Monday, March 8, 2010

Home food preserving workshop attracts interest

IthaCan's 2010 Home Food Preserving Workshop last month drew more then 60 people interested in learning more about how to dehydrate, ferment, can, and cellar fruits, vegetables, and meats.*

Plenty of people know the joy of eating fresh local produce in season. But what happens when temperatures drop and the snow falls? For one group of enthusiasts, preserving food at home – by drying, canning, pickling, and cellaring – offers a chance to enjoy local flavors all year long and build community self-reliance.

Members of IthaCan, a network of home food preservers in Tompkins County, hosted a food preserving workshop on Feb 24 at the Varna Community Center. The event started with a slide show on why home food preservation is needed for a sustainable food system and then each participant can choose two of the four techniques – drying, canning, cellaring, and fermenting.

The workshop teachers represented diverse skills and lifestyles, from full-fledged homesteaders to city-dwellers.  Several of the teachers were trained as Cornell Cooperative Extension's Master Food Preservers.

At the dehydrating session, participants learned about equipment and how to prepare apples and veggies for optimum drying -- including when (and when not to) blanch foods first.  At the canning workshop, participants practiced lifting hot sterilized jars and filling them with blueberry jam (which they got to take home).  At the cellaring workshop, participants packed crates with carrots and vacuum-sealed bags of wheat berries.  At the fermenting workshop, participants chopped cabbage and packed jars of kimchi (Korean-style fermented cabbage) to take home.

*Yours truly was one of the organizers.

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