Folks traveled from Boston, Connecticut, New York City, Rochester and many places in-between, to meet at SUNY Cobleskill’s Culinary Arts Lab to participate in Cornell Cooperative Extension’s ‘Three Day Master Food Preservation Workshop’ taught by Cornell Cooperative Extension Home Food Preservation experts Judy Price and Katherine Humphrey.
“The class has a maximum of 21 students, because we want everyone to have a hand’s on opportunity to really learn by experience,” explained Price.
The statewide program teaches the science behind safe preservation through canning techniques, differences in canning procedures, and includes hands-on instruction for fermenting, freezing and dehydrating foods, beginning with a focus on safety and the science behind that safety.
“Why we have to process with one canner or the other, why you have to follow the canning directions, why the timing is so important. Why is it important to follow the rules?” Price explained, “I’m a firm believer that if somebody understands why they need to do something; they are much more apt to do it.”
Margaret Higgins of Hamden, CT said she felt fairly proficient with food preservation when she arrived at the workshop. “I understood that botulism was a danger, but I didn’t fully understand how the botulism toxin was prevented from forming by the high temperatures of the pressure canning process or how the water bath canning of low-acid foods could create an ideal environment for botulism to thrive. I knew low acid equaled pressure canning, and high acid equaled water bathing, but I couldn’t accurately explain the science behind it. Judy and Katherine made sure that I was completely up to date on all the current scientific standards. They also made sure I fully understood, and could explain, the principals behind each safety precaution.”
Price explained pressure canning is necessary to preserve low acid foods, such as vegetables, meats and chicken, while high acid foods may be processed through boiling water canning.
She emphasized that pressure cookers and pressure canners are not the same, and although pressure canners can be used to cook food, pressure cookers are not acceptable for the canning process.
She stressed the need to follow directions carefully to avoid the growth of deadly Clostridium botulinum spores on the food.
Instructions included using a canner that is large enough, making sure it operates properly and watching the time carefully.
“It takes a long time for it to get up to temperature and pressure and it takes a long time for it to come down from temperature and pressure,” Price explained.
Price’s colleague and traveling companion Katherine Humphrey, has been with CCE since 1969 — retiring in 1991, but staying on board for the food preservation program.
Humphrey, who was featured on the ‘Today Show’ in 1979 to talk about food preservation, teaches the freezing and dehydration portion of the class — and knows the history behind the methods. “In 1944 we needed to dehydrate food because we were having Victory Gardens,” Humphrey gave as an example.
She led the class through steps of freezing food, including blanching to preserve the color.
Instruction was given in dehydrating foods and attendees were able to sample meats and fruit that had been dehydrated.
Robin Kraut, of Queens, NY, attended the class to assist in the workshop. Kraut said she was part of a CSA and receives large quantities of produce at one time. “We get a lot of fruits and vegetables at once and this is a good way of safely storing them for the future, rather than wasting them.”
Kraut reported there is a movement by many people in the New York City area to start up more urban farms and gardens. Many of those people are interested in having classes like the Master Food Preserver Workshop and Kraut is interested in teaching some of those classes.
Bruce Cramer, of Hootenanny Hill, Wheeler, NY, was one of the attendees at the workshop. Cramer said although he and his wife Diana had grown up in homes where canning was utilized, they were concerned that some of the practices and information passed down to them was “outdated or simply inaccurate”.
Cramer started Hootenanny Hill Homestead, a learning center in the Southern Tier of New York State. “We wish to pass along our information to others as well as serve as a central point of community where others can share their experiences and expertise in a common forum. One of the core subjects we wish to present is food preservation. So what better way to learn the latest, safest and proven techniques than through this workshop? Not only did the workshop teach us these techniques, but will also certify us to teach others in a proper manner.” Cramer says that even though he had experience with canning prior to the workshop, “I still learned a wealth of information and met some great people along the way.”
Cramer said he was greatly satisfied with the workshop in all aspects and would highly recommend it.
“Culinary is now with agriculture,” commented SUNY Cobleskill Professor and Department Chair, Chef Joanne Cloughly. “We’re under the school of Ag; so it’s a good way to just keep building that connection between the two — and the Farm to Table.”
Cloughly said the Farm to Table class brings in fresh produce out of the Schoharie Valley. “We also have Farm to Table Restaurant Management.” A campus restaurant uses campus-grown products, including hormone-free beef raised on campus, by students. “It’s processed by our students, cooked and served by our students- without ever leaving the campus,” said Cloughly. “It’s a perfect way to bring everything full circle.”
“Cornell and SUNY Cobleskill partnered with this Master Food Preserver training,” stated SUNY Cobleskill Program Coordinator Linda Serdy, who also works for the Office of Professional and Continuing Education (P.A.C.E.) at SUNY Cobleskill. “We look for ways to showcase all of the great things that we have here on campus- and all of the great programs.”
“This is an ideal situation,” Price said of the SUNY Cobleskill Culinary Arts Lab. “We were here last year and loved it! It’s wonderful!”
For more information about Master Food Preservation workshops, contact Judy Price at email@example.com .