• SEARHC, Cooperative Extension to host free food preservation and entrepreneurship workshops at Sitka Kitch


The SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC) WISEFAMILIES Traditional Foods program and the University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service are teaming up to offer a series of four free food preservation and entrepreneurship workshops on Thursday through Saturday, July 16-18, at the Sitka Kitch. There also will be free pressure canner gauge testing at the Sitka Farmers Market on July 18.

The Sitka Kitch is a rental community commercial kitchen project coordinated by the Sitka Conservation Society, in partnership with the Sitka Local Foods Network, located inside the First Presbyterian Church, 505 Sawmill Creek Road. The Sitka Kitch was a project from the 2013 Sitka Health Summit designed to improve food security in Sitka while also providing a space for people wanting to get into the cottage food business or wanting to preserve their harvest for storage in the home pantry. Sitka Kitch officially opened in March 2015 after a series of renovations to make it pass Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation commercial kitchen food safety standards.

UAF Southeast Extension Agent Sarah Lewis of the Juneau District Office will teach four classes — Cottage Foods and Beyond, Pickling and Fermenting, Canning Salmon and Berries, and Canning Soups and Sauces. These classes are open to Sitka residents of all ages, but an adult must accompany those younger than 14 years old. Class sizes are limited to 16 people. Thanks to a grant from the SEARHC WISEFAMILIES Traditional Foods program, all ingredients, jars, and equipment will be supplied in class.

“The WISEFAMILIES Traditional Foods program is partnering with the UAF Cooperative Extension Service because their work complements our purposes, which is to help Native families reduce their risk for disease while working toward getting back to a traditional way of eating,” said SEARHC Health Educator Clara Gray, of the SEARHC WISEFAMILIES Traditional Foods program.

The SEARHC WISEFAMILIES Traditional Foods program promotes healthy lifestyles by connecting Alaska Natives in Southeast Alaska to their culture. Members of the program learn how to harvest, cook, and preserve their traditional Alaska Native foods, which usually are healthier than heavily processed store-bought foods. In addition, participants learn traditional language, dancing, carving, weaving, and other skills that help reconnect them to their culture.

SarahLewisWithBoilingPotsThe UAF Cooperative Extension Service offers a variety of programs geared toward food, how to grow it, how to preserve it for storage, and how to make it into cottage foods you can sell. For those who can’t make the classes, the service offers a series of free online tutorials about home canning called Preserving Alaska’s Bounty.

“As a UAF Cooperative Extension Agent, I try to teach that family and community resilience are strengthened when local foods are used to cook meals at home,” Lewis said. “Through my food preservation and entrepreneurship workshops I offer the knowledge and skills needed for people to discover the nutritional benefits and financial stability that come from making and preserving homemade meals with local ingredients.”

Here are the details and schedules of the four classes:

  • Cottage Foods and Beyond, 2-4 p.m., Thursday, July 16 — Learn to safely make and legally sell your local foods. This class explains the DEC Cottage Foods Exemptions, as well as steps to take when you’re ready to go “beyond cottage foods.”
  • Pickling and Fermenting, 6:30-9:30 p.m., Thursday, July 16 — Sauerkraut, kim-chi, vinegars, pickled vegetables and non-alcoholic beverages. Come learn the basics of lacto-fermentation and vinegar pickling for tasty home-made snacks and digestive health.
  • Canning Salmon and Berries, 4-9 p.m., Friday, July 17 — Waterbath and pressure canning for people of all experience levels, with a focus on these two favorite Southeast foods.
  • Canning Soups and Sauces, 3-8 p.m., Saturday, July 18 — Home-canned soups and sauces save time, money and meal-time hassles. Come learn how to easily and safely pressure and waterbath can ready-to-eat meals and side dishes for your pantry.

In addition to teaching the four classes, Lewis will offer free pressure canner gauge testing at the Sitka Farmers Market, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, July 18, at the Alaska Native Brotherhood Founders Hall, 235 Katlian Street. She also will provide other resources about home canning and food preservation. To ensure safe canning, pressure canner dial gauges should be tested every year for accuracy.

Due to limited class space, please pre-register by Wednesday, July 15, to ensure a spot. To pre-register, contact Jasmine Shaw of the Sitka District Office of the UAF Cooperative Extension Service at 747-9440 or jdshaw2@alaska.edu.