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7/24 Your Garden: Denise Ruttan

Food preservation help a call away

July 23, 2013

As interest grows in preserving produce, the Oregon State University Extension Service is offering its summer food preservation and safety hotline for queries on testing pressure canner gauges, ensuring jam sets properly and preparing tomato salsa.

The hotline at 1-800-354-7319 is available from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays from now until Oct. 11.

Extension-certified Master Food Preserver volunteers from Lane and Douglas counties take the calls.

More young people ages 25 to 40 are becoming interested in local food and taking OSU Extension's Master Food Preserver training, said Nellie Oehler, the master food preserver coordinator in Lane County.

"There's a whole new generation coming up that wants to know how we did it in the old days and wants to go back to the land and back to the basics," she said.

Oehler emphasized that proper techniques must be used to ensure canned foods are high quality and safe to eat. The hotline is one of several resources, including publications and classes, that OSU Extension offers on food safety.

Master Food Preservers who staff the hotline must undergo 40 hours of training. They educate the public about safe food handling and preservation over the phone and at workshops and exhibits. Last year, 374 new and veteran master food preservers throughout the state contributed 23,150 volunteer hours.

Master Food Preservers answered 3,425 calls during the 2012 summer season. About 80 percent dealt with food safety questions, Oehler said.

For more information about the Master Food Preserver Program, go to http://bit.ly/OSU_FoodPreservation and http://extension.oregonstate.edu/fch/food-safety. OSU Extension's Ask an Expert service also takes online questions about food preservation at http://bit.ly/OSU_AskAnExpert. Additionally, Master Food Preservers run a holiday food safety hotline every November.

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