manning the food safety and preservation hotline

Today was Day 2 of my hotline training for the statewide Family Food Education and Master Food Preserver Program.  I really like extemporaneously puzzling through odd problems, so I’m enjoying it greatly.  Today we had questions on a range of quality and safety issues, even though I would have bet they would be all about strawberry jam.  But I was wrong.  Some of the questions were:

  • how long can I keep pie crust dough in the refrigerator?
  • can I eat these home-canned crushed tomatoes from 2001 if they are still sealed and bright red?
  • why did my apricot preserves turn mushy last year, when Grandma’s were always bright and firm?
  • can I freeze strawberries with Splenda?
  • when should I schedule my trip back East so I can be sure to pick some ripe local blackberries and make jam for presents?
  • What varieties of plums are best for preserving?
  • Can I eat storebought cans of kidney beans and enchilada sauce that I bought in 2005?

And then, finally, yay…

  • I made strawberry jam, and none of the jars sealed.  (Husband tightened down the rings too tight, caveat uxor!)

I also got to ask my own questions about preserving with Xylitol, arrowroot, Honeoyes, checking out a dehydrator, and whether or not apricots grow in the valley (they do not), and my fellow volunteer (who is also a Master Gardener volunteer) got to ask about how to trap a resistant skunk under her chicken coop and how to get a wind reader.  She helped answer a question about planting lettuce and mesclun mix between tomatoes.  One program member, wearing what he called his “shit shirt” with images of different animal scat came in and received a purple kitted cap with earflaps, and we talked about making beer that didn’t explode and wine out of coffee.  Then the farmer from whom I bought last weekend’s Honeoyes came in with more yummy samples for everyone, and I absconded with three pints but without my coffee mug, which had done me no good anyway by dumping all my coffee on the desk and my lap at one point during the festivities.

In short, a good time was had by all.

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