High Country Conservation Center helps gardeners and home cooks put a lid on it
Summit County resident Teresa Silox grew up in a rural area of southeast Colorado where canning fruits and vegetables was a way of life. As a child, she helped her mother and grandmother preserve and save “just about everything under the sun.”
Silox hadn’t single-handedly taken on the task until after she attended HC3’s food preservation workshop last year. But this year, she’ll assist High Country Conservation Center’s programs coordinator, Cassidy Callahan, during the series.
Callahan, who has a degree in agricultural ecology with a minor in education, said she’s taken her knowledge of food preservation and turned it into a way a life.
“A lot of these things are so intimidating because the commercialism has made them intimidating — and they shouldn’t be,” said Callahan.
The food preservation classes are designed to eliminate the mystery of canning and fermenting, and allow locals to make healthy, natural foods on their own. Callahan said she hopes workshop participants will turn what they learn at the workshops into a lifelong lesson in eating well.
“I hope they are able to cultivate a comfort with making their own food — that it can become something they aren’t afraid of, and that they can do on an everyday basis.” Callahan said.
The High Country Conservation Center’s fall food preservation workshop series will also teach participants how to keep homemade foods coming in year round. Just because the summer fresh food frenzy is coming to a close, that doesn’t mean local residents have to buy preservative-laden food for the remainder of the year, Callahan said.
Silox said she sees many benefits to canning and fermenting fruits and vegetables.
“You know what is going in there, and it’s going to be healthy, good stuff,” Silox said. “You’re also going to use the canning jar over and over, keeping plastics and other packaging out of the landfill — so there’s a conservation aspect to it as well.”
You also get self-satisfaction from preserving food, Silox said.
“Last year there were so many people who had never done anything like it. They realized it wasn’t that difficult and got a sense of accomplishment from it,” she said.
The food preservation workshops were originally geared toward gardeners interested in preserving their goods at the end of the season, but really didn’t exactly know how, Callahan said. The series has expanded to include a range of do-it-yourself foods.
“I’d say that about 50 percent of folks who are involved are gardeners and the other half are just folks in the community who are interested in preserving their own foods at home, eliminating sugar that can be in preserved foods,” Callahan said.“A lot of the canning processes for big industrial companies adds a lot of preservatives that folks want to stay away from, so this is a great way for people to be able to learn about it.”
The series starts with an introduction to pickles. In the next class, students will learn make their own jam, jellies, preserves and conserves. The third class is geared toward gardening to preserve their veggies in cans. This class will cover kimchi, sauerkraut and garden veggies that did so well there just wasn’t enough time to eat them all, Callahan said.
Callahan said her favorite class comes last. It will introduce the basics of raw dairy and safe home dairy processing techniques.
“Yogurt is one of the easiest things to make at home and it’s so nutritious,” Callahan said. “If you go to the store and pick up a Yoplait, you think you are doing something good for your body, but if you turn that thing around and look at it, you are actually eating a yogurt and, like, two Pop-Tarts.”
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