Traditional food preservation techniques, like making jam and pickles, are experiencing a renaissance leading to an explosion of recipes on the internet and filling local home kitchens with mason jars, long tongs, and large pots filled with boiling water.
Unfortunately, not all recipes you find through a Google search or scrolling through Pinterest are safe. The internet is filled with dangerous methods like canning food in your dishwasher. And, the canning methods you learned from Grandma may lead to food-borne illnesses because acidity in food has shifted over the years.
The food preservers program at the Washington State University Clark County Extension in Vancouver has helped people put up food safely for 30 years. Volunteers teach a series of food preservation classes in the summer and fall and also answer a hotline. The program’s website lists resources and safe recipes. The extension’s Master Food Preservers Program is for those interested in learning more and volunteering to teach others.
Sandra G. Brown ran the food preservers program in several different counties in Washington over her 38-year career. When she started, every county in the state had a program. Currently, food preservation programs exist in only two parts of the state, including the local program that serves Clark and Cowlitz counties.
Last season, 20 to 25 students registered for the entire eight weeks of the extension’s “You Can” food preservation class series. In the past, eight to 10 students signed up. The students range in age from recent retirees to people in their 30s looking for a nutritious and thrifty way to feed their families local produce year-round.