The Halifax community is hungry for canning and preserving skills and we want to know what sorts of skills you’re looking for.
The Ecology Action Centre has a long history of offering food and gardening skills training to Nova Scotians. We’ve found this to be a valuable way to build community and increase interest in local food. But with all of the new local food projects emerging, we’ve recently made our interventions in the community a little more targeted. We’ve done so by partnering with community service organizations that address the needs of low-income communities, New Canadians and other groups who struggle with food insecurity issues. As you may have seen in other blog posts, we’re also working closely with children and youth in our school system.
We believe very strongly in the work we do to support vulnerable communities, but in shifting our focus to target communities, we found ourselves doing less work with the general public. After numerous requests from community members for canning and preserving workshops, we decided as a team that the people had spoken and it was time to offer them again on a trial basis. The team thought that these workshops were an important outreach tool, and a creative way to stay connected with our base.
We assumed that there was a strong demand for food skills workshops in Halifax, and we were right! Both of our workshops sold out within hours. Each workshop was open to 8 community members eager to develop there canning skills. Our first was Salsa Making and the second was a Spicy Cranberry Apple Chutney. All of the produce was sourced locally to support local farmers, and local businesses, like Local Source, and we rented out space from our friends in the community to help keep dollars in the North End. By sharing resources, building skills and creating more robust local food systems, we’re helping to create what we like to call ‘positive food environments.’
The workshops are a casual way to learn from an expert, to develop your skills as a food-handler, and to meet like-minded people from the community. They are reasonably priced ($25), and take place in the evening. Our first two of the season were a hit. Both were filled with a lot of laughs and were well received by the attendees. In addition, everyone got to take a couple of jars to sample at home.
Given that these workshops were such a success, we want to know what sorts of public workshops would you like to see in the future? Send us your ideas and we’ll do our best to keep bringing you high-quality local learning experiences.
Feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a comment below.
Here are the recipes from our first two recipes:
Zesty Tomato Salsa
– 30 lbs Tomatoes
– 10 large onions
– 10 average sized green peppers, chopped small
– 10 roasted jalapeño peppers, without stems
– 15 cloves of garlic
– 2 cans of tomato paste (300 ml sized cans)
– 4 cups white vinegar
– 3 tsp. toasted and ground cumin seed
– 4 cups of cilantro, chopped (6 bunches or so)
– 1/2 cup sugar
– 5 tsp. salt
– 4 limes, juiced
– 20 x 500ml mason jars.
Seed tomatoes: scrape out the insides, leaving only the meat part attached to the skins and remove the tops, where the stem attaches. The seeds and the ‘juicy’ parts come out. Save the seeds and the heads for use in another recipe (like soup!)
Bring tomatoes, onions, sweet peppers, hot peppers, garlic, tomato paste and vinegar to a boil. Once the boil is rolling, turn the stove down! Keeping the element at full blast will burn tomato to the bottom of the pot and risk ruining the batch. Boil until consistency is “like salsa”. Stir with constant vigilance.
While the salsa is boiling and you are stirring, put mason jars in the oven at 250 degrees F. The jars must be in the oven for 30 minutes, but you can keep them in there until you are ready to jar. Alternatively, you can sterilize the jars by boiling them in the canning pot for 10 minutes.
When the salsa has cooked down and it is the consistency that looks about right, add in the cilantro, cumin, sugar, salt and lime juice. Using a pitcher and the jar funnel, pour salsa into the jars, making sure not to spill any on the rim. Leave ½ inch of space at top of jar. If you do spill salsa on rim, clean with paper towel and vinegar. Place lids on immediately. Process in water bath for 20 minutes.
Spicy Cranberry Chutney
Makes 6-8 250 ml jars
6 cups cranberries (1.5 lbs)
2 cups chopped peeled tart apples (3 small apples)
2 cups chopped onions (1/2 lb)
3 TB fresh grated ginger
2 cups granulated sugar
¾ cup brown sugar
2 tsp pickling salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
½ tsp cinnamon
1 ¾ cup cider vinegar
¼ cup apple cider
1. Prepare canner, jars, and lids.
2. In a large pot, combine cranberries, apples, onions, ginger, sugars, salt, pepper, cinnamon, vinegar, and cider. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring often. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring often, for about 30 minutes or until thickened to a thin jammy consistency. (Chutney will thicken a bit upon cooling, so stop cooking when it’s thinner than you want the final texture to be.)
3. Ladle hot chutney into hot jars, leaving ½ inch headspace. Remove air bubbles and adjust headspace as necessary by adding hot chutney. Wipe rim and place hot lid disc on jar. Screw band down until fingertip-tight.
4. Place jars in canner and return to a boil. Process for 10 minutes.
Author: Will Fawcett Hill. Community Food Programmer, Ecology Action Centre.