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Extension Report: Home canners, food safety is just a class or two away

Barbeques and potlucks of summer call to mind a few food-related notions for me.

They remind me of the importance of food safety—keeping hot foods hot, cold foods cold, and the importance of hand hygiene. My 20-pound box of asparagus, purchased at the Gorge Grown Food Network Thursday Farmer’s Market, got me into the pickling mood and was the first batch of anything I’ve put up this year.

The OSU Extension Food Preservation Facebook page had images of the 1940s war effort messages encouraging families to garden and preserve their own food as a way to address rationing and make sure enough food was going overseas to the boys at war. Here are a few of those images:

In the first half of the 1900s, almost every household had expert canners and canning equipment. If you didn’t, chances are good you wouldn’t have enough to eat over the winter or you’d have to rely on the grocery store stocking what you needed. With the introduction of the microwave, fast food, and other food technology—canning seemed to be on its way out. While canning and food preserving are a lost art in many families, the resurgence of home gardening and eat local movements have recreated an interest in preserving extra produce.

The Extension Service has participated in food preservation for most of its 100-plus year history. In keeping with this strong tradition, we are offering 22 different food preservation classes this year as well as pressure cooking (and canning) and classes on other culinary arts like making your own flavored vinegars and extracts, homemade soft cheeses, and uses for herbs, spices, and other exotic seasonings. If your canning equipment or skills date back to the early 1900’s…you’d be wise to check out our classes to update your skills, learn new methods, and be sure you are using the latest recipes with modern processing times.

If you plan to use your pressure canner this year, please be sure to come visit it us at the Extension Office to get your dial gauge tested to ensure you are processing at the proper weight. It’s a free service that can save you lost labor and the grief of throwing out improperly processed food. Getting your gauge checked annually is a critical safety measure that can also help prevent food borne illness. According to the Centers for Disease Control, roughly 1 in 6 people will get a food borne illness each year and food borne illnesses result in over 3,000 deaths annually. Learning to process, prepare, and preserve food safely will reduce your risk of food borne illness.

To schedule a time to test your gauge, call 541-296-5494 for The Dalles or 541-386-3343 ext. 258 for Hood River. To register for a food preservation class (pre-registration is required), call or email Lauren Kraemer: Lauren.Kraemer@oregonstate.edu or 541-386-3343 ext. 258.

If you have a burning food preservation or safety question this summer, try our hotline at 1-800-354-7319 from July 14 to Oct. 17, Monday – Friday (except holidays), 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Here is another Extension link with some more great resources, including food preservation recipes, methods, and links to classes and gauge testing in counties around the state:

http://extension.oregonstate.edu/fch/food-preservation

Oregon State University Extension offers food preservation classes throughout the year, including ones on food drying, July 9, and jams and jellies, July 23, both at the Hood River Extension office.

Classes are from 6-9 p.m., and cost $10 each.

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