So this week I’m at the Master Food Preservers Course in Middletown NY (that’s in Orange County NY–2 hrs from home). This is a 3 day instructor certification course offered through the Cornell Cooperative Extension Office (for a fee). When I finish the course I’ll have a certificate of completion, then I’ll have to keep a log of my preserving activities (Water Bath Canning, Pressure Canning, Drying, Freezing and Teaching via my local Cooperative Extension.) until I’ve accumulated 30 hours. Then I’ll send that off to them and if they think I’ve done enough and enough variety I’ll receive my certification.
So far it’s been an excellent course. The first day we spent most of the morning going over the science behind food preservation–lots of info on how things spoil, how the various methods of preservation effect those factors and render your food safe. We also talked a lot about how to create a quality product–because if it is safe but unappealing it won’t be eaten!
They had a great display of various canning equipment–new and old. They also had on display (and explained) some of the items you should not use–such as unsuitable canning jars, the “micro-dome” microwave canner (and a copy of the recall poster for it–since it doesn’t actually get hot enough!) and others.
After lunch we were divided into three groups and started our first canning project. I was in group C — we started with “unseasoned tomato sauce”.
The tomato sauce was fun–I got to use a chinois for the first time–and we learned a great tip for keeping tomato products from separating! The reason that your tomato products separate is because once you cut them and expose the insides to air the various enzymes start breaking down the pectin within the tomato. The pectin is the “glue” that holds things together, so if it is broken down then the pulp will separate into liquid and solids. Heat kills the enzymes. So the way to keep it from “breaking” is to start out with just a few tomatoes (3 or 4), cut them and toss them in your pot and bring them up to a boil. Then cut and add your tomatoes about 5 at a time–do NOT cut them all ahead of time, actually cut them as you are getting ready to put them in the pot. That way the enzymes are not going to have time to break down the pectin. Cool eh? It’s more work, but if that whole separation thing bothers you now you know how to fix it!
After that we had a class on freezing with a demonstration on how to blanch (using green beans). I found the information on various ways to package your food for freezing to be quite interesting. There was a handout on different ways to wrap food with freezer paper that I will have to find the link to so I can share! At the end of the class I’ll do a post with a lot of the great handouts that anyone can download to help with their canning–they are providing us with excellent resources!
Today we are doing pressure canning–so I’ll be in the group doing carrots and green beans. On the final day we will be doing jams. Then at the very end we will all sit down and try all the different foods to see the difference between the different methods of packing. Of course we’ve got plenty of coursework left and even the final test.
So that’s where I am for the next few days!