On Tuesday, I joyfully (and literally) skipped out of my house and headed to the first of my Can It Academy Food Preservation and Cottage Arts Certificate Program, currently held at Le Cordon Bleu in Pasadena. Can It Academy is sponsored by Food Forward and 100% of its net proceeds goes toward Food Forward’s anti-hunger work in and around Los Angeles.
Here in sunny LA, almost every street has some sort of fruit tree sprouting up. And back in the day, most homes had fruit trees and/or victory gardens and would do canning as a matter of course. Food Forward is making a huge effort to not only connect the abundance of food to those in need, but to teach others what to do with this abundance for their own families as well.
This 12-class series is the third time Food Forward has done the Can It Academy and, as we walked in, we were handed aprons, a notebook with our syllabus, recipes, etc., and The Complete Book of Home Preserving. We also had homework, reading up on food safety, before our first class. Our amazing instructor, Chef Ernest Miller, is an incredible wealth of information in food preserving history and technique and started us out by sharing a part of that history with us. (For example did you know Napoleon Bonaparte offered a reward in 1795 for whomever could develope a safe food preservation method for his army?)
I thought I’d share my experiences with you as I go through the classes. They will range in all levels and will be covering everything from jams and jellies, to pressure cooking, to fermentation, to beer making and more! I’m so excited!!! I’ll try to give you a good takeaway from each class, too.
Class 1: As I mentioned, we talked about canning in general, food safety, history, tools etc. – then it was on to preserving. And last nights class was all about apples.
There was already a huge batch of applesauce on the stove when we got there, so it had time to cook a bit in order for us to can it. While that was simmering, we started off with classic fruit slices in syrup. You could do this with just about any fruit.
You can see from the photos above that different students cut their apples in different ways and I really don’t think it mattered. Chef Miller went over the canning techniques: showing us how to remove air bubbles, measure the head space, and wipe down the jars. We then had the chance to can the applesauce and get our jars boiling for 20 minutes.
While they were boiling away, Chef took the time to go over canning supplies. He showed us how to look for flaws in jars so we wouldn’t use them. I must admit, besides the obvious chip, I never really thought of that before.
We also kept our apple peels and cores. Instead of throwing them out, Chef Miller’s assistants put them in pots, added water to cover, and simmered the apple remnants for 20 minutes. They then mashed it through a Chinoise (strainer) and collected the juice which is then rendered down to create a natural pectin! Awesome! I believe we will be using that next week. I love that nothing goes to waste.
Our finished apple slices (recipe below):
Our finished applesauce:
These can be stored for up to a year.
I learned a lot last night (Napoleon responsible for our canning industry???) but here are three takeaways from me:
- I knew about only using a lid once, but Chef also mentioned he stores the rings in a container full of dry rice to absorb excess moisture!
- When boiling canned preserves, make sure the jars are sitting on a Canning Rack
that elevates them 1/4″ for water flow and to prevent possible cracking of glass.
- Chef Miller’s five point check list:
- Cool (pretty self-explanatory)
- Clean: after the jars cool, remove the ring and wipe down the outside of the jars.
- Label: you will forget what is in the jar. You think you’ll remember, but you won’t. So label all lids with the date and what’s inside. Remember, the lids are meant for single use only.
- Store: Preserves are sensitive to light, so store in a cool, dark place without the ring – nowhere that reaches above 90 degrees.
- Journal: Keep track of everything! This way you know what you’ve done, what mistakes and successes you’ve had, how you altered a recipe, etc…
I can’t wait for my next class! I hope you check back each week for a few takeaways of your own.
To find out more about the amazing Food Forward, you can read an article I wrote about harvesting fruit with them and also visit them online to learn more and to find a pick in your neighborhood. Volunteering at it’s best!