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Alternate Activity 4: Canning and Drying Food, Workshop 3: Indigenous Religions—The Earth Speaks

In "Building Bridges," a Tapestry of Faith program

Materials for Activity

  • For drying fruit: Apricots, peaches, apples, berries, and more; a knife for pitting or coring; water and (a) ascorbic acid (2 tablespoons) or vitamin C tablets (five one-gram tablets), or, (for peaches, apples, bananas) 1 quart pineapple juice and 1/4 cup bottled lemon juice; a big, dry open pan or pot; (for sun drying) a clean screen; (for oven drying) 100 percent cotton sheet or cheesecloth
  • For canning tomatoes: Sound, ripe, high-acid tomatoes (6-8 per jar, depending on jar and tomato size); food storgage "Bell" or "Mason" jars with fitted lids and rubber rings; a wire basket, or a small sieve with a long-handled, wooden spoon; a jar lifter or tongs; salt and measuring spoons; a basin for cool water; a large pot for boiling and a wire rack that fits in the bottom of the pot; and water

Preparation for Activity

  • Decide which method(s) of food preparation for storage you will use. Arrange where you can do this activity. You will need plenty of work space, access to a water source and, if you are canning, a stove.
  • Find out about any food allergies in the group, then choose which foods to work with.
  • Obtain the ingredients and supplies.

Description of Activity

Participants prepare and store food so they may share the earth's bounty with others.

Drying and canning instructions are adapted from the Seasonal Chef website and an E-How (TM) online article, "How to Make Freeze Dried Fruit Snacks."

Share with the group:

Food storage has long been a practice of all sorts of cultures out of basic necessity. These days many people are unfamiliar with methods of food storage, because it is not something they have to worry about very often. But harvest time was a deeply sacred act in many indigenous cultures, with strong ties to the deities they believed in. Food storage was a matter of life or death.

In Western European cultures, these stored foods were often brought to the winter festavals to be traded, or as gifts for families who perhaps had run out of one or another kind of staple. Some families had more meat perhaps than another family. Some may have stored honey, or a fruit preserve, but not enough grain. These families would come together during times of celebration, and share their bounty with one another.

Invite youth to can and dry food to share with others as a way to honor the bounty of their lives.

Drying Fruit: Apricots, Peaches, Apples, Berries, and More

As always when working with food, be more cautious than you think you should be. All work surfaces should be freshly sanitized. Wash your hands each time you go from one task to another, and wash fruit or vegetables with soap and water very carefully.

Drying is a simple, natural method to prepare food for storage.

1. Use only blemish-free fruits that are fully ripe but not overly ripe.

2. Wash, pit, and slice the fruit. Make the pieces as uniform in size as possible, so they'll dry in the same time. The smaller the pieces, the faster they will dry.

3. To preserve the color of the fruit, blanch or dip the fruit slices before you dry them. Dilute 2 tbsp. ascorbic acid or 5 one-gram crushed vitamin C tablets in 1 quart water. For peaches, apples, and bananas you can instead mix 1 quart pineapple juice, 1 quart lukewarm water, and 1/4 cup bottled lemon juice.

Sun Drying. In very warm climates with 100 degree heat and low humidity, you can dry fruit outside in the sun. Spread the slices on a clean screen for two to four days, turning slices over halfway through the drying process. A screen over the fruit will keep most bugs away. Bring the screen inside at night to keep dew from re-moisturizing on the fruit.

Oven Drying. Preheat oven to 145 degrees. Prop open the oven door, to let steam escape.

Spread a 100 percent cotton sheet or a sheet of cheesecloth over the oven racks. Set the fruit slices on the cloth. Allow from 4 up to 12 hours to dry the fruit, then let it cool. Food will be dry but pliable when cool.

After Drying. Keep drying the fruit in a big, dry open pan or pot in a dry, warm, airy location. Stir once or twice a day for 10 days to two weeks.

If you want to store the dried fruit for any great length of time, it is best to pasteurize the slices to destroy any insect eggs. When drying is complete, freeze the fruit for several days at zero degrees in a deep freeze (the freezer compartment of a refrigerator will not work), or heat in a 175 degree oven for 10-15 minutes.

Store dried fruit in airtight zip-up bags or glass containers, kept inside paper bags to protect from light. Store in a cool, dry place.

Canning: Tomatoes and Many Other Foods

Canning is a way to store chemical-free, delectable fruits, vegetables, nutmeats, pickles, preserves, jams, and jellies, as well as meats and fish, already cooked and tender, just waiting for a meal.

Jars do not have to be purchased new. Tell congregants, neighbors, and friends that you are going to be canning and need jars. A note tacked up on a bulletin board or placed in your local advertiser paper will also work wonders. You can use any jar that is chip- and crack-free with a jar lid and ring that fit. Note: Rubber lids need to be bought new; they are usually only good for one-time use. Food will spoil in an improperly sealed jar.

As always when working with food, be more cautious than you think you should be. All work surfaces should be freshly sanitized, wash your hands each time you go from one task to another, and wash fruit or vegetables with soap and water very carefully.

To can tomatoes: Fill a large pot with water up to 3/4 full. Place the wire rack inside and put the pot on to boil.

Wash the jars in warm soapy water and rinse. Check each one for minute cracks and nicks in the rim, run your fingers carefully over each to make sure. Leave the jars in hot water until needed. Separate the lids and place them in a separate pot of water. Bring the lids to a boil, and then leave them in there until you need them.

Prepare a large basin of cold water for tomatoes to cool in. Wash the tomatoes and dip them in the boiling water of your large pot, using a wire basket, or a small sieve with a long handle, for about a minute or until the skins crack. Then place the tomatoes in cold water. This allows the skins to slip off easily. Once cooled a bit, core and stem each tomato; you can cut them up or leave them whole, depending on size and preference. Pack into jars and either mash down, so the juice covers them, or cover with hot water leaving a half inch of space between the product and the jar rim.

You can add salt for taste, half a teaspoon to each pint or a teaspoon to each quart. Poke a large, clean wooden spoon into the product to dislodge any large air bubbles. Wipe off the jar rim with damp cloth, place the ring on, and screw the lid down firmly. Place the jars into boiling water bath, carefully using a jar holder or tongs. Boil pints for 40 minutes and quarts for 45 minutes, counting from when the water returns to a full rolling boil. Note: These times are for use at sea level. Adjust your processing time according to altitude: at 1,000 to 3,000 feet, add five minutes; at 3,001 to 6,000 feet, add ten minutes; at 6,001 to 8,000 feet, add fifteen minutes.

Remove the jars carefully and place them on dry folded towels until cooling (and sealing) is complete. Jar lids will make a "popping" noise as their seals set. This is caused by the vacuum of cooling. If lids do not "pop" in, the seal is not correct.

Follow-up

After everything is prepared, engage youth to make a plan for when and where to share the food they have stored. One idea might be your congregation's coffee hour. Another is a local food pantry. Ask,

  • How does it feel to share food you helped preserve? How does it feel to know the food can last a long time?
  • Did preparing the preserves help you feel closer to the earth and its life-giving properties? What other activities help you feel connected to nature? What does feeling connected to nature have to do with religion?

For more information contact web @ uua.org.

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Last updated on Monday, October 31, 2011.

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