Glass Rooster Cannery in Sunbury preserves homesteading practices with hands-on classes

Marla K. Kuhlman
ThisWeek group
Jeannie Seabrook, owner of Glass Rooster Cannery & Old Hen Guest House in Sunbury, stands behind a piece of glass artwork that was created by her late sister, Susie Schmidhammer. The piece, featuring a glass rooster, will be hung in a building Schmidhammer had restored as her art shop, 1673 S. state Route 605 in Sunbury.

Bringing simpler days back to life one event at a time is the tagline of the Glass Rooster Cannery & Old Hen Guest House.

Located 20 minutes north of Columbus at 1673 S. state Route 605 in Sunbury, owner Jeannie Seabrook said the sustainable farm offers visitors the experience ranging from a small-group cooking class in the cannery to a place for a wedding or party in the historical restored barn or a stay in a Victorian-style guest house on the property.

A Kids Cookin' on the Farm day camp also is available during the summer, and small groups can even enjoy a private farm-to-fork meal.

Boozy Jam class

Six friends from Westerville – Sheri Harmon, Jody Jacks, Dona Maturo, Stephanie McKee, Ann O’Brien and Gayle Snyder – signed up for a private Boozy Jam class using a water-bath canning technique March 27.

The ladies brought champagne, beer and wine for the booze part of the jam.

“We have Red Wine Jelly on the shelf,” Seabrook said. “We’re all about accommodating adult beverages.”

She collected email addresses at the start of class to send instructions and recipes because, Seabrook said, “I want you to play today.”

Jeannie Seabrook, owner of Glass Rooster Cannery & Old Hen Guest House, pours a batch of boozy jam into a jar as Gayle Snyder looks on.

Jacks said she has known about Glass Rooster for a long time and previously had taken a class to make cheese and wine.

“I like the artistic part of it,” she said. 

Four of the six friends are neighbors in Little Turtle and have socialized from a safe distance on their decks since last Easter because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

“I asked them about taking a private class when it eased a bit,” Jacks said.

“It’s cool,” Maturo said. “I like it. If you're on the fence, you should do it. It's a fun thing to do. It’s a couple hours spending time with friends. It's awesome."

Harmon said she has experience making strawberry jam but nothing with alcohol as an ingredient.

“My grandma used to can, so I thought I would try,” she said. “This is our ‘Girls Night Out Club.’ Once we figure out different flavors, we will find someone to host (to make more). I still have my grandma’s canning stuff.”

Seabrook said the water-bath canning class is the most popular at the cannery, but artisan breads is a favorite, too.

“We make cinnamon rolls that are to die for,” she said. “It has given us a bit of a reputation. It’s a fun one.”

During the past few years, Seabrook said, people have wanted to know more about their food. 

“During COVID, it was something they could do,” she said. “We did date nights for two people to cook together. People just wanted a night out without the kids. It was hard to find a place to go.”

Rooster roots

Seabrook said 2021 marks the 10th anniversary of the business.

“It started with a newspaper article somebody brought me that was about community canneries,” she said. “I brought that article to my sister, and I said, ‘I think this is what I want to be when I grow up’ and she said, ‘Do it here.’”

Sheri Harmon (far right) whisks as Ann O’Brien pours a liquid ingredient into their bowl to make boozy jam while Stephanie McKee looks on.

Seabrook, who lives a few miles from the Glass Rooster, said she and her sister, Susie Schmidhammer, had constructed the cannery building together. 

“She did the art, and I did the cooking,” she said. 

After Schmidhammer died in March 2018, Seabrook and her husband, Bill, purchased the property to continue the operation.

“We do classes, cannery and sell artisan canned goods,” she said. “We work with farmers to get their extras into jars to be sustainable. We have graduations and family parties and weddings.”

From March to May last year, Seabrook served more than 5,000 freshly made, meals to go twice a week for a donation, with proceeds going to feed those in need of food.  

“There was so much negativity with the pandemic and politics,” she said. “I wanted to do something to contribute positively.”

Following that nonprofit project, Seabrook had carpal-tunnel surgery, and her husband made a large Blessing Box at the entrance to the cannery in January. 

It’s meant for those in need of food to take what they need and for those with any extra to give what they can.

“We fill it four or five times a week,” Seabrook said. 

For the past year, she said, her brother and sister-in-law, Ray and Ruth Hohl, have been volunteering weekly at the farm.

“Their daughter got married here in October,” Seabrook said. “At first, I thought it was to get ready for that. They have been so valuable.”

Hen House

Schmidhammer’s former residence, a 1920s Sears, Roebuck & Co. kit house at the front of the property, has been named the Old Hen House Guest House and is available for rent.

It features three bedrooms, 2 ½ baths and space for up to eight people and gives guests the run of the farm.

“It was her home, and being an artist, it’s full of Victorian-style art and a lot of glass art,” Seabrook said. “It’s a really pretty house.”

Seabrook, who’s one of 16 siblings, said Schmidhammer was a self-taught artist. 

Westerville friends (from left) Stephanie McKee, Gayle Snyder, Dona Maturo, Ann O’Brien, Sheri Harmon and Jody Jacks take a Boozy Jam class at Glass Rooster Cannery & Old Hen Guest House.

“She liked to upcycle things,” she said. “Glass was one of her main mediums to use.”

The last couple of years, Seabrook said, an effort has been made to display her art on the property. 

“You’ll see glass-art bricks and plates made into flowers and other pieces of art,” she said. 

One piece of her art, featuring a glass rooster, will be hung at the top of a building Schmidhammer had restored as her art shop and where some of her smaller pieces still are for sale. 

She previously had the glass rooster window hanging in front of her house, but the wind caught it, and it was broken into several pieces and needed repair. 

“We restored the barn for one of my daughter’s weddings and began having large events in the big barn,” Seabrook said.

Youth camps

Coming up this summer, youths will have an opportunity to visit the Glass Rooster for camp.

Classes are full in June, but openings remain for July and August for “tweens” in grades 5-9 and for those in grades K-5, according to Seabrook.

Her oldest daughter, Caitlin Kleinpaste of Columbus, is the camp director. 

“There’s two elementary camps and one for tweens,” Seabrook said. “It’s so fun. They make a menu they have planned. They pick what they need from the garden and make it together. In the meantime, they can fish or go to the creek. Sometimes they just want to explore. We do crafts and scavenger hunts. The older kids make a glass mosaic.”

A pond sits to the rear of the Glass Rooster Cannery & Old Hen Guest House and is used by youth during summer camps.

Seabrook said the camp allows youth to see all sides of the food cycle, from composting to harvesting and making their own food. 

“If we have nut-and-jelly sandwiches, they will make the jelly and nut butter and the bread,” she said. “There are some kids who haven’t seen a tomato plant or edible flowers. In August, they can make jam from whatever berries are around here. 

“Our society is becoming so urban. We connect them with nature and food, not preaching to them but showing them and letting them make choices throughout the week.”

Last July, Lindsay Sjoblom said her daughter had a great time at the tween camp, according to the Glass Rooster’s Facebook page at facebook.com/glassroostercannery. “We will be back next year,” Sjoblom said. 

“Every day we encourage them to try something new, taste something new and try to talk to somebody new," Seabrook said.

For more information and prices, email info@glassroostercannery.com.

The cannery's website is GlassRoosterCannery.com.

mkuhlman@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekMarla

More photos

(From left) Stephanie McKee and Jody Jacks work together to fill jars of their homemade boozy jam.
Jeannie Seabrook built the Glass Rooster Cannery building with her late sister, Susie Schmidhammer. The upstairs has a full line of specialty canned goods for sale.
Art such as this glass-bottle mosaic wall can be found at the Glass Rooster Cannery & Old Hen Guest House. The piece was made by the late Susie Schmidhammer.
Three batches of Boozy Jam made by Westerville friends are made with champagne, Bumblebberry ale and pumpkin beer.