Creative Commons image of canned pickle relish.

Creative Commons image of canned pickle relish.

Food preservation is an important skill in rural Alaska, especially. A series of free workshops is planned for Prince of Wales Island residents Saturday through May 7, along with an opportunity to test pressure canner gauges.

Sarah Lewis is a University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service agent based in Juneau. She’ll be leading the workshops, and said she talked to community members ahead of time to learn what they were interested in.

“So, a couple of times, I’m going to be teaching general canning skills, either pressure canning or water-bath canning: How to do that safely, what equipment to have, things like that,” she said. “Then a couple other classes I’m going to be teaching are called Cottage Food and Beyond.”

Lewis explained that cottage foods are prepared at home, then are sold directly to the consumer. For example: homemade jam sold at a farmers market, or pickled kelp sold to cruise ship visitors.

Lewis said some people on POW learned about Department of Environmental Conservation regulations for cottage foods during a previous workshop, and wanted to take it to another level, “which is where they want to be able to sell to schools or restaurants or grocery stores, for example.

“That’s where the ‘Beyond’ part comes in. So, I’m bringing a lot of DEC’s information and information developed by the cooperative extension up in Fairbanks to help people understand the steps involved for the permitting process.”

Lewis also will lead a workshop on what to do if your freezer fails. She said the biggest tip is to be prepared and have a plan. You could try transferring food to a neighbor’s freezer, or start canning.

“You can do that relatively simply, but you do need to be prepared and you do need to have the knowledge,” she said. “So, learning how to pressure can, learning how to water-bath can, is probably one of the easiest things you can do that you can use for all kinds of areas of your life, not just when your freezer fails.”

There is one important task Lewis said needs to be done when pressure canning, and that’s testing the pressure gauge.

“It’s a good idea to do it annually, so that you know you are canning your fish and your meat and your vegetables, that you’re canning them to the proper pressure, to make sure they have the correct temperature, so you are killing whatever bacteria might be in that food and making it safe to be shelf-stable,” she said.

In addition to the Prince of Wales Island workshops, Lewis will offer pressure gauge testing for Ketchikan residents Friday from 1-3 p.m. at the Ketchikan Public Library.

In Craig on May 2, Lewis will teach pressure canning and boiling water-bath canning from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Craig High School; test gauges from 4:30 to 6 p.m. at the Craig Public Library; and lead a workshop at 6 p.m. in the library on how to minimize food loss when your freezer fails.

In Thorne Bay on May 4, Lewis will teach Pickling and Fermenting Basics at 1:30 p.m.; Canning 101 at 2:30 p.m.; and What to Do if Your Freezer Fails at 3:30 p.m., all at the Thorne Bay Library.

In Klawock on May 5, Lewis will offer Pickling and Fermenting at 5:30 p.m. at Klawock School.

In Hydaburg on May 7, Lewis will teach Cottage Foods and Beyond, developing a small foods business. Time and location to be announced.

Classes and gauge testing will also be offered in Kasaan and Hollis. Times and locations TBA.

Class size is limited, so registration is recommended. To register, contact Susie Wilkie at 907-523-3280, ext. 0 or or Sarah Lewis at 907-321-3396.