'Tis the season for fish canning workshops

Posted: Sunday, April 13, 2003

Alaska Extension Agents witness it every summer, improperly canned fish in cans. In an attempt to address this problem, the Cooperative Extension Service is offering a canning fish in cans workshop. This free workshop will be held from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. May 1 at First Baptist Church of Soldotna, 159 Binkley Ave. Kristy Long and Bret Luick, University of Alaska Fairbanks Extension Food Specialists, will instruct the sessions. There will be a workshop in Homer that same week.

The morning session will cover assembling a can sealer, adjusting the sealer and making and evaluating can seals. We will ask participants to bring their own can sealer if they have one so they are able to learn how to work with the can sealer they normally use. There will be can sealers available at the class for people to practice with if they don't own their own.

The afternoon session will focus on the fishy side of the process. Participants will prepare fish for canning. This involves cutting fish, packing the cans, exhausting the cans, sealing the cans, checking can seams, pressure processing the cans and again checking the seams.

With this workshop we are hoping to reach the general public and, if possible, local campground hosts or people who can their fish in campgrounds. We want individuals to can properly in their homes. We also are hoping participants who come to this workshop will serve as role models in campgrounds during the summer months.

In the Extension Service we hear a lot of very scary stories related to how people instruct each other on methods for canning fish in campgrounds. Our mission as Extension faculty is to relay research-based information to the public, which means, in this case, how to safely process canned fish. Repeatedly we hear misinformation related to canning in cans -- exhausting the cans, testing for a proper seam and the correct processing times.

I'm especially excited about this workshop because my need for this information began with the Kenai Peninsula. When I arrived here nine years ago I experienced the volume of inquiries for information for canning fish in cans. I then relayed the need to our Extension Food Specialists at UAF. The problem was, USDA no longer conducts canning in cans research. For us in Alaska, especially on the peninsula, the need for canning fish in cans was not going away. In fact, the need was increasing. Because of this need our UAF Extension and Marine Advisory Program faculty conducted the research to provide the processing times for canning fish in cans.

This is exactly how I believe Extension and research is supposed to work. The need is grass-roots driven, Extension Agents relay the need to the specialists, the specialists conduct the research and write it up in a usable form for the public.

To sign up for the "Caning Fish in Cans" workshop, contact the Kenai Peninsula District Extension Office at 262-5824 or (800) 478-5824. I apologize for having to offer this class on a weekday. If you are interested in this subject but are unable to attend during a weekday, please let us know. We will try to schedule another workshop in May in an evening or on a Saturday if we can get enough people.

Linda Tannehill is an agent at the Alaska Cooperative Extension Office. She is a home economist and involved in the 4-H/Youth Develop-ment programs. The Kenai Penin-sula District Extension Office is at 43961 Kalifornsky Beach Road, Suite A, Soldotna, AK. The phone number is 262-5824 or toll-free at (800) 478-5824.

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