Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Crazy for Preserves: MFP for Me

My first batch of loquat butter, April 16, 2011.
I'm five weeks into a 12 week class to become a Master Food Preserver and in spite of the somewhat odd title, I'm pretty excited about what that means.  For those of you unfamiliar with the MFP program, it's a class run by the University of California Coorperative Extension office.  (Yes-- that old government program does still exist-- and even thrives-- in Los Angeles County.)  The purpose of the MFP program is to train to teach LA County residents the basics of home food preservation so they can eventually teach others how to safely preserve their own food at home.

I'm honored to be a member of the third class of MFP students since the program restarted in 2011.  With any luck, I'll be a successful graduate of the program by June and I'll be able to help disseminate information about canning and other food preservation methods across Los Angeles County.  (Just in time for the LA County Fair.)

Before starting the program, I was unaware the the MFP program is research-based, meaning that all the information we give to the public needs to be rooted in academic and scientific research.  Although I don't always agree with the research-based government standards (mostly because I do things in the comfort of my own home that aren't considered "safe" by the US government), I'm comforted to have scientific information to guide my training.  I certainly don't consider myself a "Master" of preserving, but I do like the idea of using information gathered by real experts in the field to help others learn about food preservation.  After all, I don't want them to take MY word for it.  Thanks to this program, we have a large knowledge base created by people who have devoted their entire careers to this stuff and we should all have access to it.

For those of you interested in food preservation, here are a few links for resources I've learned about in my class so far.  The National Center for Home Food Preservation provides easy to understand information about basic food preservation methods.  They also sell one of the textbooks we use in our class-- So Easy to Preserve.  I've used this book to make marmalade and as a resource for my loquat butter recipe, which was pieced together from a number of different sources.  The section on hot water bath canning is especially good.

Please write to me if you preserve food at home.  I'd love to hear about your favorite recipes and greatest disasters.  I will be reporting on my own experiments from time to time, hopefully with more successes than failures, but you never know.  The best thing my FMP training has taught me so far is not be be afraid of failure.  According to my wonderful teacher Chef Ernest Miller, it's unlikely that my failures will poison anyone.  With this comforting bit of information, I will happily forge ahead.

Happy preserving!