Martha McMillin was perfectly happy as an attorney. She didn’t have a sudden desire to change her career path. But, she did have a growing passion that was becoming too big to ignore, which started with memories of her mother cooking in the kitchen of her childhood home. Wanting to keep those memories alive, she asked her mom for family recipes of Southern classics. She also wanted to learn how to preserve fruits and vegetables, just like her mom and grandmother. Martha’s goal was to make sure the familial tradition of cooking with fresh, seasonal fruits and vegetables and then preserving the extra would be passed down, that it would not die with her generation. And soon enough, lessons in the kitchen led her to explore and share with others the main tenants of Southern food, canning and preserving.
After many kitchen lessons and much exploration of Southern food, culture and farming–gleaned while attending Southern Foodways Alliance and Georgia Organics meetings–Martha started demonstrating canning at the Peachtree Road Farmers Market. People seemed drawn to her demonstrations and frequently shared fond memories their grandmothers, moms or aunts in the kitchen stirring a big pot of peaches to make jam, but they couldn’t imagine such an undertaking on their own, and this is how her vision for the Preserving Place began to form. She envisioned a for-profit business that would also give back to local famers and food sheds and a store that would provide kitchen space to educate consumers on what has become a dying art form, as well as a table to gather around and share stories.
While putting together her business plan, Martha quickly realized that the kind of store that she envisioned did not exist. She was truly starting from scratch. Scary for some, but Martha took the opportunity to truly create the beautiful space she imagined.
Martha hosts a variety of canning classes throughout the week. You can start at the beginning with Introduction to Canning and work your way all the way up to classes like Chutney Making. Each class is 4 hours and costs around $95. At the end of class, your reward is a jar of the delicious concoction you made. Martha said she plans to make a certificate so that those who complete all of the classes can receive a “preserving degree.”
Martha and her team also source fruits and vegetables from local farmers to make their own specialty products. They combined forces with famed Southern chef Virginia Willis to create lick-the-spoon-worthy condiments like Lemon Tomato Jam, Sweet Onion Confit, and Peach and Ginger Jam. And once the jars of Lemon Tomato Jam are sold out, they are gone until next summer, because each product in every jar is only sourced while it is in season.
On each product label, a list of food pairings are suggested. Everything from the traditional biscuit to roast chicken, vegetables, and cheeses are listed.
The Preserving Place can also pull together a gift basket fit for any theme or occasion. Want to give someone a little breakfast love? They will put together their favorite jams and a book on biscuit making. It is the perfect gift for friends, neighbors, business colleagues, and family (hint, hint: the holidays are around the corner).
Because Martha always envisioned her space as a gathering spot, she loves to host private events. It is a great spot for book club, girls’ night out, or corporate events. The Preserving Place can provide lunch or small bites, and Martha usually gives a short talk on the history of preserving. The Preserving Place is truly a special addition to our city and a wonderful place to visit and share a part of Southern culture.
Learn more about the Preserving Place at their website: preservingplace.com.