Emma Forsberg-Flickr Creative Commons

(Emma Forsberg-Flickr Creative Commons)

Winter is around the corner and locals scrambling to stockpile firewood and put away locally harvested foods will be happy to hear that help is on the way. For one of those tasks, anyway. An expert on food preservation will be in Haines and Skagway in the coming weeks to host a series of workshops on canning and preserving meat, berries, vegetables and more.


With moose hunting season in full swing and freezers stocked with summer salmon catches and buckets of berries, it’s time to think about how these local foods will last until spring. After all, what’s worse than a freezer-burnt fillet in May?

Sarah Lewis of the University of Alaska Fairbanks will teach four, free hands-on workshops this Friday through Sunday at the Haines Senior Center. She says that people shy away from canning because they think it’s too time consuming.

“A lot of people think of food preservation as something you do if you have lots of time, whereas what I’m trying to teach people is that yes, you will take a bit of time to do the pressure canning or the water-bath canning, the preservation method, you might need to take some time to do that, but it will actually save you a lot of time later,” Lewis says.

Having a can of fish, or a whole meal of soup or garden veggies ready to go can be a lifesaver for busy families, she says.

Lewis, who works for the Cooperative Extension Service, will host four workshops in Haines. They are sponsored by the Southeast Alaska Regional Health Consortium and the Cooperative Extension. The first class will focus on preserving wild meat and fish by canning, as well as jerky and sausage making.

Lewis says that the classes dealing with wild meats and fish are often the ones where the B-word gets introduced.

“One of the first things that I always tell people is that fruit and berries are high acid food, you’re not worried about botulism. That’s unfortunately one thing that people have the misconception that they need to be afraid of anything in a jar that has been processed at home.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control, botulism is caused by a nerve toxin released by certain bacteria. And while it is rare, it can be quite dangerous.

But avoiding it is easy. Here’s Lewis.

“So, a lot of people start to get even more nervous is when we start to talk about pressure canning because that’s what you need to do to meats, fish and non-acidified vegetables. And in those, when you’re putting them in a jar, you are concerned about botulism but it’s very easy to deal with that, to kill to pasteurize those jars. You just need to use a pressure canner because you need high temperatures.”

She says, pressure canners are easy to use and the newer ones have safety features that make the process even more foolproof and safe. But, she adds, she’ll go over all the ins and outs of the process in her classes.

On Saturday, Lewis will go over home canning of stock, broth, beans and preserving ready-to-eat meals. Sunday will feature a guided tour of all things sourdough and instruction on how to make homemade yogurt. Classes run from 9 a.m. to 12:30 on Saturday and Sunday with evening classes from 3 – 6:30 on Friday and Saturday. Lewis will also be available Sunday from 1:30 to 3 at the Sheldon Museum to test pressure gauges.

Pre-registration is appreciated and can be done by calling Susie Wilkie at 523-3280, ext 0.

Lewis will be in Skagway for a series of preservation workshops from Oct. 16 -18 with times and location to be determined.