• Scenes from the Sitka Kitch venison class hosted by UAF Cooperative Extension, SEARHC


kitch_logo_mainSitka residents love their venison, so the University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service and the SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC) WISEFAMILIES Traditional Foods program hosted a free class on canning, smoking, and making deer jerky on Oct. 30 at the Sitka Kitch community rental commercial kitchen.

The Oct. 30 class featured lessons on how to can venison in jars, taught by Ellen Ruhle, as well as info about how to prepare deer jerky and how to smoke venison roasts, taught by Jud Kirkness. Due to the popularity of the class, the Sitka Kitch is hoping to schedule a second class on deer/venison in the near future.

Below is a slideshow of photos taken during the class by Jasmine Shaw of the UAF Cooperative Extension Service Sitka District Office.

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• SEARHC, UAF Cooperative Extension Service to host deer/venison canning classes

Participants in Sitka's Alaska Way Of Life 4-H program, aka the Sitka Spruce Tips 4-H program, learn how to skin and butcher a deer. (Photo courtesy of the Sitka Conservation Society/Sitka Spruce Tips 4-H program)

Participants in Sitka’s Alaska Way Of Life 4-H program, aka the Sitka Spruce Tips 4-H program, learn how to skin and butcher a deer. (Photo courtesy of the Sitka Conservation Society/Sitka Spruce Tips 4-H program)

kitch_logo_mainThe 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 deer and venison workshop from 3-7 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 30, at the Sitka Kitch.

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.

The Oct. 30 class will feature lessons on how to can venison in jars, taught by Ellen Ruhle, as well as how to prepare deer jerky and how to smoke venison, taught by Jud Kirkness.

There is a possibility we will be able to harvest a deer next week, and if so we will add on a portion of the workshop to focus on butchering and meat care. And this time we are just offering the food preservation class (canning, jerky, and smoking hind quarters).

Thanks to a grant from the SEARHC WISEFAMILIES Traditional Foods program, all ingredients, jars, and equipment will be supplied in class.

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.

The 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.

Pre-registration is required for this class, and there are only 12 spots available. For more information and to pre-register, please contact Jasmine Shaw at 747-9440 or jdshaw2@alaska.edu.

• Alaska chef Robert Kinneen creates webinar series about cooking with traditional foods

Local food from Sitka is featured prominently in the new Fresh49.com webisode series about using traditional foods created by Alaska chef Robert Kinneen of Anchorage and Dr. Gary Ferguson, ND, the director of the Wellness and Prevention program at the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium (ANTHC).

Guest chef Robert Kinneen of Anchorage demonstrates a dish using scallops during the first Sitka Seafood Festival in 2010.

Guest chef Robert Kinneen of Anchorage demonstrates a dish using scallops during the first Sitka Seafood Festival in 2010.

The first webisodes in the series are about the Store Outside Your Door, and they feature traditional foods Kinneen gathered around Sitka with Steve Johnson, a Tlingít elder-in-training from Sitka. Some of the webisodes featuring Sitka include a foraged salad, Alaskan fresh rolls, venison skewers and rockfish fumet. There is a Store Outside Your Door page on Facebook, as well as a channel on YouTubewhere people can find the webisodes.

Even though he currently lives and works in Anchorage, Kinneen is no stranger to Southeast Alaska. He is Tlingít and was born in Petersburg. Kinneen is a graduate of the Culinary School of America and has been a chef at several of Anchorage’s top restaurants over the years. He also has been a guest chef at the first two Sitka Seafood Festivals.

Dr. Ferguson, who is Aleut originally from Sand Point, is a Doctor of Naturopathy who earned his degree from the National College of Naturopathic Medicine. He has a special interest in diabetes treatment and prevention, which is one of the reasons Dr. Ferguson and Kinneen got together to do the series. Research has shown that traditional diets can play a big role in diabetes prevention.

In the first webisodes, they also worked with health educator Renae Mathson of Sitka (Tlingít), who works with the SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC) Diabetes and Health Promotion programs, and registered dietitian Desirée Simeon (Tlingít/Haida), who works with ANTHC. They currently are filming webisodes from other parts of Alaska, featuring traditional foods from those areas.

• Sitka Local Foods Network to host annual meeting and local foods potluck on Saturday, Jan. 29

The Sitka Local Foods Network will host its annual meeting and local foods potluck from 5-7 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 29, at the Sitka Unitarian Universalist Fellowship Building, 408 Marine St.

This event is free and open to all Sitka residents. The annual meeting portion of the program will feature an update on all of our current projects, including the two new local-foods-related projects that came out of the 2010 Sitka Health Summit (planting 200 fruit trees around town and getting more local fish in school lunches). We are gearing up for the annual Let’s Grow Sitka gardening education event on Sunday, March 20; the community garden season with work parties starting in April or May; and for the upcoming Sitka Farmers Market season starting in July. New volunteers always are appreciated.

We encourage everyone to bring a favorite dish that features local foods, such as venison steaks, grilled salmon, seafood chowder, freshly baked bread and salmonberry preserves, seaweed, herring eggs and vegetables from the garden. For more information, contact Linda Wilson at 747-3096 (evenings and weekends) or lawilson87@hotmail.com.

• Wanton waste of deer meat, a record high herring quota and other local foods stories in the news

Over the past couple of weeks, at least 10 Sitka black tail deer corpses have been found in Sitka with lots of edible meat still on the bone but the prime cuts missing. According to the Anchorage Daily News, state wildlife officials are searching for the hunters, and wanton waste charges may be coming for those involved. There were six deer found off Green Lake Road, then four deer were found near Harbor Mountain Road five days later.

The Sitka Local Foods Network encourages the responsible and sustainable harvesting of traditional subsistence foods, such as deer, but we must respect the resource and use the entire animal. Not only is leaving edible meat in the field wasteful, but the last couple of years have been down years for deer survival and the actions of these wasteful hunters may mean fewer hunting opportunities next year for hunters who need the deer to feed their families. Anyone with information about the cases is asked to call Alaska Wildlife Troopers at 747-3254 or, to remain anonymous, Wildlife Safeguard at 1-800-478-3377.

In other local foods news, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game established a record sac roe herring quota for the 2010 season, a quota of more than 18,000 tons (more than 4,000 tons higher than last year’s then-record quota). The commercial herring fleet is very happy with the higher quota, but KCAW-Raven Radio reports local subsistence gatherers worry that the record quota will harm their ability to gather herring eggs on hemlock branches, a popular subsistence and barter food for local Tlingít and Haida residents. They also worry two straight years of record quotas will hurt the resource, since herring also serves as a key forage food for salmon, halibut, whales, sea lions and other species in the region.

The Juneau Empire reported that the State of Alaska asked for an extension to reply to an inquiry on subsistence management from the federal government. The federal government took over some management of subsistence in Alaska more than a decade ago because state laws weren’t in compliance with the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA), which calls for a rural preference on subsistence in times of shortage, and the federal government may be expanding its role in subsistence management.

The Anchorage Daily News reported on Alaska pork being ready for the freezer at A.D. Farms, and that pork will be sold at the indoor farmers market at Anchorage’s Northway Mall. The story included a wrap-up of other local foods available at the market, and it had a recipe for crock-pot cod.

Laine Welch’s Alaska fishing column was about how more local fish is appearing in school lunch menus.

The Anchorage Daily News Alaska Newsreader feature reported on several Arctic travelers getting trichinosis from eating undercooked bear meat. The National Post of Canada also had a story on travelers eating undercooked bear meat, while the New York Times had an article about how trichinosis is common in bear meat that isn’t cooked properly.

The Anchorage Daily News had an article about how Alaska’s rhubarb probably first came from Russia.

Miller-McCune magazine had an article about how Alaska’s complex salmon politics can serve as a model for sustainable fisheries elsewhere in the world.

The Alaska Public Radio Network reported on a woman from Aniak, Dee Matter, who has taken freezing her food to a new level. The story also was on APRN’s Alaska News Nightly show.

The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner had a feature article about Kotzebue hunter and trapper Ross Schafer and the “Eskimo” way of life.

The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner had an article about a conflict between farmers and hunters over the future of the Delta bison herd.

The Juneau Empire ran a story about glaciers providing an important food source.

Anchorage Daily News garden columnist Jeff Lowenfels wrote about magazine gifts for gardeners.

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer ran an Associated Press article about Monsanto’s role in the business of agriculture, especially the way it squeezes out competitors in the seed industry.

Finally, the University of Alaska Fairbanks School of Natural Resources and Agricultural Sciences blog featured an article about a new study about food security challenges in Alaska.

• ‘Encounters with Richard Nelson’ radio show features episodes on venison and salmon

For the past four years, Sitka resident Richard Nelson has hosted a radio show called “Encounters,” which airs on KCAW-Raven Radio and other public radio stations around the state.

His Nov. 23 show was about venison. The show’s description — “Look over the shoulder of host Richard Nelson as he butchers a freshly killed deer. He tells stories of his learning to hunt from his Inupiaq teachers and we learn how knowing more about the food we eat can make us feel closer to the environment.”

His Aug. 10 show was about salmon. The show’s description — “Instead of heading uptown, head upstream this week with Richard Nelson as he gets into a salmon stream to experience the amazing annual life cycle event of wild Alaskan salmon.”

The rest of his shows are about life in Alaska and other spots in the arctic, and they range from bear safety to mosquitoes. Some of his episodes also deal with Nelson’s time spent in Australia.

• Hunters, do you know what’s in your ammo and how it affects your meat?

Sitka black-tailed deer (photo by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Tongass National Forest)

Sitka black-tailed deer (photo by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Tongass National Forest)

Hunting for wild fowl and game is a part of normal life in Alaska. It’s the way many of us fill our freezers, and it’s been part of the traditional subsistence lifestyle for centuries. Many of us feel the natural, wild fowl and game we hunt is healthier for our families than store-bought poultry, beef or pork.

In many cases the fowl and game we hunt is healthier, but our choice of ammo can negate that. Using non-toxic shot, in other words using steel shot instead of lead, has been a regulation in waterfowl hunting for many years. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game has an informational page about using non-toxic shot. The Institute for Wildlife Studies has informational pages about alternatives to lead and the California non-lead awareness program.

The reason lead shot has been banned from waterfowl hunting is because it gets into the food chain, including humans, and lead can cause major health problems if it gets into our blood streams. In November 2008, a study released by the North Dakota and Minnesota health departments detailed the affects of lead fragments in venison. The study was done after food pantries in North Dakota in March 2008 were told to no longer accept donated ground venison because of lead fragments.

Many older bullets were solid lead, or lead covered by a thin covering of copper. But there are many newer alternative types of ammo that don’t use lead, including bullets that are solid copper, copper with a tungsten alloy core and a polymer tip, and copper alloy with a polycarbonite tip. So if you’re one of those folks who have gone hunting for our local Sitka black-tailed deer in recent weeks, do you know what’s in your ammo?

• Baranof Elementary students dig up potatoes and other local food stories in the news

Daily Sitka Sentinel screenshot of Baranof Elementary School student picking potatoes

Daily Sitka Sentinel screenshot of Baranof Elementary School student picking potatoes

Monday’s edition of the Daily Sitka Sentinel features a photo of Baranof Elementary School first-grader Keaton Kelling, 7, holding up a couple of potatoes he dug up from the Russian Bishop’s House garden on Thursday. First-grade students from Baranof Elementary harvested crops of peas, potatoes, carrots and other vegetables they planted last spring when they were kindergarten students. Most crops did well this year. (Sentinel Photo by James Poulson)

Monday's picking potatoes photo from the Daily Sitka Sentinel

Monday's picking potatoes photo from the Daily Sitka Sentinel

There were several other local food stories in Alaska newspapers over the weekend. Here’s a quick rundown.

Click here to read a story from Sunday’s Juneau Empire that features an Alaskanized version of a recipe for “salmon maritako,” a stew made by Spanish fishermen. The article is by Ginny Mahar, a chef at Rainbow Foods who also writes the Food-G blog. Many of the recipes Ginny posts on her blog include local, Southeast Alaska ingredients.

Click here to read an article from Sunday’s Fairbanks Daily News-Miner about a University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service project at the Fairbanks Experimental Farm where they are using high-tunnel greenhouses to grow more apples and berries in northern climates. Click here to go directly to the UAF Cooperative Extension Service project page.

Click here to read Wednesday’s Anchorage Daily News gardening column by Jeff Lowenfels about now being the time to prepare plants for winter. Most of the column deals with flowers, but he does have some info about preparing tomato plants for the winter at the end of the column.

Click here to read an Associated Press story posted on the Anchorage Daily News Web site on Monday about how hoop houses (a low-cost type of greenhouse that uses plastic on a frame) are extending the growing season for urban farmers in northern climates. The version of the story on the ADN site didn’t have any photos of the hoop houses, so click here to see a version with photos.

Click here to read a transcript from National Public Radio of a story about two Walmart truckers who drive 2,600 miles one way from an Oregon warehouse to Alaska each week to deliver produce to Alaska stores. That’s a long way to transport a piece of lettuce or a carrot we can grow in Alaska, and that distance doesn’t include how far the produce had to travel to get to the Oregon warehouse before being trucked to Alaska. The story originated from the Alaska Public Radio Network, which has the story in streaming audio on its site.

Finally, click here for a humorous column from the July 2009 Field and Stream by Scott Bestul comparing the taste of Grade A Choice Holstein beef vs. wild venison when both are prepared the same way. This isn’t really a local story, but deer hunting season is coming soon in Southeast Alaska.