Canning preserves food, fosters inter-generational connections | CraigDailyPress.com

Canning preserves food, fosters inter-generational connections

4-H members prepare Food Preservation projects for Moffat County Fair

Michael Neary

Debbie Wellman, left, and 4-H member Samantha Bade talk about food preservation in the Moffat County Extension Office.

— Samantha Bade recalls the way her interest in canning and preserving began.

"My grandma likes to can a lot, and one time she came over and brought a canning kit," said Samantha, who's 12. "She started canning with us, and I thought it was really fun."

Samantha will be among the 4-H students participating in the Food Preservation project for the Moffat County Fair this year.

On a recent Friday afternoon, Samantha was working with Debbie Wellman at the Moffat County Extension Office, preparing nectarine chutney. Wellman emphasized the prime goal when sealing food into jars: to preserve it safely. That means following a recipe is particularly important.

"They're proven recipes," she said. "And you always want to follow your recipe exactly."

But Wellman also noted the way sea-level recipes are adjusted for altitude. For every 1,000 feet above sea level you add one minute of cooking time for pints and two minutes for quarts.

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Wellman's passion for preservation was nourished, as Samantha’s was, by family members.

"Both my mom and grandma canned," Wellman said. "I'd help them. They did tomatoes and pickles, and as a little kid it's really fun to pack the jars."

In one sense, canning seems like a quiet and even solitary activity that demands close concentration and careful adherence to method. But as Wellman and Samantha worked, they also talked — comparing slicing techniques and sharing recollections of past projects.

On the counter were jars filled with pickles, carrots, grapes and other foods. Wellman said most of the foods can be enjoyed right way, after they're preserved in jars. But not all.

"On pickles … it's good to wait about a month before you open those jars just to give them a chance to ferment a little more and the flavor to be a little bit better," Wellman said. "Other things you can pretty much use right away."

One obstacle to the fair preparations, Wellman explained, is timing. In Northwest Colorado, the bulk of the produce comes later in the summer, after the fair deadline has passed. But Wellman has an idea about how to adjust. She’s proposing that students start working on the project for next year’s fair in the coming months, when the harvest is rich.

"I'm hoping that we can just keep the project going after fair and get the project done for next year while we've got fresh food," she said. "It would make the projects more fun, and just a little bit easier to get good quality."