Posts Tagged: food preservation
Air drying peppers can be a fun activity to do with children. For the best results, select only firm, fresh peppers free of any blemishes or other damage. Wash them thoroughly. Then use a knife to cut a slit in the stems. Using a large crafting needle, thread light string or a heavy thread through the stems of the peppers. Hang the string of peppers in a well-ventilated room since high humidity can cause the peppers to spoil. The peppers should dry within about four weeks.
Peppers can also be sun dried. Drying peppers in the sun requires a minimum temperature of 90°F for several days, with a humidity level below 60 percent. To sun dry peppers, first rinse them to remove any dirt. Then lay them on screen trays made of stainless steel, plastic, or Teflon coated fiberglass. Do not use galvanized metal, copper or aluminum screens. Place the trays on blocks to increase airflow and cover the peppers with cheesecloth to protect them from birds and insects. Once the peppers are dried, pasteurize them to kill any insect or insect eggs that may have gotten on the peppers. To pasteurize them, either seal them in a freezer bag and place the bag in the freezer (set at 0°F or below) for 48 hours, or lay the peppers out single layer on a tray and place them in the oven pre-heated to 160°F for 30 minutes.
If you have an electric food dehydrator, first thoroughly rinse the peppers and remove the stems and cores. Cut the peppers into 3/8-inch disks and place in a single layer on the dehydrator trays. The peppers generally take 8 to 12 hours to dry in a dehydrator.
You can also dry peppers in your oven, although you may not want to heat up your house using this method in the summer. To dry peppers in your oven, first make sure your oven can be set to 140°F. (Any higher temperature will cook, not dehydrate the peppers.) Place washed peppers single layer on an oven drying tray (note: cake cooling racks placed on a cookie tray work well). Make sure the drying tray clears all sides of the oven three to four inches. If you are placing more than one drying tray in your oven, make sure they're spaced two to three inches apart for air circulation. The oven door needs to be propped open two to six inches during the entire drying process. You can place an oven thermometer near the drying tray to get an accurate temperature reading and adjust the temperature as needed to reach 140°F. Since oven drying takes about twice as long as an electric food dehydrator, it will take approximately 16 to 24 hours to dry peppers using this method. Just be sure to let the peppers completely cool before packaging them for storage.
Dried peppers can be stored for several months in a cool dark place. They should be stored in moisture proof packaging such as a glass jar or freezer container. Plastic freezer bags can be used but be aware that they are not rodent proof. Rehydrate dried peppers for use in dishes like casseroles by soaking them in water. Or you may opt to crumble or turn the dried peppers into a powder to use as a seasoning.
Source of information and more reading:
For more information on drying peppers, see Peppers: Safe Methods to Store, Preserve and Enjoy from the University of California Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources accessible at https://anrcatalog.ucanr.edu/pdf/8004.pdf and Preserving Food: Drying Fruits and Vegetables from the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension Service accessible at https://nchfp.uga.edu/publications/uga/uga_dry_fruit.pdf.
For more information about the UC Master Food Preserver Program, including the Food Preservation Video Library, visit mfp.ucanr.edu.
Recently there has been increasing interest and desire to grow and preserve our own produce. In addition, there has been an increase of health-conscious families turning to WFPB lifestyles. This UC Davis article explains the differences between vegan and WFPB diets.
Home food preservation is a natural accompaniment to this lifestyle, however, misconceptions about the benefits of home canning are often overlooked for the WFBP lifestyle and therefore not utilized. There is a misconception that preserved canned fruits are loaded with sugar. Unlike vegan diets, WFPB diets do not include sugar, however, WFPB diets do include raw honey if sweeteners are desired. The UC Davis Integrative Medicine article, The real truth about sugar, supports the choice to preserve fruits without the addition of sugar. And, although unprocessed foods are encouraged, minimally processed foods like home preserving, is acceptable. Here is a great article from UC Davis Integrative Medicine - What about processed foods?
Beans are a protein staple for the WFPB lifestyle. A UC Davis Integrative Medicine article explains Why beans are best and are a healthful choice for a meal or a snack. Home canning beans saves time and money. This UCCE video by Dustin Blakey is an excellent demonstration for pressure canning beans. By following the recipe in the book So Easy to Preserve, for pressure canning beans, my beans always come out safe and perfect. Before serving, I bring the beans to a boil for 10 minutes and season for my desired taste.
Being a certified UC Master Gardener provided me the skills and knowledge to successfully grow my own produce. I often referr to my garden as “My Victory Garden for Health.” All the produce that is not eaten fresh is either canned, dehydrated or frozen using skills I learned as a UC Master Food Preserver.
We grew a large 4' x 16' bed of onions. Some onions were dehydrated, which was a great advantage. Snap peas, bush beans, asparagus, beets for pickling, carrots, tomatoes, and sweet corn were either pressure canned, blanched or frozen. Vegetable soup was made and canned using the So Easy to Preserve instructions.
I am not advocating that this lifestyle is for everyone since after almost one year I found my way to a hybrid form of WFPB. However, I will continue to use my UC Master Food Preserver skills to home preserve produce that is sugar free and healthy, knowing that my home preserved food is safe since I have followed recipes and procedures tested for home food preservation.
For more information about the UC Master Food Preserver Program, including the Food Preservation Video Library, visit mfp.ucanr.edu.
Americans' interest in traditional homemaking activities – gardening, cooking, baking bread and canning – has risen dramatically over the last few months, according to Google Trends.
Getting reliable information is particularly important when it comes to home food preservation. But internet search results don't always display research-based information at the top. Using the wrong procedure won't qualify as a hilarious Pinterest Fail; it can be fatal.
To make reliable home food preservation how-to videos easy to find, a team of UC Cooperative Extension professionals and volunteers reviewed and aggregated research-based food preservation videos produced by Cooperative Extension programs across the nation on one website – http://ucanr.edu/MFPvideolibrary.
“As far as we can tell, this site is the only website with a full collection of food safety and food preservation videos from the Cooperative Extension system,” said UCCE Master Food Preserver coordinator Sue Mosbacher. In partnership with states, counties and universities, the USDA's Cooperative Extension system provides higher education to farmers, ranchers, communities, youth and families. In California, UC Cooperative Extension is part of UC Agriculture and Natural Resources.
The videos are divided into 10 categories: food safety, food preservation methods, jam & jelly, pickle & ferment, dehydrate, refrigerate & freeze, can fruit, can tomatoes, can vegetables and preserve meat & fish.
The UC Cooperative Extension Master Food Preserver Program trains and certifies volunteers to teach the public about food preservation techniques and safety. Certified UC Master Food Preservers typically hold community classes to extend the information. During the COVID-19 crisis, in-person classes have been canceled, so video-based learning is critical to educating families who are interested in the craft.
Dustin Blakey, director of UC Cooperative Extension in Inyo and Mono counties and coordinator of the local Master Food Preserver volunteers, created one of the videos in the collection. In seven minutes, Blakey outlines the process of preserving dry beans. (View the video below.)
“Right now, with people losing their jobs, if you have a pressure canner, you can buy a five-pound bag of beans for $5 and make 16 cans of beans,” Blakey said. “If you have the equipment and jars, it's a great way to preserve the food and then this summer, you have it ready to go.”
Blakey said he and his team will be producing more home food preservation videos in the future.
The UC Cooperative Extension Master Food Preserver (MFP) program is following the same trend. Established in the 1980s, a small contingent of volunteers offered occasional classes through the years. But a reawakening that spurred rapid program growth was enough to prompt UC Cooperative Extension to hold the first-ever statewide Master Food Preserver conference this month in Stockton.
Master Food Preservers are volunteers who teach people in their communities how to preserve food safely and nutritiously. Nine California counties now have MFP programs and more are planned. Last year, MFP volunteers clocked 15,000 hours teaching courses on safe food preservation. The statewide conference was designed to give the volunteers a networking opportunity, updates on the latest food preservation techniques and tools, and energy to return home and meet the increasing public demand.
“There is a huge resurgence of interest in food preservation among young people,” said Missy Gable, the co-director of the UCCE statewide Master Food Preserver program and director of its Master Gardener program. “People whose parents and grandparents didn't preserve food now want to learn how.”
At the conference, chef Ernest Miller, a certified Master Food Preserver in Los Angeles County, outlined the storied history of food preservation, which he says predates agriculture.
“You decide to grow food. You're successful. You have a big harvest and throw the first harvest party,” Miller said. “One week, two weeks later, all the food goes bad. You starve to death and the experiment is over. You need to know how to preserve food before you can switch from hunting and gathering to agriculture.”
“Where would the French be without cheese? What would the Japanese be without sunomono, the Koreans without kimchee, the Germans without sauerkraut and beer?” he asked.
A proponent of all types of food preservation, Miller can rattle off a litany of processes in a few seconds.
“We teach canning, pressure canning, freezing, drying, pickling, fermenting, curing, brewing, smoking, charcuterie, cheese making and emergency food storage,” he said to cheers from the audience.
Three Master Food Preservers shared proven teaching techniques with their colleagues at the conference.
Sue Mosbacher, UCCE program representative for the MFP program in Amador and Calaveras counties, said she always begins a class on pressure canning by asking who's afraid of the process. Many hands go up and members of the audience tell of times their grandmothers' pressure cookers exploded.
“What were they cooking? Split pea soup and the peas clogged the vent. With pressure canning, we're just using water,” Mosbacher said. “The first thing I do is reassure them that a pressure canner is a very safe tool to use.”
Mosbacher gets her students excited about canning their own beef stew by trying to read the ingredients on a store-bought stew can, and then the ingredients in her home-preserved stew.
“Potatoes, carrots, onions, beef and a little broth, that's it. And it's delicious,” she said.
MFP Cheryl Knapp of El Dorado County showed that food preservation isn't limited putting up plain fruit and vegetables for future consumption. In her classes, she teaches how to make homemade spice blends using dried peppers and other vegetables from the garden.
MFP Linda Bjorkland of Sacramento County demonstrated an automatic jam and jelly maker she received as a gift. At first she was skeptical, but tried it.
“You just sprinkle the pectin, add a half teaspoon of butter, and the strawberries,” Bjorkland said. “What's the next step? Turn it on. Can you believe that?”
A hot plate heats the mixture evenly and a blade inside the pan stirs continuously. When the maker beeps, add sugar.
“It continues for 17 minutes, and your jam is done,” Bjorkland said. “It's quick and easy. That's the kind of thing your public will want to know about.”
The UCCE Master Food Preserver program is setting up a statewide steering committee, will soon launch a new, completely updated website, and a team of MFP volunteers and UC nutrition specialists are writing a comprehensive MFP handbook.
“This is a labor of love,” Gable said. “I'm thrilled about the developments in our program.”
I brought my camera with me to a Master Food Preservers class Saturday at UC Cooperative Extension Sacramento County on pressure canning. In case you’ve been thinking about participating in a Master Food Preservers class, here’s a peek inside the Sacramento demonstration kitchen:
“Cooking is a whole different ball game from canning — a whole different science,” Prendergast said. He's been a UC Master Food Preserver since 1995, and regularly teaches the monthly Saturday morning classes in Sacramento county. Next month's Saturday morning class will be on dehydrating, 10 a.m. to 12 p.m., Dec. 10.
UC Master Food Preservers is a volunteer organization structured in a way similar to UC Master Gardeners. Master Food Preserver candidates complete training to become knowledgeable in food preservation and then are required to volunteer time sharing their knowledge with the public by teaching classes and answering questions.
UC Cooperative Extension currently has Master Food Preservers in four counties:
In Sacramento County, the Master Food Preservers offer a monthly class on Saturday mornings that focuses on techniques of a specific preservation process – either water-bath canning, pressure canning or dehydrating. Once a month on Wednesday evenings, the group offers classes that focus on preserving specific fruits or vegetables.
This Wednesday’s class is on “Fall Fruits and Winter Squash” which will include quince and pomegranates among others. The class is 6:30 – 8:30 p.m. at the UC Cooperative Extension office, 4145 Branch Center Road in Sacramento; registration to attend is $3.