21 April 2011

Preserving the Harvest

Master Preserver Cara Haskey and her enviable edibles

Spring is here. I know it, as my rhubarb told me so. The first stalks sprouting up from my garden shouting ”sunny days are ahead” sounded the alarm that it is time for me to begin planning my food preservation strategies for the year ahead.

So I get to work, making my first batch of jam: Rhubarb-Ginger. This small batch of low-sugar jam will never see a canning jar. I’ve been waiting months to enjoy it and it will be consumed immediately, enjoyed warm on some fresh crusty bread or homemade scones, while I map out my plan for the bountiful season ahead.

I’ll take stock of what I have left from previous efforts and reflect on the meals my family enjoyed most over the past year. I’ll peruse cookbooks borrowed from the local library and scour blogs in search of new recipes I might like to try in the year ahead. I’ll organize my jars and inventory what I need for the canning season ahead.

I can and preserve food all year long, but the bulk of my work lies between the months of June and October.  Luscious Oregon berries will fill my freezer and take their rightful place on the pantry shelves in the form of jams and syrups. Beans, corn, carrots and more will be stashed in tangy brine. Pastured chickens and grass-fed meats will fill the bottom baskets in my freezer for safe keeping until I’m ready to make stock, soups or hearty family meals. Finally, hundreds of pounds of tomatoes will be condensed and jarred for a yearlong supply of sauces, soup bases, salsas and savory spreads.

While filling a pantry with a year’s worth of home-canned goods and stocking your freezer with the best the market has to offer may seem like a daunting task, I assure you that any modern homemaker is capable of achieving this task. With the right strategies and careful planning followed by a few days of hard work you can supply your family with homemade convenience foods that showcase local produce and reduce your dependence on industrial foods. I’ve done it, even while working a 40-60 hour/week job outside the home. Let me show you how!

I’m passionate about sharing my knowledge of the domestic arts and helping others identify appropriate strategies for incorporating them into our modern lifestyles. Whether your ambitions are grand-scale or you’d just like to learn a bit more about the time-honored tradition of home canning, I invite you to join me in the upcoming “Preserving the Market” series of classes.  We’ll be kicking the season off on May 12 with an introductory canning class. I’ll cover all the basics of water bath and pressure canning and share my favorite tips and strategies for stocking the pantry. We’ll also sample a few of my favorite dishes made with the home-canned goods we’ll be producing during the remainder of the series’ classes.

Instructor Cara Haskey is a veteran PFM instructor and volunteer. In addition to teaching the annual “Preserving the Market” series of classes, she has tested, developed and demonstrated recipes for Taste the Place, answered shoppers’ questions about seasonal produce at the Recipe Station and assisted with special events. Cara has earned her certification as a Master Preserver and Food Safety Advisor from Washington State University Extension. She teaches classes in the Portland and Seattle areas. For more information, recipes and tips visit Cara’s site: www.modernpreserves.com.