Gearing up for food preservation workshops

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The 2010 seed and nursery catalogs are out.

Just browsing through the pages of vegetables and fruits is enough to make a person’s mouth water. One can imagine the sliced tomatoes, buttered corn on the cob, creamed peas and potatoes, green and wax beans, and all of the other vegetables from the summer garden.

That goes for the strawberries, raspberries, peaches and other kinds of fruit, too.

Whether we grow the produce in our own gardens or buy it at the farmers markets, we enjoy the fresh summer produce so much that it’s hard to give up when frost appears. That’s why some Northwest Colorado residents enjoy making and canning their own salsa, jellies, fruits and vegetables.

It’s a way to stretch garden produce throughout the year.

Karen Massey, whose office is at the Routt County Extension Office in Steamboat Springs, is the Northwest Colorado Family and Consumer Science Extension Agent.

As part of her job, she answers questions about food preservation. Consider these sample questions and answers from her file.

Q: Can I can my own salsa recipe?

A: Salsas are the number one source of food borne illness in home canning. Each person’s favorite salsa is a unique recipe of low-acid vegetables (often changing with each batch). The specific recipe will determine if salsa can be processed in a boiling water canner or pressure canner.

A process must be scientifically determined for each recipe. People should feel free to enjoy their favorite salsa recipes; just keep them refrigerated and consume them within five to six days. Contact the CSU Extension Office for reliable, tested recipes for salsa.

Q: I preserve foods using my grandmother’s techniques and recipes. Is that okay?

A: Many recipes passed down through the years or found in older cookbooks do not include instructions for adequate processing. The foods usually are canned by the open kettle method, sealed and stored. Foods prepared in this manner present a serious health risk, particularly low-acid foods. To minimize the risk of food spoilage, all high-acid foods should be processed in a water bath canner or pressure canner and all low-acid foods in a pressure canner.

Q: Is it safe to process food in the oven?

A: No. This can be dangerous because the temperature will vary according to the accuracy of the oven regulators and circulation of the heat. Dry heat is very slow in penetrating into jars of food. Also, jars explode easily in the oven.

Massey also said that all recipes need to be adjusted to our higher Colorado altitudes. The food’s exposure to heat needs to be extended during processing in order to destroy microorganisms.

As mentioned in the answers to the questions, the processing differs according to whether the food is high-acid or low-acid.

In an effort to begin reviving the art of home preservation in Moffat County, the CSU Extension Office and local Master Food Safety Advisors (with special training) have planned two, three-hour workshops on food preservation.

The workshops will be of interest to people who want to update their home canning knowledge and techniques and to those who want to learn how to safely can and dehydrate foods. Both workshops will be at the Moffat County Extension Kitchen at 539 Barclay St., in Craig.

The first workshop will be from 9 a.m. to noon Jan. 30.

“Yes You Can! Food Preservation and Home Canning Basics” will include instruction from the Yampa Valley’s most accomplished food preservers as they demonstrate basics of home canning and tips for preserving foods at our altitude. Registrants will receive the latest edition of the “Blue Ball Book of Preserving,” the most important resource for a home canner. The fee for the class is $15.

The second workshop, “Dry It — You’ll Like It! A Food Dehydration Workshop” will be from 9 a.m. to noon Feb. 20. The Extension Office and their Master Food Safety Advisers will show participants how to dehydrate everything from fruits and vegetables to yogurt and jerky.

Registrants will receive “Drying Foods,” an 18-page booklet from CSU. The cost for this workshop is also $15.

To register for the workshops, call the Moffat County Extension Office at 824-8809.

Copyright Diane Prather, 2010.

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