What is a Certified Master Food Preserver and How Do You Become One?

Certified Master Food Preserver Graduates (and instructors on the ends) – Summer 2018 ~Kailua-Kona, Hawaii

I’ve received so many messages and e-mails from people asking where they can take a class like I took in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii this past June (2018), so here are some answers. The Master Food Preserver course is offered ALL OVER the place, but unfortunately Minnesota and Wisconsin have cancelled their courses for now and that’s why I went to Hawaii. Other states around the country are also phasing it out, due to “lack of funding”. This seems like an essential course to have, especially for us Midwesterner’s, that live in a frozen tundra for a good chunk of the year. There is nothing like cracking open a jar of food preserved in the summer when it’s the dead of winter, I tell ya….

But, before I get ahead of myself, let’s talk about what a Certified Master Food Preserver is. A Master Food Preserver (MFP) is someone that has completed the intensive certification course (usually offered) through the Extension Service in their county. They have received in-depth training of up-to-date USDA-approved methods of food preservation for preserving food safely and successfully at home. A MFP must also have a desire to teach others how to preserve, because a MFP is required to volunteer 40+ hours (varies per program) within their community each year and teach others how to preserve food. Each program is a bit different, varying from county to county. For example, Maine offers a course that is 10 Fridays in a row and New York offers the course in 3 days, back-to-back.

The course I took in Kona was spread out over 3 weekends, Friday, Saturday and Sunday, so I had to go to Kona for 2.5 weeks — OH, SHUCKS ;). Though the class layout and the cost of the class varies location by location, the material taught should pretty much be the same. At the end of the course, there is a long test with multiple choice, fill in the blank and essay questions (they gave us 4 hours to complete it) and as part of passing our class, we even had to present a 20-minute demo in front of our class and instructors, on which we were graded. Oh, and we had quizzes every night too and there was tons of reading and hands on kitchen time. It was A LOT OF WORK but I loved every single minute of it.

Why did I want to become a MFP? Well, because I teach people how to can and ferment pretty much every day. I write books about it and I want to learn everything I can possibly can so I can be an even better resource for YOU. Plus, the course not only teaches you about water bath canning and fermenting, but also goes into topics that I’m not as well versed in, such as dehydrating, pressure canning, freezing and charcuterie. It also has a large emphasis on food safety and proper food handling to avoid food borne illnesses (which is completely avoidable by the way!).

So, how do you become one? I’d start with a general search on google. See what comes up near you. If you need to travel a state or two, be sure to check with the director of the course to make sure you are allowed to attend before purchasing the class.

If you have any questions I didn’t answer, post in the comments and I’ll get back to you!

If you missed my blog posts about being in Hawaii, here is my summary of Week 1 and my summary of Week 2.

To be notified of future food preservation classes in the Twin Cities, please e-mail me at: minnesotafromscratch(at)gmail(dot)com with the subject line “Future Classes”.

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5 Unique Ways to Embrace the Healing Properties of Dandelions

Throughout the last decade, I’ve tried to find unique ways to use the dandelions that grow effortlessly throughout our front and back yards. My daughter has always thought they were beautiful, “Look mom, this is the prettiest one in the yard, see how full it is?” she said to me just yesterday. She picks them and proudly gifts them to me and our guests. I enjoy them more for their medicinal properties, though they are quite cute once you really study them.

Over the years I’ve made jelly with them and fermented the buds (both recipes are in Can It & Ferment It), sautéed the greens and our family-favorite is to bread them in seasoned panko and fry them in coconut oil – yum! But I’m open to trying some new techniques this year and in effort to encourage more of you to try new things with dandelions, I’ve compiled this list of “5 Unique Ways to Embrace the Healing Properties of Dandelions”.

Image source: organicfacts.net

So here is my list of things I want to try this year, and I hope you will to:

**MAKE SURE THE AREA YOU HARVEST DANDELIONS FROM HAS NOT BEEN SPRAYED WITH CHEMICALS!***

Tell me, what ways do you enjoy using dandelions? If you’ve never tried before, what sounds most interesting?

Seasoned Panko Dandelion Flowers, Pan Fried in Coconut Oil {RECIPE}

Fried dandelion flowers have become a springtime treat in our household. My daughter begs me to make them at the first sight of a dandelion in the spring, though I make her wait until other flowers have opened so the bees don’t mind us harvesting. But tonight is the night for us to make these (HOORAY!), so I wanted to share our recipe in case anyone else wants to give it a try! I don’t measure anything, so here is my rough recipe:

**NEVER USE DANDELIONS HARVESTED FROM CHEMICALLY TREATED AREAS**

Ingredients

  • dandelions (20-30 flowers)
  • panko
  • 1 egg
  • coconut oil
  • a dash of sea salt, garlic powder and pepper, to taste

Directions

Harvest however many dandelions you want to cook, about 20-30. Leave a couple inches of the stem intact, as it makes a great handle to hang onto when cooking/eating.

Soak the dandelions in cold water, rinsing thoroughly until all bugs/dirt have been washed away. Dry them.

In a bowl, crack an egg and use a whisk or fork to beat the egg. In another dish, mix together the panko and seasonings.

In a frying pan, heat enough coconut oil so there is about 1/4″ (or so) in the pan. Bring to a medium-high heat.

Once the oil is heated and ready for frying, dip the flowers into the egg, then in the seasoned panko. Place them in the frying pan and allow them to cook until they are golden brown, about 3 mins.

Place the cooked dandelions on a paper towel-lined plate (to soak up excess oil) and ENJOY! You can make a yummy dipping sauce to eat or serve as-is.

 

PRE-SALE: WECK Small-Batch Preserving: Year-Round Recipes for Canning, Fermenting, Pickling and More

MY SECOND BOOK IS NOW AVAILABLE FOR PRE-SALE

I teamed up with the canning experts at WECK to show readers how to preserve throughout the year with WECK jars. The J. WECK Company has made aesthetically beautiful all-glass home canning jars for over one hundred years. Never before offered, I have created a step-by-step guide to preserving with WECK jars and have developed over one hundred delicious, small-batch recipes to can, ferment, and infuse with them.

Recipes in this helpful guide include Bloody Mary mix, pineapple and strawberry jam, escabeche, kimchi, various sauerkraut recipes, a variety of kvass recipes, numerous infused spirit concoctions including pineapple and mango vodka, orange, clove, and cinnamon whiskey, and so much more!

Recipes are paired with colorful, stunning photos and written in an easy, approachable format. Perfect for new preservationists and delicious enough for even seasoned pros to appreciate, WECK Small-Batch Preserving is every preservation enthusiast’s go-to resource for year-round preservation.

Amazon offers the “Best Price Guarantee” which means that if you order now and the price gets lower during pre-sale, they will charge you the lowest price offered once it ships as long as you order before the release.

PRE-Order: WECK Small-Batch Preserving: here and while you’re ordering, pick up a copy of Can It & Ferment It while it’s still on sale: here

 

How to Make: Organic, Made-from-Scratch Lotion {EASY!}

A few years ago, my part-time blog partner, Kris, posted a recipe for homemade lotion here on the blog. We have been making different variations of the recipe ever since. Once you successfully make your own homemade batch of lotion, you will NEVER waste your money on the store-bought stuff again. After experimenting with different oils, I have come to find I have two favorite concoctions and I’m going to share them with you today.

Before I get down to the business of lotion making, I want to be clear that this lotion is likely more oily than what you are probably used to. But the oils and beeswax are what lock the moisture in your skin and because the ingredients are organic and good for your body, you will notice that your skin stays soft and healthy-looking for much longer than it does with the other stuff you buy. Plus, a little goes a LONG WAY so if you find it to be oily, use less. Trust me, it’s so awesome – it’s worth trying.

Occasionally I’ll get lazy and buy some organic, fantastic-smelling lotion while I’m out shopping, and it’s always a disappointment. The homemade stuff is just so much better. My husband suffers from psoriasis and years ago, when we started making our homemade version, he noticed a big difference in how his skin felt compared to using other lotions. <—– That alone is reason enough to make our own.

 

Supplies:

  • A glass measuring cup that can be heated (PYREX recommended)
  • 3/4 cup organic oils (My 1st recipe calls for: Jojoba, Olive Oil and Vitamin E oil. My 2nd recipe calls for: 1/4 coconut oil, 1/4 Shea butter, sweet almond)
  • Beeswax, organic (pellets recommended)
  • Essential Oils (optional, for scent)
  • Small sauce pan
  • Blender
  • Spatula
  • Glass jars with lids, for lotion storage
  • Water

Directions:

In a measuring cup, measure out 3/4 cup of oil – You can pick out any oils that you want and mix and match the amounts, but I generally do 1/2 cup olive oil, and split the remaining quarter cup between jojoba oil and vitamin E oil. Add in 2 tablespoons of beeswax.

ALTERNATE RECIPE –  1/4 cup coconut oil, 1/4 cup shea butter and 1/4 sweet almond oil with 2 tablespoons of beeswax.

Fill a sauce pan up about half way with water and add in the measuring cup of oil. You want the water to reach the level of the oil mixture, but not to be too full that it will splash all over the stove when it’s simmering. Turn the heat up to medium high and stir the oil/wax mixture occasionally until the beeswax pellets are completely melted. Once melted, turn heat off, use a hot pad to remove the measuring cup and place it on the stove top to cool for 2 minutes. Add 30 drops of your favorite essential oil to the hot oil mixture at this point. Our favorite is sweet orange.

In a blender, add 3/4 cup of cold water. Turn the blender on “blend” mode and slowly add the hot oil mix to the blender. If the blending mixture stiffens up and stops mixing, turn the blender off and use the spatula to push out any air pockets that are sometimes created during the blending process. You may need to repeat this a few times. Once all of the oil is added to the water and things are blending smoothly, set the timer for 2 minutes and blend away.

Once blended, transfer the lotion from the blender into a heat-tolerant, glass jar, and leave it uncovered overnight, until it is completely cooled. The next day, cover the jar with an air-tight lid.

That’s it!

Couple additional notes…

  • Remember: A little goes a long way!
  • The essential oil scent fades over time. You’ll smell the essential oil during application, but as the day goes on, the smell fades. So don’t worry about the fragrance overpowering your lotion.
  • Play around with oils! Some oils are less “oily” than others. Some will make your body feel better than others. Look up organic oils and their benefits and determine which mixture sounds like the best fit for your body and needs. My husband prefers lotion made with Hemp Seed Oil. He thinks it helps with his psoriasis more than any of the other oils, but I don’t like that one as much because of the “woody” scent it has.
  • Make a few batches at a time. We go through about one batch per month (between the 3 of us), so I like to make 3-4 batches since I have the supplies out anyway.
  • In the summer, keep a jar in the fridge to apply cold. It really cools you down nicely.
  • Homemade lotion makes a fantastic gift. Think of your friends and family when making it!
  • Oils I’ve tried variations of and liked: Organic: Vitamin E Oil, Jojoba Oil, Coconut Oil, Shea Butter, Olive Oil, and Sweet Almond Oil, Hemp Seed Oil

Happy Earth Day! Exclusive Promo: Join MightyFix For Just $1!

Earth day is Saturday, April 22nd – Make a change for the better! 

Long before MightyNest was around, I wished for a store that offered all-safe products, free of BPA, PVC and other harsh chemicals and toxins. I had a newborn baby at the time and I found myself spending endless hours searching the internet to find the safest products available. I wanted a place to take the worry out of my shopping experience and that is EXACTLY what MightyNest has done. Everything sold at their shop is safe and toxin-free. Truly a dream come true!

Now MightyNest has deployed an awesome program called MightyFix. It’s a subscription program where each month, you are shipped one amazing product that is eco-friendly and promotes more sustainable living. Each item sent monthly is valued more than the monthly subscription fee (which is only $8.25-$10/depending on plan) and it ships for free! Not only does your MightyFix item ship free, but you can purchase any products from the MightyNest website and that will ship for free with your MightyFix order! Who doesn’t love FREE shipping?

This month I was sent 5 Reusable Produce Bags as part of the MightyFix subscription. These reusable bags are perfect for bagging produce at the grocery store but also work wonderful for bagging bulk items such as: beans, nuts, and dried fruit. They also serve as washable bags to toss small items in when traveling or going to the beach. They also can be used to protect your delicates in the washing machine!

Here are some jaw-dropping facts about plastic from theworldcounts.com:

  • 160,000 plastic bags are used globally EVERY SECOND.
  • The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, which is a floating landfill of garbage in the Pacific, is twice the size of Texas and is mostly composed of plastic.
  • Whales and other sea life are dying because they mistake plastic for food and eat it.
  • Plastic bags are produced using petroleum, natural gas and other chemicals. Its production is toxic to the environment.
  • Plastic remains toxic even after it breaks down. It doesn’t biodegrade, it photo-degrades, which means that after it degrades, it breaks down into smaller and smaller toxic bits of itself and bleeds contaminates into the environment.

Now why are we using plastic bags again? MightyNest is making it really easy for you to take the first step in your personal life to making better choices.

MightyNest is offering Minnesota from Scratch readers a special promotional rate of just $1 for the first month of a new subscription! Just use the promo code: MINNESOTAPRODUCE at checkout or click hereYou will be sent these awesome Reusable Produce Bags for just $1. Such a crazy great deal!   You can cancel your subscription at anytime, so what have you got to lose?

Happy Earth Day!

6 Delicious and Unique Recipes Featuring Rhubarb

Pic from one of our 2015 harvests, when we made some jam. 🙂

The rhubarb in our home garden started appearing in early March and I still have 20 cups of it (cleaned and chopped) frozen from last year’s harvest. Year after year I make dozens of jars of strawberry-rhubarb jam and apple-rhubarb jam and today I’m in the mood for something new. After some time spent searching the internet, I created a collection of 6 recipes that piqued my interest. I intend to give 1 or 2 of these a try this week!

  1. Rhubarb BBQ Sauce
  2. Rhubarb Simple Syrup
  3. Stewed Rhubarb 
  4. Spicy Rhubarb Chutney
  5. Rhubarb Butter
  6. Rhubarb Kimchi (Fermented)

If you have a favorite rhubarb recipe not listed, please let me know in the comments.

How to Grow Alfalfa Sprouts in a Jar

alfalfa sprouts 2

Growing sprouts is one of the easiest things you can do on your own. They are tasty and add a delightful crunch to a sandwich, salad, taco or soup.  In addition to being delicious, they are also packed with health benefits. According to Livestrong.com, alfalfa sprouts are a great source of dietary fiber, protein (important for vegan diets), and B vitamins.

To grow your own alfalfa sprouts at home, you just need a quart size mason jar (or other similar glass container), cheese cloth, a rubber binder, organic sprouting seeds, tap water and about 4-5 days.

I buy organic alfalfa sprouting seeds here. They are very inexpensive.

  • Add 1 tbsp seeds into a clean quart jar and fill with tap water until the seeds are submerged. About 1-2″ of water. Cover jar with cheese cloth. Soak overnight.
  • After the seeds have soaked 12+ hours, pour the water out that they were soaking in and rinse once more. Cover with cheese cloth. Turn the jar horizontally and slowly rotate to spread the seeds out so that some will stick to the sides of the jar. Store in a dark place (such as a dark corner of the counter top or in a cupboard), out of direct sunlight at room temperature (ideally 68-72°F). Store the jar on it’s side. You don’t want the seeds in a wet mass in the jar or they may mold. 
  • Repeat the steps of rinsing the seeds daily until the seedlings have grown 1-2″. It takes about 4-5 days.
  • My mom has grown sprouts for decades and she tells me to place the jar in sunlight for about 20 minutes once the sprouts have grown to their edible length. This gives the sprouts a chance to turn darker green.

alfalfa sprouts.jpg

alfalfa sprouts 1

Soak over night, or for at least 12 hours

alfalfa sprouts 4

Rinse daily and gently rotate the jar so the seeds can spread out and grow

THAT’S IT. IT’S SO EASY. Kids can’t get enough of these things. Once the sprouts are big enough to eat, I take what I need from the jar and continue to rinse and let them grow on my counter for a few days. If longer term storage is needed, store them in the fridge.

Enjoy!

Safe Sunscreen Options: Part 2 of 2

Sunscreen

We are back from our Bahamian trip and I’m happy to report that none of us got sun burned! Unfortunately my daughter had a high fever our entire trip, beginning with our very first night so this put a damper on our activity level. Additionally, the weather was in the 70’s and very windy, so we were not in the sun as much as last year. However we did manage to spend a couple of days with the sunshine and we maintained a healthy relationship with the sun while doing it!

First off, I liked all of the lotions we tried. They all went on white but once rubbed in, the white color was more faint and after minutes it was soaked in and not noticeable. My favorite of them all was the Alba 45 SPF. My husband preferred the Goddess Garden spray lotion SPF 30. But he doesn’t need to apply the lotion as diligently as I do, since he’s hairy…haha… sounds funny, but it’s true. His hair offers some defense against the sun.

DSCF0307

Straight out of the bottles. The lotion closest to my hand is Think Sport 50, next is the Mineral Fusion SPF 30, then the Alba SPF 45 and finally Goddess Garden SPF 30.

DSCF0308

After I gently rubbed it in.

Though none of us in my household burned, my father-in-law did burn the back of his hands on a boat excursion. I offered him the Alba Hawaiian after-sun lotion, which he commented on as smelling great (it really does!), though he noted that it doesn’t squeeze out of the bottle easily. I agree with him, you have to twist off the cap and dig into the bottle to get out the lotion, but it’s worth it. My father-in law-also used the Lily of the Desert 99% Aloe Vera Gelly, which  helped soothe the blistering.

I loved the little Mineral Fusion SPF 30 face stick. It’s shaped like a tiny deodorant stick that glides on gracefully over the skin. I did make sure to exfoliate my face because after the first time I used it, I noticed the dry skin on my face was accentuated by the white lotion. But that’s more of a personal problem than a flaw of the product. 😉 I love that it’s small enough to toss in my bag without weighing it down. My forehead is prone to burning so I’m always re-applying and this made it very convenient for me.

DSCF0304

I love the little 21 SPF chap stick. As  mentioned in my first post that it doesn’t leave any residue on my lips whatsoever and it is so smooth that it’s comparable to lip gloss! I’m replacing my current chap stick brand with this one.

I’m thankful all of the sunscreens worked this year but in addition to the products, I know a large part of not burning was knowing how to protect myself effectively when visiting a place where the sun is much stronger than in Minnesota. Here are a few more tips on how to protect yourself from burning:

  • Apply sun screen at least 15 minutes before going into the sun
  • Read the application directions on each bottle and re-apply as needed, usually once an hour or after swimming/perspiring.
  • Avoid being in the sun over the hottest time of day (10am-2pm) and if you are, seek shade as relief.
  • Apply lotion liberally, if you rub it in too much you reduce the effectiveness.
  • SPF over 50 offers a false sense of security.
  • You need sunscreen even on cloudy days.
  • Don’t breathe in while using spray sunscreens and always apply them outdoors.

DSCF0219

 

 

All products used in this post were generously provided by Lakewinds Food Co-op.

MinnesotaFromScratch is 3! {Happy Blogiversary}

third-birthday

Last week the blog turned 3! It’s amazing the opportunities I have been given that are a direct result of the blog, as well as the many fascinating people I have met through the years because of the blog. I appreciate each and every one of my readers, thank you!

2015 was such an incredible year. I personally, had one of the best years of my life. It was the first year since becoming a mother that I was really able to divulge myself into my interests once again. I was able to preserve throughout the seasons, making 2015 my highest yielding canning/fermenting year ever. If you are interested in what I preserved, follow this link. And one item not on that list is pickled red onions – oh my, YUM.

canning

wild and free

I had an amazingly successful year with my stamped metal jewelry hobby-turned-business, which is a hobby I started at the end of 2014, but has now morphed into a true passion. It’s not something I talk about frequently on the blog but it’s a very large part of my life and a big part of what made 2015 so wonderful. If you are interested in seeing what I’ve been up to in the custom jewelry sector of my life, here is a link to my page.

pickle contest

Another large highlight of 2015 was a trip to Boston I took with co-author of this blog, Kristin and two other of our family members from NYC. We all met in Boston for the Boston Fermentation Festival. I got to meet Amanda Feifer, blogger extraordinaire of Phickle and author of the new book, Ferment Your Vegetables. I also got to meet the co-founder of the event and potter of my favorite, most gorgeous fermentation crock, Jeremy Ogusky. At the event we got to sample many ferments from local fermenters and even judged in a pickle contest — that was a true highlight for me. We took advantage of being in Boston and toured it endlessly for the 3 days we were out there. What a lovely city – I can’t wait to go back.

Enough about me… here are the top 5 posts that kept people coming back to the blog in 2015:

#1. 101 Things I Love About My Mother  – This one moved up to first place this year. I had no clue anyone would be interested in this tribute to my mother, let alone become my most popular ranking post. 🙂

#2. Pickled California Mixed Veggies – An easy refrigerator pickled veggie recipe with lots of flavor that is a great addition to salads, bloody mary’s, or just a quick flavorful snack.

#3. Chunky Cream of Broccoli Soup – No Blender Needed.  – This post has been my 3rd most popular for the last two years. It’s a go-to recipe in our household, super easy and delicious. A crowd pleaser.

#4. Baked Zucchini with Mozz Cheese AKA “The New Garlic Bread” –  Baked zucchini is a perfect healthy substitute for bread when eating an Italian dish. It’s a wonderful side dish for any meal, really.

#5. Cucumber, Kale, Apple & Carrot Juice Recipe – A new recipe to make the list this year and I’m happy to see it on the top 5. Juicing is a terrific way to get a blast of vitamins and nutrients into your body quickly and it’s easy on the digestive system. I’ll be posting more juicing recipes in the weeks to come.

Happy 2016!

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