- Author: Sarah A Spitz
From the Los Angeles County Fair website: “Deep-fried. On-a-stick. Battered. Breaded. Dipped in chocolate. Eating at the Fair is a unique experience. With more than 300 choices, undo the top button on your pants and dive in. If you’re a little nervous, we do have yogurt, smoothies, fruit and salads too!”
If your diet leans more toward the seasonal and DIY (do it yourself), this year’s LA County Fair offers you the chance to learn how to preserve what’s in season now, all year long, in your own home kitchen.
Certified volunteer instructors from UC Cooperative Extension Master Food Preservers for Los Angeles County (MFPLA) will be on hand for their second year at the fair, offering demonstrations, recipes and food safety tips.
Whether you’re a gardener swimming in excess summer fruits and vegetables or a savvy shopper who buys produce in bulk, you’ll learn simple techniques for food preservation that you can do at home.
New this year, MFPLA offers demos on two stages: The Culinary Styles Stage (part of The Village on Broadway) and the Farm House Kitchen (at FairView Farms) across from the Big Red Barn.
Also for the first time, the Master Food Preservers of Los Angeles County will honor the winner of the Food Preserving Competition Sweepstakes with a grand prize gift, the Super-Fast Thermapen™ professional model digital instant-read thermometer, donated by ThermoWorks.
At the Culinary Styles Stage (under the racetrack grandstand), MFPs will present on Wednesdays and Fridays, 9/5 – 9/28 from 12 to 3 pm. Learn to make jams and jellies at 12 pm; the art of pickling and fermenting at 1 pm; and how to preserve tomatoes at 2 pm.
Starting September 5th, a potpourri of preservation techniques will be taught by MFPs at the Farm House Kitchen across from the Big Red Barn on Wednesdays through Sundays, between noon and 9 pm.
A special feature will be MFP Liisa Primack’s giant solar dehydrator, on display at FairView Gardens from 9 am to 12 pm, Wednesdays through Fridays, 9/5 – 9/28.
Built from an Internet-based design by Vista Metals Corporation in Fontana, CA, the dehydrator will be on display throughout the Fair with special demonstrations on weekday mornings for the Fair Kids Program.
Among the MFPLA volunteer teachers on the Culinary Styles Stage are Antelope Valley-based former three-time Los Angeles County Fair Food Preserving sweepstakes winner Nancee Siebert; newly-named Hollywood Farmers Market Manager, Alexandra Agajanian; Hollywood Farmer’s Kitchen chef and MFPLA lead instructor Ernest Miller; LA Trade Tech culinary instructor Donald Warriner; from the original class of graduates (June 2011), Laurie Dill, Karen Hobert and Carol Ann Susi and 2012 MFP graduate Noelle Olson.
On the Farmhouse stage, in addition to some of the above-named MFPs, audiences will learn additional preservation techniques from professional cook Hae Jung Cho; Chicks with Knives co-partner Rachael Narins; University High School teacher Nance Rosen; and Fall 2011 MFPLA graduates Amy Goldman and Anita Ferry.
The mission of the Los Angeles County Master Food Preservers is to train volunteers to teach in low-resource communities, demonstrating how to safely preserve foods at home. Among the volunteer teachers are chefs, caterers, nonprofit leaders, homesteaders, bakers and breadmakers, farmers market employees, journalists, lawyers and a whole host of others concerned with re-skilling the community.
Some of the skills MFPs learn and teach are dehydration, fermentation, freezing, water bath canning, pressure canning, charcuterie, cheese and yogurt making, pickling, making jams, jellies and marmalades, and preparing emergency food. All graduates are certified as UC Master Food Preservers, utilizing USDA standards.
LA County Master Food Preservers answer questions from the general public and offer classes or demonstrations at various locations. In addition to their presence at the LA County Fair, volunteers are seen throughout Los Angeles at food festivals, civic events, community gardens and anywhere that they are called upon by the community to teach and demonstrate food safety.
To contact the Los Angeles County Master Food Preserver program and request volunteers, email firstname.lastname@example.org. To find more information and a calendar of events, please visit our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/mfpla, our blog at http://ucanr.org/blogs/MFPLA or the program’s website at http://celosangeles.ucdavis.edu.
- Author: Sarah A Spitz
The day dawned grey and drizzly but the intrepid UCCE/LA County Master Food Preservers were raring to go. The “concluding events” of City of LA Mayor's Day of Service – this year scheduled all across the city on Cesar Chavez Day (March 31) and dedicated to the theme of Good Food for All – took place in a lively corner of the urban jungle at the edge of Chinatown, at Metabolic Studios, an arts/eco experimental collective, which organized the “Cornfield” we’ve all heard so much about.
Next to the train tracks and under a concrete bridge, chairs, tables and canopies were set up for non-profit organizations involved in food issues to distribute materials and talk to interested members of the public about their missions.
And just below the neon sign on the wall that reads “Another City is Possible,” the Master Food Preservers (MFP) and Master Gardeners (MG) set up tables with volunteers, books, informational handouts and – in the case of the MFPs – demonstrations on how to make kimchi, preserved lemons and refrigerator pickles.
A handful of MFPs were preliminary judges of the “Cabbage Contest,” which is in season now. Beginning at 9 am, entries in three categories – fresh, cooked and fermented – were delivered by members of the general public – AND three of our Master Food Preservers, too!!
MFP/MG Susan Nickels submitted a slaw – and made it into the finals. As did MFP/MG Rachael Narins, whose Thomas Starr King Middle School students not only made but grew the ingredients for their kimchi submission.
Of course, those choices of finalists (REALLY!) had nothing to do with the MFPs – dishes were numbered and anonymous on the table and judged on the merits of taste, appearance and creativity.
The final six choices (two in each category) were delivered to the panel of celebrity judges, who sat at a table on a “stage” and made the final call. They included Eric Oberholtzer of Tender Greens, Josiah Citron of Melisse, Pulitzer Prize winning food writer Jonathan Gold, farmers Phil McGrath and James Birch and mayoral candidate Eric Garcetti.
Susan’s coleslaw (secret ingredient, Preserved Lemons), the one on top in the photo, sits at the final judging station alongside winner Jennifer Mandel’s cabbage, kale and carrot salad. In the case of Rachael’s students, it was literally a toss-up – there was equal praise for both final dishes, and a coin toss settled the winner. (Photo courtesy Susan).
The prize was likely not appropriate for the kids anyway: a dinner for two at Citron’s very posh Melisse restaurant in Santa Monica; but a consolation prize came with it. Once Eric Garcetti heard the story that the kids grew their own ingredients, he promised to come visit and congratulate the students in person at their Silverlake school, which is in his neighborhood.
But much attention was paid to the demos at the MFP table. Hae Jung Cho is a professional cook and an expert kimchi maker – she showed us her ingredients and techniques and proved how very easy it is to make kimchi, and how healthful its fermented properties are.
Then Amy Goldman and Roshni Divate demonstrated one of the key ingredients in Moroccan and Middle Eastern cooking – preserved lemons. There’s no surfeit of lemons in California, so get past the “when life hands you lemons, make lemonade” mantra and learn this simple salting, squeezing and spicing technique. Preserved lemons are a secret ingredient that chefs use for many different dishes, from pesto to salad dressings and more.
And finally MFP/MG Laurie Dill and Karen Hobert showed us how simple it is to create original, delicious refrigerator pickles, with a spiced brine and fresh cucumbers, which are showing up now at Farmers Markets. Grow your own, and “when life hands you extra cukes,” make pickles!