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Posts Tagged: Master Food Preserver

It’s electric?! Breaking down electric pressure cookers

You may have heard the buzz about electric pressure cookers. Even if you don't follow kitchen trends, this piece of equipment may take some of the "pressure off" of preparing meals. From personal experience, I can say that they're also quite fun!

Dry beans cook up quickly into a healthful, inexpensive meals in electric pressure cookers. (Photo: Pixabay)

Pressure cooking vs. pressure canning

Pressure cooking uses trapped steam to create a pressurized environment for cooking food. This combined with heat can greatly decrease cooking times for many items. Foods like dried beans, meat roasts and rice can have a significantly shorter cooking time when they are pressure cooked. Some people may recognize the term pressure canning which uses pressure to preserve foods. While they are similar in the process, only equipment specifically labeled for pressure canning can be used safely for food preservation.

Why so popular?

Pressure cookers existed first as a stove top version that required manual monitoring of pressure. Electric pressure cookers arose to help streamline and simplify the process. They have digital settings and controls so are generally easy to use. The quick cooking time and ability to electronically set time and temperature also increase their consumer appeal. In addition, the cooker is a closed system which helps retain moisture, nutrients and flavor. Unfortunately, there is not a lot of scientific research on nutrient retention in pressure cooking. One study did find that pressure cooking retained more vitamin C in broccoli than compared to boiling or steaming.

Additionally, electric pressure cookers are more energy efficient than stove top or oven cooking. They are insulated which prevents energy from being lost in the cooking process.

Becky Hutchings, a family and consumer sciences educator for University of Idaho Extension, currently offers a very popular introduction to electric pressure cookers class in her community. She feels electric pressure cookers can help people save money and time with cooking. Hutchings has said, “I think with pressure cookers, people are scared that it's going to blow up. Once they use their electric pressure cooker they will realize how easy and fast it is. They wonder how they ever lived without it.”

Safety concerns

As with any piece of equipment, there are safety concerns. Some models are considered “multi cookers” and may have a setting for slow cooking. This may be misleading as the slow cooker setting will not pressure cook. You cannot leave food in the cooker to be pressure cooked later because it will be in unsafe temperatures and will increase the risk for foodborne illness. For example, if you are planning to cook a pork roast in the electric pressure cooker, you cannot prepare it in the morning and leave it out on the counter until the evening. You will have to keep the food refrigerated until it is ready to be cooked.

Additionally, standard food safety practices should still be followed. Even if a roast looks done, check that temperature! Electric pressure cookers can be easily reset to cook for additional time if needed.

A third and significant concern is canning with electric pressure cookers. UC Cooperative Extension takes education on food preservation very seriously. We only support research-based and tested recipes for preservation. Many brands of electric pressure cookers provide recipes for canning. However, NONE of the brands have been able to supply their research or information supporting these recipes

The National Center for Home Food Preservation has a great article explaining why this is a concern. In short, electric pressure cookers have not been studied to ensure the necessary requirements for safe canning. Therefore, UC Cooperative Extension does NOT support or encourage canning in electric pressure cookers.

Hutchings explains it quite simply as “You are putting your life at risk."

(Pressure canning is a whole other wonderful field of cooking and preservation. We have many resources and articles available to learn more about it.)

A typical electric pressure cooker. (Photo: Max Pixel)

Where to go from here:

While some models may be more “instantlyrecognizable than others, there are many brands available for purchase.  Just because a brand has popularity may not mean it is right for you. There are many online resources providing reviews and recipes for all the main brands of electric pressure cookers available. Prices of models range from $50 to $100. They are a more expensive piece of equipment, but savings could be seen in reduced cooking time and energy efficiency. In addition, there is a lot of money saved when cooking at home when compared to ordering delivery or eating at restaurants. An electric pressure cooker may be tool you need to making cooking at home easy and accessible.

If you are a new electric pressure cooker owner looking for support, Hutchings has a Facebook support group: Cooking Under Pressure - An Electric Pressure Cooking Community. She shares recipes, resources and occasionally hosts Facebook Live lessons.

Resources:

Posted on Wednesday, October 17, 2018 at 11:16 AM
Focus Area Tags: Food Health

Keep spoilage away with UC Master Food Preserver guidelines

Mark lids once they are used to easily keep them separate from new lids. (Photo: UC Master Food Preserver Program)
What's the best aspect of food preservation in the winter? Safely enjoying the fruits (veggies and meats) of your labor! How do you ensure that time is spent savoring the sight, smell, and taste of a home preserved product, rather than turning up your nose at unsightly mold speckled contents?  

First, stay organized.

From the very beginning, implement a canning system. For example, jars, lids, and rings are used in the canning process, but not all can be re-used. Visibly mark used lids to denote they are out of commission for the next round of canning. This will prevent unnecessary seal failures.

Second, rotate the pantry.

To ensure the nutritive value of the food you have preserved, use products within a year of being canned. A quick way to track this is by making labels with tape and a marker or blank stickers; this is a simple approach you can take to enjoy home-canned products at their best quality. Keep inventory of what products were used, liked and disliked. Use this information to plan for next season's canning escapades.

An example of hand-labeled products with date and product-type. (Photo: Missy Gable)

Pro tip: Store jars with rings removed to allow for easier detection of seal failure. When removing the ring, wash, rinse, and dry to combat mold growth and corrosion.

Jars are cleaned, dried and rings removed prior to storage. (Photo: UC Master Food Preserver Program)

Finally, avoid spoilage.

Prevention is key because once spoilage has contaminated a product, it cannot be salvaged. Using the proper amount of headspace when canning allows for a good seal in a low oxygen environment. If too much headspace is left, there may be excess oxygen that was not driven from the jar during processing. If the headspace is too little, the product may siphon out of the jar, get deposited on the rim, and prevent a clean seal.

Given a few key elements, mold can develop. Discard canned products with any sign of mold. (Photo: UC Master Food Preserver Program)
If there is mold growth in your jar, don't eat any of the contents. It might be tempting to scrape away the mold and eat the rest. However, mold growth in foods can actually alter the pH of the product. Interestingly, a jar that contained high acid products could become a low-acid food due to mold growth and be at risk for botulism. Some mycotoxins (toxins produced by molds) can cause illness or are carcinogenic. When in doubt, throw it out.

While molds can come in many different colors, not every type of discoloration found in a home-canned food is indicative of spoilage organisms. Sometimes, the undersides of the metal lid discolors. No need to panic if the product was properly processed and sealed. According to the University of Georgia, So Easy to Preserve, “natural compounds in some foods, particularly acids, corrode metal and make a dark deposit on the underside of jar lids.”

If you'd like to learn more about ways to enjoy home-canned goods and avoid spoilage, the UC Master Food Preserver Program has volunteers that are a wealth of information. Find a program near you to attend public classes on home food preservation or go through a training program.

Posted on Tuesday, January 30, 2018 at 2:53 PM
  • Author: Katelyn Ogburn
Focus Area Tags: Food

Building blocks of health

The scenario: Tomorrow is farmers market day, but not just any market on any day. This market happens once a month as part of a collaboration between the Food Bank Coalition of San Luis Obispo County and Lopez High School. The high school, a continuation school in the south part of San Luis Obispo County, has a program called Hands-On Parenting Education, or HOPE, which helps expecting and parenting teenagers to graduate.

It's the day prior to market day and HOPE students have a guest lecturer today: Dayna Ravalin, UCCE Master Food Preserver coordinator of San Luis Obispo/Santa Barbara counties. She's demonstrating how to make and store baby food safely. The timing is impeccable as students can (and do, as a result of the lesson) load up on fresh ingredients the very next day.

Dayna takes the students through the Core Four food safety tips while demonstrating how to convert fresh market produce into baby food blocks.

Image: Fightbac.org
  1. Clean - Wash hands with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds before and after handling food. Wash cutting boards, utensils, and counter tops with hot soapy water after preparing each food item and before you go on to the next food.
  2. Separate - Don't cross contaminate. Keep raw meat and poultry apart from foods that won't be cooked.
  3. Cook - Cook to safe temperature.
  4. Chill - Chill leftovers and takeout foods within 2 hours. Keep fridge at 40°F or below.

Lastly, students are shown how to easily preserve that baby food to last through the month or longer, until the next Lopez High School/Food Bank Coalition market day. Ravalin demonstrates the use of an ice-cube tray to aide in freezing baby-sized portions before providing each student with their own tray to take home, empowering them with building blocks for healthy eating.

The students leave, eager to take advantage of their resources the next day, and with two basic recipes using seasonal produce to get them started.

Homemade Baby Food Recipes

Carrots/potatoes

-      1 pound of carrots
-      1 cup water

Trim and peel carrots, cut into 1-inch segments. Put in a medium saucepan with the water. Bring to boil, reduce to a simmer, cover the pot and cook for 25 minutes (this will take longer if your carrots are thicker). Let cool in cooking liquid. Purée in a food processor, blender or food mill, cover and freeze in small portions.
Add in ideas: pinch of cumin, coriander, cinnamon or mashed potatoes.

Apples/pears

-      2 sweet eating apples or pears
-      4 to 5 tbsp. water or pure apple juice

Peel, halve, core and chop the apples. Put into a medium saucepan with the water or apple juice. Cover and cook over low heat for 6 to 8 minutes until really tender. Let cool in cooking liquid. Puree in a food processor, blender or food mill, cover and freeze in small portions.
Add in ideas: pinch of cinnamon, pureed carrots, ginger

Cubes of baby food made from applesauce, potato puree, spinach puree, carrot puree, and pear puree. (Photo: Dayna Ravalin)

“You can even freeze the different purees in layers so it is triple colored when you empty the trays,” Ravalin said.

Through this 1.5 hour lesson, the expecting and new parents learned how easy it can be to extend the life of food, taking advantage of the school's monthly market to provide for their families. This partnership is one example of how UC Master Food Preserver Program volunteers donate more than 20,000 hours of their time annually educating families throughout California on safe food preservation.

Posted on Monday, March 27, 2017 at 7:23 AM
  • Author: Katelyn Ogburn

The well-rounded pumpkin: A versatile vegetable

UC Master Food Preservers volunteers can instruct on safe preservation techniques for pumpkin flesh. (Photo: Pixabay)
From seed to table or as seeds on the table, there are many edible forms of this staple fall decoration. While some ease their teeth into the lightly cooked tender green shoots of the plant, the majority of people know the pumpkin in its spherical orange form, with a few teeth missing. But what is the life of a pumpkin outside of an embellishment to autumn and Halloween décor?

In addition to those grown for use as jack-o-lanterns, varieties such as Sugar Pie and Fairytale work well in the kitchen. 

The seeds                                                                                  

Seeds become crunchy snacks when dried and roasted. For both techniques, thoroughly remove the stringy bits of flesh that cling to the outer layer of the seed. Dry at 115⁰-120⁰F for 1 to 2 hours in a home dehydrator or in a warm oven for 3 to 4 hours; alternatively, seeds can be dried in the sun. Rotate seeds regularly to promote even drying and avoid scorching. Dried seeds can then be roasted in a 250⁰F oven with a light spritz of oil and salt for 10 to 15 minutes.

The flesh

Wash the exterior of the pumpkin and remove the seeds and accompanying fibrous strands. The flesh can be skinned and cubed into 1-inch pieces as a starting point. Some home preservation options include:

  • Pressure canning – in CUBES only. Do not mash or puree. Put that food processor away; keep botulism at bay.

Note that contents can be mashed when removing the jar from the pantry for use in such foods as pumpkin butter, ice cream, and pie all year round.

  • Drying –
    • in 1/8-inch thick pieces for a chewy snack.
    • make a leather: cook and puree flesh with honey, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves. This is an appropriate and safe use of that food processor.

  • Freeze – cook, mash, cool and freeze for future use.
The seeds can be dried, roasted, or even saved to plant next year. (Photo: Unsplash)

Want to learn more about the details of these processes? Take a UC Master Food Preserver class or ask a UC Master Food Preserver volunteer. Many programs are accepting applicants for upcoming trainings.  The UC Master Food Preserver Program is open to individuals looking to increase community knowledge in home food preservation methods. Applicants for the UC Master Food Preserver Program must be willing to share knowledge and skills learned from the certification training through local community outreach. Prior food preservation knowledge is not a requirement; willingness to teach others is.

Come full circle by saving seeds for next year's garden. Keep seeds and preserved pumpkin products in a cool, dry place until ready to use. Plant seeds in June for an October harvest and go easy on the water – pumpkins make the list of water wise vegetables, according to the UC Master Gardener Program of Marin County. The Pumpkin Production in California publication notes, “Excessive irrigation aggravates root and stem rot problems and increases humidity in the lower canopy, which contributes to foliage and fruit disease.”

If time cannot be carved out for pumpkin preserving this year, the UC Davis Arboretum offers a Carve ‘n Compost workshop later this month. With all these options, be sure to enjoy this October's harvest in one of its many forms.

This story en español. 

Pumpkins come in many shapes, sizes, and colors and are used to decorate or consume. (Photo: Katelyn Ogburn)
Posted on Tuesday, October 11, 2016 at 8:23 PM
  • Author: Katelyn Ogburn

Looking back at your leftovers

A Thanksgiving meal can leave lots of leftovers. Foodsaftey.gov recommends a labeling system for food storage.
It's that time of year again when refrigerator space at most homes is like prime real estate. Thanksgiving leftovers abound and December treats await creation.

In order to keep the holidays from being spoiled, here are a few tips and tools to have at your disposal. First, check out the food storage chart to know the storage times for your food goodies. For example, cooked poultry has a shelf life of 3 to 4 days in the refrigerator, but can be extended to 2 to 6 months in the freezer. When reheating leftovers in the microwave, remember to bring them to a temperature of 165 degrees F.

If you struggle to remember how old your leftovers are, you are not alone. While lifespan varies, generally there is a four-day guideline. You can use an easy labeling system or even search for food storage phone apps to aid your memory. Iowa State University Extension mentions the 4 Day Throw away app as one possibility.

If both refrigerator and freezer space is now completely taken, but you still want to make some holiday gifts, consider dehydrating, pickling, and canning. Some fall/holiday ideas include:

  1. Dehydrated fruits – colorful, healthy and space saving
  2. Pie filling – a perfect gift for busy friends or family
  3. Fall Garden Relish (recipe below from So Easy to Preserve, sixth edition)
  4. Lemon curd – sweet, sour, rich, and buttery all at once. Yum!

 

Fall Garden Relish
Recipe from the National Center for Home Food Preservation
(Yields about four pint jars.)

1 quart chopped cabbage (about 1 small head)
3 cups chopped cauliflower (about 1 medium head)
2 cups chopped green tomatoes (about 4 medium)
2 cups chopped onions
2 cups chopped sweet green peppers (about 4 medium)
1 cup chopped sweet red peppers (about 2 medium)
3 ¾ cups vinegar (5%)
3 tablespoons canning salt
2 ¾ cups sugar
3 teaspoons celery seed
3 teaspoons dry mustard
1 ½ teaspoon turmeric

Combine chopped vegetables; sprinkle with the 3 tablespoons salt. Let stand 4 to 6 hours in a cool place. Drain well. Combine vinegar, sugar and spices; simmer 10 minutes. Add vegetables; simmer 10 minutes. Bring to a boil.

Pack boiling hot relish into hot jars, leaving 1/2-inch headspace. Remove air bubbles. Wipe jar rims. Adjust lids. Process 10 minutes in a boiling water bath.


If you've never preserved before, consider attending public classes held by UC Master Food Preserver Programs around the state. Find your program and get started!

Posted on Tuesday, December 1, 2015 at 7:09 AM
  • Author: Katelyn Ogburn
Tags: holidays (1), master Food Preserver (8), MFP (1)

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