barn on the property.

Locals have embraced the cannery as part of the community. Many people stopped by with fresh ingredients for the sisters as they were baking desserts for the Harlem Township Days festival earlier this month.

"This is just a really nice community," Schmidhammer said. "People make you want to give back."

Registration for classes can be found at glassroostercannery.com. The sisters will host an arts and crafts festival from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Nov. 1 at the cannery, 1673 state Route 605 S.

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