Scenes from the Safe Home Food Preservation certification course May 14-15 in Sitka

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Food preservation certificate flierIn an effort to train people to teach safe home food preservation classes in their Southeast Alaska communities, the University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service hosted a series of certification courses around the region in recent months. The Sitka class on May 14-15 at Blatchley Middle School wrapped up the series, which featured several online lessons followed by two-day hands-on classes in Juneau, Ketchikan and Sitka.

The Sitka class was taught by UAF Cooperative Extension Service Associate Director Roxie Rodgers Dinstel of Fairbanks and Sarah Lewis, a Family and Community Development faculty member from Juneau. In addition to several Sitka residents, there also were students from Haines, Petersburg and Juneau in the Sitka class. The series was funded by a grant from the SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC).

During the class, the 10 students learned which foods need waterbath canning vs. pressure canning, had a lesson on fermenting, tested pressure canner gauges, dehydrated fruits and veggies, made jerky, and learned how to find reliable resources to make sure their home food preservation practices are safe.

In addition to teaching classes, some of the students will use their new skills for cottage food businesses and home canning projects. One of the purposes of the class was to certify people in a variety of Southeast Alaska communities on how to teach safe home food preservation classes, so they don’t have to wait for a UAF Cooperative Extension Service faculty member from Juneau, Anchorage or Fairbanks to come to town to teach.

A slideshow of scenes from the two-day hands-on classes is below.

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• UAF Cooperative Extension Service offers safe home food preservation certification class

Food preservation certificate flier

The University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service will offer a combined online/in-person safe home food preservation certification class series for residents of Southeast Alaska.

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Sarah Lewis loads jars of soup into a canner during a July 2015 food preservation class at the Sitka Kitch

This program involves students taking six online courses — on canning basics, canning acidified foods, dehydrating foods, canning high-acid foods and tomatoes, canning low-acid foods, and freezing foods — from Feb. 16 through May 13. Each online class has an option for slower Internet speeds.

After completing the six online courses at their own pace, the students then participate in a two-day workshop in either Juneau, Ketchikan, or Sitka (the Sitka in-person workshop is from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, May 14-15, at the Blatchley Middle School Home Economics Kitchen).

The certification costs $200, and there are a few scholarships available. There is a limit of 20 students for each in-person workshop location.

“The main goal is to get local, Southeast community members trained up to offer information, gauge testing, and even classes, within their home communities,” said instructor Sarah Lewis, of the Juneau District Office of the UAF Cooperative Extension Service. “But it’s also a great class for home/local food enthusiasts; planning to teach others is not required.”

To learn more, go to the UAF Cooperative Extension Service online registration page at http://bit.ly/ces-workshops. You also can contact Sarah Lewis for more information at sarah.lewis@alaska.edu or 907-523-3280, Ext. 1.

• Sitka Food Hub sub-committees to host meetings on food storage, community kitchen

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Summit_LogoThe two sub-committees from the Sitka Food Hub project of the 2013 Sitka Health Summit will host meetings in the next week. The project has two main focus groups — to increase Sitka’s capacity for emergency food storage, and to create a community commercial kitchen that can be rented to local start-up businesses and residents who need a place to preserve food they’ve harvested.

The emergency food storage group will meet at noon on Friday, Feb. 14, at Harrigan Centennial Hall. This group is looking for ways to help improve and expand community food storage for disaster preparedness. It also will be looking for ways to help educate Sitka residents about how to improve their own family food storage to be better prepared for emergencies.

The community commercial kitchen group will meet at 6:30 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 17, at Blatchley Middle School, Room 208. This group is trying to gauge the interest of local residents in having a rental commercial kitchen available for use. It also is looking at examples from other communities at how community commercial kitchens helped educate residents on food preservation, incubated local small businesses, and cultivated new opportunities for the community.

The next meeting for both groups combined is at 6:30 p.m on Thursday, March 6, at Harrigan Centennial Hall. Fo more information about the project, contact Marjorie Hennessy at marjorie@sitkawild.org.

• Sitka Food Hub project to focus on a community commercial kitchen and emergency food storage

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The Sitka Food Hub project working group from the 2013 Sitka Health Summit now has refined its focus based on a survey of group interests.

The project will continue to focus on community food security through food education and a commercial kitchen facility. A  second sub-group is devoted to increasing local capacity to develop a food storage system for emergency preparedness. These groups will meet individually to begin planning. The groups will also re-convene in December to report back to one another and push the project forward. Ultimately the two projects will be combined as the project grows.

The two sub-groups will meet next week — the community kitchen group at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday,  Nov. 19, and the food storage group at noon on Wednesday, Nov. 20, both at Harrigan Centennial Hall. The two sub-groups were created to help tighten the focus of the main project and make it easier to improve Sitka’s food security

The shared-use community kitchen will be a place where families and individuals may take classes, rent space to preserve and can their own food, and small-scale local food producers can rent it to create their own value-added food products. The other group will focus on increasing food storage options, since our local hunger groups need more storage in order to expand and Sitka residents expressed community and individual food storage concerns when it came to disaster planning.

The two groups will reconvene for a meeting of the big group at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 18, at Harrigan Centennial Hall. To learn more about the Sitka Food Hub and to get onto the group’s email list, contact Marjorie Hennessy at 747-7509 (days) or marjorie@sitkawild.org.

• Sitka Food Hub project working group to meet on Tuesday, Nov. 12

Summit_LogoThe working group for the Sitka Food Hub project from the 2013 Sitka Health Summit will meet from 6-7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 12, at Harrigan Centennial Hall.

This is the third meeting of the group, which formed during the Sitka Health Summit in late September as one of the summit’s two community wellness projects for the upcoming year. While the group’s ultimate mission, vision and goals still are being refined, community members at the Sitka Health Summit said they wanted the Sitka Food Hub to serve multiple functions — to be a place to help feed Sitka’s hungry while also serving as an emergency food supply for the community and also to provide education about how people can build their own personal pantries.

For this meeting we will continue on the work we started in our last meeting, which includes refining our mission, vision and goals so we can move forward with this project.

To learn more about the Sitka Food Hub and to get onto the group’s email list, contact Marjorie Hennessy at 747-7509 (days) or marjorie@sitkawild.org.

• Sitka Food Hub project working group to meet on Monday, Oct. 28

Summit_LogoThe working group for the Sitka Food Hub project from the 2013 Sitka Health Summit will meet from 6-7:30 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 28, at Harrigan Centennial Hall.

This is the second meeting of the group, which formed during the Sitka Health Summit in late September as one of the summit’s two community wellness projects for the upcoming year. While the group’s ultimate mission, vision and goals still are being refined, community members at the Sitka Health Summit said they wanted the Sitka Food Hub to serve multiple functions — to be a place to help feed Sitka’s hungry while also serving as an emergency food supply for the community and also to provide education about how people can build their own personal pantries.

For this meeting we will be joined Lauren Havens, who has graciously offered to help facilitate the meeting. Topping our agenda will be hearing reports from volunteers who have been researching other food-based or food-related groups in the area , state and around the nation. The group will be discussing a few things, including some pertinent definitions and finally a heavy focus on refining our mission, vision and goals so we can move forward with this exciting project. We also may discuss a project name change to better match definitions used by major food policy groups. We hope we will see you there.

To learn more about the Sitka Food Hub and to get onto the group’s email list, contact Marjorie Hennessy at 747-7509 (days) or marjorie@sitkawild.org.

• Sitka Food Hub chosen as one of Sitka Health Summit’s two new community wellness projects for 2013-14

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Summit_LogoWhen the Sitka Health Summit met on Friday at Sweetland Hall to choose its new community wellness projects for the next year, Sitka residents chose creating a Sitka Food Hub as one of the priority projects.

The Sitka Food Hub has multiple purposes. It will serve as a local community food bank, and provide emergency food storage for Sitka. In addition, it will be a program that can help teach food storage and canning skills so residents can fill their own pantries.

Some of the reasons members gave for creating a Sitka Food Hub included eliminating hunger in Sitka, providing canning and food education, providing a community food storage on high ground, helping Sitka prepare for emergencies and have community resiliency, increasing Sitka’s food security, and more.

The goal of the Sitka Food Hub is to work together as a community to make sure everyone in Sitka has access to healthy food daily and for any emergencies. The project will receive $1,500 as seed money and facilitation help from the Sitka Health Summit. The Sitka Health Summit’s other community wellness project this year is to create a task force to prevent the use of meth in Sitka.

The first meeting of the Sitka Food Hub group will be from 6:30-8 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 3, at Harrigan Centennial Hall. All community members are invited, especially if they are connected to local schools, emergency planning organizations, food organizations, clergy, government agencies, health programs, and others who deal in hunger and food security issues. If you can’t attend, but might be able to provide us with resources and partnership opportunities, please contact us.

To learn more about the Sitka Food Hub and to get onto the group’s email list, contact Marjorie Hennessy at 747-7509 (days) or marjorie@sitkawild.org.

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• SEARHC, UAF Cooperative Extension Service to host ‘Basics of Food Preservation’ classes

University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service Tanana District Agent Roxie Dinstel demonstrates proper home canning techniques (Photo courtesy of the UAF Cooperative Extension Service)

University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service Tanana District Agent Roxie Dinstel demonstrates proper home canning techniques (Photo courtesy of the UAF Cooperative Extension Service)

Are you looking for ways to safely put up your grub? Do you have extra salmon or veggies you want to preserve for eating this winter? Two “Basics of Food Preservation” classes will be taught Wednesday, Aug. 31, in Sitka.

The first class takes place at noon on Aug. 31 at the SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC) S’áxt’ Hít Mt. Edgecumbe Hospital Litehouse Cafeteria conference rooms. The second class is at 7 p.m. at Kettleson Memorial Library.

Both one-hour classes will be taught by University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service Tanana District Agent Roxie Dinstel of Fairbanks, who will cover safe canning and preserving for various types of foods. Roxie helped create the UAF Cooperative Extension Service‘s new Preserving Alaska’s Bounty online tutorials for home canners, which can be found at http://www.uaf.edu/ces/preservingalaskasbounty/. (Note, Adobe Flash Player required to view tutorials, but it can be downloaded from the site.) She also helped write several of the UAF Cooperative Extension Service’s publications on canning, which are available from your local UAF Cooperative Extension Service office (at the University of Alaska Southeast-Sitka Campus in Sitka) or can be downloaded online at http://www.uaf.edu/ces/publications/.

In addition to the two classes on home canning, Roxie also will be available to test pressure gauges for home canning equipment owned by Sitka residents. These tests can tell you if your gauge is still accurate, or if it needs to be replaced for safe canning.

These classes are sponsored by the University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service, Kettleson Memorial Library and SEARHC Health Promotion. All are welcome to attend, and the classes are free. For more information, please contact Martha Pearson at 966-8783 or martha.pearson@searhc.org.

• Sonja Koukel of the UAF Cooperative Extension Service writes about home canning crab and shrimp

Dr. Sonja Koukel of the UAF Cooperative Extension Service

Dr. Sonja Koukel of the UAF Cooperative Extension Service

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The following column originally appeared in the Sept. 30-Oct. 6, 2009, issue of Capital City Weekly and was made available to the Sitka Local Foods Network site. This column runs monthly.

More on Home Canning Seafood: Crab and Shrimp

By Dr. Sonja Koukel, PhD
Health, Home & Family Development Program
UAF Cooperative Extension Service

For the Aug. 5 Capital City Weekly issue, I submitted an article focusing on home canning seafood, specifically crab and geoducks. I was pleased to receive an e-mail from a reader asking for more information. As many of you may have had the same questions I’m sharing my responses here.

To refresh: In the article, I provided the guideline for freezing crab as that is the best preservation method for this food. Experts recommend boiling the live crab for five minutes -– at which time the crab is considered “cooked.”

Our reader asked two questions.

The first:

“Please let me know if this [recommended time] is a misprint. All the people I know who cook crab heat water in a crab cooking vessel until the water boils, then they boil the crab a minimum of 15 minutes before cooling it. I have often wondered if the 15-minute boiling period is too long, but have always deferred to the locals with crab experience. What is the critical issue in crab cooking?”

The second question:

“When cooking shrimp, on the other hand, the accepted practice seems to be: put the critters in a pot, bring the water to boil, then remove the shrimp when they float to the surface, which does not take very long.”

My responses to these two questions follow.

Dear Capital City Weekly Reader,

In regards to your questions, I did some further research over the weekend on the topics of cooking crab and shrimp. Here is what I found.

Crab:

The University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service uses the University of Georgia Extension publication, “So Easy to Preserve,” as the main resource for home canning and food preservation information. Much of the information in this publication is based on the USDA, “Complete Guide to Home Canning,” as well as research from Extension Services across the US. In fact, Alaska Cooperative Extension is represented in the publication for the processing times for canning fish in quart jars (Kristy Long, Foods Specialist UAF CES).

For more information, I resourced other Extension websites and found a variety of cooking times for preparing crab for freezing. Oregon State University Extension publication, “home freezing of seafood” (PNW0586), recommends the following for whole crab: [after preparing crab] Cook in boiling salt water (2-4 Tbsp. per gallon, according to your taste preference) for 12-15 minutes. If the back is left intact, add 10 minutes to the cooking time. Add 2-3 minutes to the cooking time if the water doesn’t boil within a few minutes after adding the crab.

This from the Sea Grant Extension Program, UC Davis, “Freezing Seafood at Home”: You can either freeze crabmeat in the shell or as picked crabmeat. Cook crab before freezing to prevent discoloration of the crabmeat. Drop live crabs into enough boiling water to cover the crabs. Cover and return water to a boil. Boil for about 25 minutes. Remove crabs from boiling water and cool them immediately in cold water. Let crabs cool for several minutes and then drain.

One purpose served by boiling the crab prior to freezing is that the process makes the meat easier to remove from the shell. As far as food safety, boiling will kill any parasites and/or bacteria that contribute to the decay of the shellfish. My sources claim that this is done after one minute in the boiling water. A celebrity chef wrote on his website that the cooking time for crab is not based on food safety but on the product being undercooked, cooked, and overcooked. A good guideline for cooking crab is to check the color of the shell. When the crab is done, the shell turns an orange/red color.

Something to take into consideration when looking at information on the Internet, many sources group all types of crab into one category. On the East Coast, most crab will be Maryland blue crab which are smaller than the Dungeness crab normally consumed in the Northwest. Just keep in mind that you have a safe and easy to handle product when the crab is boiled at least five minutes prior to freezing.

Now, the reply to the shrimp question.

The Sea Grant Extension Program, University of Delaware, instructs cooking the live shrimp just to the point of being done (the flesh turns from translucent to opaque). The cooking method you describe — putting live shrimp in a pot of boiling water and removing when they float to the top — is right on. If you were to time this procedure you probably will find that it takes approximately 3-5 minutes to boil one pound of medium sized shrimp.

I appreciate input from readers and welcome all suggestions, inquiries, and ideas. Please contact me via email: sdkoukel@alaska.edu or phone: 907-796-6221.

Sonja Koukel, PhD, is an assistant professor in the Health, Home & Family Development Program for the Juneau District office of the UAF Cooperative Extension Service. Reach her at sdkoukel@alaska.edu or 907-796-6221.

• Local foods articles in Capital City Weekly and Fairbanks Daily News-Miner

This week’s issue of Capital City Weekly, a free weekly newspaper distributed throughout Southeast Alaska, included four local food-related stories. The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, a daily paper in Fairbanks, also has had a couple of local food-oriented stories the past couple of days. Here are some links to the articles.

Click here to read a Capital City Weekly article on a new community garden being built behind the Glory Hole homeless shelter in downtown Juneau.

Click here to read a Capital City Weekly article on the Montessori Borealis Adolescent Program’s vegetable garden project in Juneau’s Mendenhall Valley.

Click here to read a story about a couple of upcoming University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service classes this weekend in Juneau about how to market specialty food products (geared toward people selling at farmers markets).

Click here to read a Capital City Weekly article on home canning of crab and geoducks by Sonja Koukel of the Juneau office of the UAF Cooperative Extension Service.

Click here to read a Fairbanks Daily News-Miner story from Wednesday’s paper from Roxie Rodgers Dinstel of the Fairbanks office of the UAF Cooperative Extension Service about how fireweed (which grows wild in Sitka) can add a subtle flavor to different meals.

Click here to read a Fairbanks Daily News-Miner story from Tuesday’s paper about how Fairbanks students are turning their schoolyards into blooming gardens as part of the EATING (Engaging Alaska Teens IN Gardening) program run by the Calypso Farm and Ecology Center. Click here to read more about the EATING program on the Calypso Farm site.