This article also appears in the Tri City Weekly.
After graduation in March, there was barely enough time to whip up a batch of pepper jelly before we, the newly minted Master Food Preservers, jumped right into our mission of teaching the art and science of safe home food preservation.
Our first project in April was a demonstration at the Northcoast Co-op’s Eureka Community Kitchen. Master Food Preservers Susan Bicknell and Lee Ann Duclo taught those in attendance how to make pickled asparagus and spicy pickled carrots. They taught some basic food safety and preparation techniques, showed the step-by-step process of canning and shared some delicious snacks made from the featured ingredients.
The next project was Priscilla Neff and Jennifer Fusaro’s dehydration demonstration. This presentation was part of the Sustainable Living Arts and Music Festival at Humboldt State University.
In May, Judy Bertain and Leslie Silvey staged a “Pectin War” at the Co-op, where they compared and contrasted two different kinds of pectin for making strawberry jam.
The demonstrations at the Eureka Co-op Community Kitchen are free, open to the public, informative and a lot of fun. They all start at 6 p.m. On June 27, we will be teaching how to preserve strawberries three different ways. On July 18, pressure canning summer vegetables is the topic. Aug. 15 is all about tasty tomatoes. Sept. 17 covers freezing and canning beans. Oct. 17 is about making sauerkraut and preserving late summer vegetables. Nov. 7 features hot and sweet peppers, and Dec. 5 will leave you with ideas for edible gifts from your kitchen for the holidays.
One really exciting part of the Master Food Preservers program is that we are encouraged to hold small, hands-on demonstrations for our friends, relatives and neighbors. When faced with an overload of beautiful organic Meyer lemons gleaned from a neighbor’s tree, Mark and I decided to do just that.
One of our friends kindly offered to host a preserving party, so eight of us got together to make two different kinds of Moroccan preserved lemons. We started by giving everyone appetizers of crackers, cream cheese and smoked salmon with diced preserved lemon on top. They went very well with cheap wine. Then, for the first part of the demonstration, I gave an extremely interesting talk about lacto-fermentation (it’s not as dirty as it sounds.) It covered the bacteria that is produced from fermentation, the process and the health benefits. I firmly believe that the glazed expressions on my friends’ faces were from fascination and not boredom.
We then cut our lemons into quarters, stuffed them with salt, placed them into jars with spices and covered them with lemon juice. We’ll let them sit on the counter for a few days, shaking them every day, then put them in the refrigerator for another two weeks. They’ll turn a little bit slimy and taste deliciously salty/zesty/extra-super-lemony. We use them in couscous, rice, tagines and salad dressings.
After all of that hard work, we ate pizza, drank more wine and indulged in some wicked dark chocolate brownies. It was a lot of fun, and we can’t wait to do more. Especially if brownies are involved.
Besides demonstrations, you can also find us at some of the farmers markets and fairs where we’ll answer any preserving questions you might have and help you decide what you’d like to do with some of the wonderful fresh produce available. We’ll give you information about future demonstrations, events and how you, too, can become a Master Food Preserver. We’d love to talk to you. You can also find us on Facebook as Master Food Preservers-UC Cooperative Extension Humboldt and on Twitter as MFPHumboldt.