Eat Local Year-Round When You Know How to Preserve

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Tompkins Weekly 06/10/2013

By Carole Fisher

The New York growing season is here, so dig out the gardening tools and canning supplies!  If you don’t have a garden, you can join a CSA (Community-Supported Agriculture), shop at your local farmer’s market, or learn gardening skills at a Cornell Cooperative Extension workshop.

Likewise, if you haven’t yet learned how to preserve local garden-fresh produce, don’t worry, Cooperative Extension has fun hands-on classes where you can learn to make your own jam, can fruits and vegetables, or learn to freeze and dehydrate foods.  Sign up with a friend or make new friends while blanching, stirring, crushing, filling, measuring, and tasting. Most classes are held in the evening in our air-conditioned teaching kitchen at 615 Willow Ave, Ithaca.

Do you wait for fresh fruit all year, and then find you have an over-abundance ripening all at the same time?  When you preserve fruit by freezing, canning, or drying, you can enjoy them throughout the whole year.  Canned peaches are a welcome mid-winter treat and dried apples and pears make a great on-the-go snack. Jams and jellies are another great way to preserve fruits when they’re plentiful. Call to register for a workshop where you’ll learn to make homemade jam (Thursday, June 20th at 6 pm), or learn the best ways to freeze and dry foods (Wednesday, July 31st at 6:30 pm) at Cooperative Extension.

For years now, I’ve been freezing enough local organic strawberries each June to enjoy in fruit smoothies year-round. To be able to use small amounts of berries at a time, I wash whole berries, pat dry, then place on cookie sheets in the freezer for a few hours. When frozen, I pack individually-frozen berries in plastic freezer bags, pressing out as much air as possible from the bags. That way, I can take out as many as I need each time instead of having to use the whole container.

If your freezer doesn’t hold as much as you’d like, learning to can food safely means that you can store your jars in a cool, dry place without using any electricity or freezer space.  Beginning canners have several opportunities to learn safe home canning methods this year. CCE-Tompkins will hold its popular Learn to Can Series on two Tuesdays, July 9th and 16th from 6 to 8:30 pm. The series will cover both boiling water bath canning and pressure canning.

If you’ve always been afraid of using a pressure canner (necessary for canning vegetables and meats), sign up for Pressure Canning 101, to be held on Thursday, July 25th from 6 to 9 pm. You’ll learn to pressure can with confidence. For a complete list of CCE food preservation offerings this season, check our website, To sign up, call CCE at 272-2292. At $15 per class, you’ll get more than your money’s worth of fun and new skills!

Carole Fisher is an Extension Educator and Master Food Preserver at CCE-Tompkins.

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