Master Food Preservers: Graduation Day

This article is also appearing this week in the Tri-City Weekly.

There was no stage, but instructors Joyce Houston and Jennifer Bell hummed a dignified rendition of Pomp and Circumstance as one by one we made our way to the front of the County Agriculture Extension kitchen to collect a handshake, a lovely, hand-crafted air bubble remover and a certificate deeming us Master Food Preservers on March 31.

The week before, on March 24, we spent the day giving preserving demonstrations to each other to practice what we will soon be doing in public.  The demonstrations covered everything from dehydrating sweet potatoes to making chutney to canning smoked salmon.  There was a debate over two different varieties of pectin for making jams, and a rousing speech about the importance of change with regard to food safety.  Mark and I demonstrated the making of spicy pickled carrots.  It was fun to cheer each other on and to hear the helpful critique of our instructors.   On this day we also turned in a grueling, 89-question (!) final exam to be graded.

The graduation day feast included guacamole with chips and chevre with apricot pepper jelly.

On Graduation Day we were treated to a feast, created by Houston and instructor Lauren Fawcett, and comprised of all of the items we had made during the last nine weeks.   We started with appetizers of guacamole (previously made and frozen) with baked chips, pepper jelly with chevre, and mini muffins filled with carrot cake jam.  We then moved on to a nicoise tuna pasta salad, a spinach salad with pears and a strawberry/lemon/balsamic dressing, and sausage cooked in pepper jelly with a side of sauerkraut.  I still couldn’t bring myself to eat the sauerkraut.  The main course consisted of tuna with pickled jardinaire, broccoli, and spaghetti with meat sauce (this had previously been dehydrated and was reconstituted with tomato juice and wine.)  For dessert we had apple pie with a granola crunch topping.  Instructor Lee Ann Duclo had also made some lemon bars and an icebox cake with her own award-winning lemon curd.  We had all invited our friends and families, and everyone raved about the delicious meal.

The final event for the day was an auction of all of the remaining preserves as a fundraiser for the Master Food Preserver Program.  Competition for the prized goods was tough, but my parents left with a big jar of local albacore, and a jar each of strawberry marmalade and apricot/pepper jelly.

Joyce Houston, Jennifer Bell and Lee Ann Duclo auction off preserves to raise money for the Master Food Preserver Program.

So what’s next?   There are now 20 Humboldt County Master Food Preservers, all of us passionate about passing on the skills of safe and healthy food preservation to our community, so you’ll be seeing a lot more of us in the near future.  We’ll be at the first Farmers Market of the year in Arcata on April 14 to answer your canning questions and talk about what you can do with what’s in season.   We’ll also have resources for instructions and recipes, as well as information if you are interested in becoming a Master Food Preserver yourself.

Then on April 18 we’ll be presenting a public demonstration at the Eureka Co-op Community Kitchen from 6 to 7 p.m.  Mark and I will teach you how to make delectable pickled carrots while our fellow preservers Susan and Monika will be teaching you about freezing and pickling asparagus.   From then on, the Master Food Preservers will give public demonstrations on the third Wednesday of every month at the Co-op.   We’d love you to join us.  We’ll have tables at other Farmers Markets, the Humboldt Made Fair, the Humboldt County Fair and other local events.   You can see what’s happening next by following us on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/MasterFoodPreserversUCCooperativeExtensionHumboldt .

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