Are you familiar with the Cooperative Extension Office program here in the US? Usually I like to write things in my own words-but the description on the USDA site is so direct I just couldn’t come up with anything better:
The Cooperative Extension System is a nationwide, non-credit educational network. Each U.S. state and territory has a state office at its land-grant university and a network of local or regional offices. These offices are staffed by one or more experts who provide useful, practical, and research-based information to agricultural producers, small business owners, youth, consumers, and others in rural areas and communities of all sizes.
Growing up my mom used the University of Maine Cooperative Extension Office regularly. And now here in NY I use the Cornell Cooperative Extension–which is pretty awesome since Cornell is a world class education system! (no slight to anyone else’s extension office intended!)
When I moved to NY I used the extension service website to find information on gardening that was particular to the NY climate, as well as recommendations for vegetable varieties that are proven performers in our zone and climate. That’s one of the great beauties of the program-they are full of educational information that is specific to your area.
Another way I used the cooperative extension when I first moved to the area was for plant identification. I had a flowering tree in our landscaping that I wanted information on. I brought a sample in and for a minimal fee got a report stating exactly what it was.
Since I’ve been canning a lot lately, I thought it would be a good idea to look at the website for my local office and see what kind of information they have. Lo & behold, they have been offering a series of canning & preserving classes! I had already missed many of them, but they still have one coming up in October on how to pressure can meat. It’s hands on and all materials included for $20. They also had run earlier in the summer a salsa class and a general pressure canning class. If you are interested in canning but nervous to try it by yourself, a class like this would be an awesome introduction!
Also on the schedule was an open canning day.
So what’s an open canning day? Well, you bring an approved recipe, your jars and your ingredients to the cooperative extension kitchen–then you get to use their stoves and equipment (as well as their expertise if you need to) and can away.
I rounded up two friends (one of whom brought along two kiddos-aka “slave labor”), both of who have apple trees, and made a deal. We’d all go up to the canning day, I’d bring my food mill, all the sugar and a bunch of jars. They’d bring apples. We’d all work together in one big massive applesauce making session.
It was epic.
We washed apples.
We steamed apples.
We fed apples through the food mill.
Laughter was heard. Sugar was added. Applesauce was canned. Pizza was ordered and eaten.
All in all it was a success. We wound up with about 17 quarts of applesauce to be split three ways, had a great time, and agreed to meet again the following week at my house to do even more!
The moral of the story? Working with friends is way more fun than working by yourself, and the Cooperative Extension is a fantastic resource-call yours, see what programs they offer and get put on their mailing list to learn more!
PS-I can’t wait to attend “How to pressure can meat” class next week! I’ll have to take some pictures of that one too.