SAN JUAN COUNTY VIRTUAL FAIR 2020—FOOD PRESERVATION DEPARTMENT
I am Carrie Brooks of San Juan Island, Washington. I am a 32-year resident (29 years in Town of Friday Harbor), and an Co-Superintendent for Food Preservation Department for the San Juan County Fair. I have won many ribbons at the Fair over the years, and I gave demonstrations on Food Preservation last year.I hope to challenge you to have some fun learning about how easy it is to preserve food.There is no better time than now than to learn how to be wise with food purchasing, preparation, and preservation.I have learned so much from YouTube, and I also learned by trial and error.I want you to know how to preserve successfully and wisely.
From the beginning of time, humans have been preserving food for the future meals they would need to survive.In the San Juan Islands, the native peoples camped all over the islands to take advantage of wild berries, healthy plants, kelp beds, salmon runs, clean water, shellfish abundance, and deer hunting, drying the meats with the warm sunshine and salt.The rich soil and warm weather was good for planting and harvesting vegetables and grains to carry them through the winter to the next year.Preservation of food was not a choice for them, but a necessity.
Today, we are going through a time when certain supplies are not readily available.Usually, though, we have the CHOICE to either preserve food or just purchase food from a store.To me, FREE food, even if it takes me time and effort, is superior to purchasing food.And if I have to purchase food, I like to have locally fresh food to use.
That is why I have a garden, and why I save the root ends of onions, lettuce, celery, broccoli and cabbage with toothpicks holding the plant end/core to root in small jars or cups of water to plant in pots as soon as new roots or shoots of green appear. In 2-3 months, I have a new free plant to eat.
I also have potted spinach, chard, onions, garlic, lettuce, broccoli (for the green leaves), and radishes (for their greens with 16 times more vitamin C than the radish itself) that I grow all year round on my deck or in the kitchen windows to always have fresh greens.
While housebound, as we were last winter on our hill without a 4x4 automobile, we pretended we were on a snowy winter vacation, and were able to enjoy our preserved food storage supply, so thankful we had prepared.We had plenty of food preserved, as well as other supplies to get us through.
I am continuing to be creative with our food supply, experimenting with new meals I have never tried before.It is a good idea to eat up the oldest food to make room for the new food coming in.My goal is to reorganize my preserved food so I don’t have to waste any food or money!We have soups every week made from leftovers.I make my own buttermilk and my own cottage cheese from my buttermilk (clabbermilk) cooked 6-7 minutes in the microwave, stirring every 60 seconds gently.Pour separated curds and whey into a colander over a large bowl, add a little salt, and you have cottage cheese.The whey from the cottage cheese does not get thrown out—I use it warm for proofing/dissolving the yeast in my breadmaking every week.It gives the bread a little bit of a sourdough flavor, and takes the place of water in the bread recipe.Snacks consist of preserved fruits and some veggies like dried (dehydrated) sweet corn, dried green beans, dried apples, and dried pears.
I get so much pleasure from seeing and tasting a canned jar of jelly made from my raspberries or blackberries that we picked in the summer.I made corn cob jelly last year, which was going to be entered into the Fair this year.
Corn Cob Jelly is made from the juice of corn cobs simmered in water for hours, then turns into a honey-looking jelly with added sugar which tastes more like honey as it ages. I had cut the corn kernels off the 15 cobs to pressure-can preserve.For the Cranberry Jelly seen above, I bought many fresh bags of cranberries to freeze when they were available in Fall.I use them in banana bread all through the year, even though they are only available in the Fall.
Here is a TIP:When my fresh fruit/berries have been in the freezer too long--over a year, I make sauces, syrups, and jams or jellies to save the fruit from having to be thrown out due to freezer burn.They will last at least 5 more years canned in a Water bath canner boiling with lid on for 20 minutes.
Freezing is easiest way to preserve foods, and almost everyone has a freezer.Use it for excess meat or veggies on sale, fruit on sale, excess bread not needed immediately, nuts, pre-made desserts or dinners. I buy flour in 25# bags and save it in the freezer in #10 cans with lids or in doubled Freezer bags.Be sure you put extra wrapping around everything you freeze, with freezer wrap, plastic wrap layers, or with plastic freezer bags to prevent freezer burn. Keep everything labeled with name and freezing date.You have to be organized or you could lose food due to the freezer burn.Fish and bread should be no longer than 3 months in the freezer, nuts a year, meats 2 years, and extra cooked foods also about 3-6 months.See section below about Dehydrating veggies straight from freezer to lengthen their life.
You can also lengthen the life of frozen/thawed meats by Pressure Canning.
The safest way to preserve long term is to Pressure Can in glass jars.You will need to purchase a large Pressure Canner with Lid and Pressure Gauge, a large cooking pot, and pint, quart, and ½ pint jars with small top and large top metal lids to seal in the produce.
Other than that, a large metal ladle, a large-mouth funnel, and porous ladle should be purchased.Also use the canner for large batches of soups, or use as a Water-bath canner for jellies and fruit canning, without having to use the pressure aspect of the canner.There is no need to purchase a water-bath canner if you have a pressure canner.
You will need Pectin for jams and jellies, and some Fruit Fresh or Lemon Juice for keeping the brown color away from fruit which has been cut up and put in a bowl of water to hold until you are ready to can.
The Canner comes with complete directions which MUST be followed for safe product to eat.But once that you know what you are doing, you will be able to buy extra hamburger or sausage to brown and put into pint jars to pressure can. You can pressure can almost anything.
When I need a quick and easy corned beef and cabbage dinner, I use 3 jars of pressure canned corned beef—one roast cut into sections and into pint jars, along with a teaspoon of Kosher salt flavorings from the Corned Beef package, and water. I pressure canned them last year from a big sale I found after March 17th on corned beef roasts.The jars are all ready cooked and ready for the cabbage, carrots and potatoes to boil for dinner.For a quick pulled-pork dinner, I have canned pork loan roasts, again in pint jars in my storage closet.(I cut up both the roasts into thirds, putting each piece in a pint or quart jar with 1 teaspoon of Kosher Canning Salt, and add water to bottom ring on top of jar, taking a knife to get out the air bubbles from the jar.This means 2 roasts could fill my canner with 6 jars.)Lean and tender, the pork is ready for the barbeque sauce, coleslaw, buns and beans.Or, if I have lots of leftover chowder, stew, or soup, I pressure can it in quart jars for soup lunches in the next year.
My favorite method of food preservation is Dehydration. You will need two machines, a food dehydrator (Gardenmaster) with 4-8 trays, and an oxygen extractor, such as a Food Saver by Tilla machine,
along with the small and large lid holders by Food Saver with the hole in the top for the extractor tube to access the jar and lid.There are also smaller hand models which work well, but the large electric models are easier to use.Drying in the sun is an original method of dehydrating food.But the Dehydrator is perfect for taking frozen purchased packages of vegetables which are over a year old, and extending their lives easily.I just empty one still frozen package of any vegetable or mixed vegetables per dehydrator tray, using at least four trays, and the next morning each tray is dumped into a sterile bowl to transfer to a sterile jar with a clean new metal lid.The jar can be filled full or with just a bit of dehydrated food as needed.You should taste the sweet corn and the green beans—so sweet, and crispy after drying overnight at 135 degrees.Good for soups, too.
You can also use the dehydrator for fresh veggies and fruits.
All excess air will be sucked out by the Food Saver machine to seal the lid.I clean all my fresh herbs, fruits, and veggies in cold vinegar water bath 5 minutes, then cold plain water rinse 5 minutes.Potatoes, apples and pears need a lemon juice or Fruit Fresh water bowl soak after slicing.Drain in colander, then put to trays.
Turn Dehydrator thermostat to 115 degrees for herbs or 135 degrees for most veggies and fruitsThey can dry overnight, or from 8-18 hours, depending on load and type of dehydrator machine. Fruit and veggies (not leafy greens) should be cut into pieces, about ¼ inch thick and any size width and length, and boiled/blanched 3 minutes.Greens won’t need to be precooked, just put to the tray.
Whole leaves, such as spinach, chard, collards (may want to cut into smaller sections) or sage work great, as you can crush them to fit into jars.Sage can be ground in the coffee grinder, too, after dehydrating, making ground sage to use as a spice.The leaves, such as mint, can be left whole for tea, or crushed for tea holders.You can also make your own onion powder and garlic powder, oregano powder, etc., but putting them into the coffee grinder.
NOTE:When drying onions or garlic, please plug in and keep the machine outside, or your whole house smells for several days.Also, your plastic trays will smell, so you might want to use a few trays only used for outside needs.I have a total of 12 trays, so that I can use 8 for most things, and the 4 oldest are only for smelly drying, which can include meat jerky, which I have not tried yet because I like safety, and I Pressure can my meats if not eaten in 2 years in freezer, including hamburger and sausage.Once dried, the product doesn’t smell, and will not until rehydrated in lukewarm water for 15 minutes, or put into a soup, requiring about 20 minutes to fully reconstitute and be ready to eat.
These dehydrated jars of food will keep well for about 5 years.Some things I have used up to 10 years, and they work fine, such as dried apples.
Make your own dips with your dried herbs and mayonnaise or oil.Make soups with your refrigerated leftovers and dried veggies, such as cherry tomatoes (halved and dried), or desserts including banana chips, dried apples or pears, strawberries, mango, or even dried pineapple.
Use a hand machine called “Apple Peeler Corer Slicer” to make quick work of apples or Asian pears.It can also be used for peeling and slicing potatoes before blanching them for 3 minutes.
Do not dry low acidic vegetables such as potatoes, squash, fresh corn, fresh beans, fresh carrots, fresh celery, etc., without prior blanching for about 3 minutes in boiling water to inactivate enzymes, preserve color, flavor, and nutritional value.If veggies came from frozen plastic package purchased from a store, they are already blanched before freezing, so will dehydrate without reheating or thawing them before dehydrating them over night.Note:Berries make better fruit leathers than individual dried berries.Just clean berries, put into bowl, add sugar to taste, Lemon juice, blend together, and pour into solid tray shield that has been sprayed with oil coating.Dehydrate at 135 degrees 18 hours, peel off sections to roll up into pint jar, about 4 inches by 4 inches if possible, ( see above photo) and seal jar lid with Food Saver.Hint:If you can be careful opening the lid and not bend it, it can be reused a few times and will seal after oxygen is out again.So, if you have a ½ pint jar of oregano, rosemary, or thyme, and want to use only a teaspoon, you can take out some and reseal it with the Food Saver.If you don’t reseal the herbs, though, and just keep them in the jar with the unsealed lid and metal ring, their flavor will be gone within a year after opening.So, you don’t need new lids each time you open and reseal dehydrated foods.For pressure and water bath canning, though, use new sterile lids.
Just watch the seal for popping up.It may be more damaged than you thought it was.Check seal, color of food, smell, or tap jar lid to see if it sounds the same as other similar jars before eating anything.Safety comes first, even if it has to be thrown away!
Preservation will require investments initially, but will repay your investment over and over again, with the Dehydrator, Food Saver, Freezer, and the Pressure Canner (which can also be used as a Water-bath Canner for high acidic foods like tomatoes and fruits). They will last many, many years with only minor repairs, such as new Pressure Canner lid ring or plug.The jars will last forever if you don’t chip them, and metal lids use rubber for sealing, so should be discarded before 7 years, just like auto tires. We must be careful with food saved any method beyond that 7-year timeframe if using the metal/rubber lids.Remove all Rings after initial canning so that if the metal lids are not properly sealed, you can see the lid is not sucked in.Check the next day after jar is sealed, then always check to make sure it is sealed before you open and eat the contents of the jar.Toss it if not sealed.Deadly sicknesses like botulism happen otherwise.
ENJOY your preserved foods in the next 1-2 years for high quality, flavor, and nutrition.You have food when you need it—now or later, ready to eat, or within 20 minutes maximum if rehydration is necessary.You save money $$$$ by buying extra food on sale to preserve for later. You save money $$$$ by growing your own fresh and abundant food, and definitely save time on meal preparation, giving more time and money for other things.It is a good thing to feel confident that you and your household will have safe and healthy food to eat without having to enter a store.You will also have enough to share with family and friends.
Thank you for taking time to let me share with you!