Become a Master Food Preserver

Join the growing group of volunteers who teach others how to safely and efficiently save food in every season.

Photo by Getty Images/GMVozd.

“Help! We canned several jars of chili a few weeks ago, and now they’re popping! There’s chili all over the pantry. Can it be salvaged?”

The friends who sent me this email are experienced home canners. They didn’t want to lose all their hard work, but realized they had a problem — and a mess — on their hands. So why did they call me? Because I’m a Master Food Preserver.

Master Food Preservers are volunteer citizen scientists who expand the reach of their local county extension offices. Building on the success of the Master Gardener program, the Master Food Preserver program began in Washington State in the mid-1970s alongside the back-to-the-Earth movement and a renewed interest in preserving homegrown foods. For many, canning skills had been lost with the rise of packaged foodstuffs; extension offices were overwhelmed with hundreds of daily telephone calls from people seeking information. As a result, a curriculum was written and tested, training volunteers in two Washington counties to teach others how to preserve food in a safe and delicious manner.

Today the program has a presence in nearly every state and is growing once again, just in time to teach a new generation of homesteaders and urban gardeners this time-honored skill.

Anyone can become a Master Food Preserver. Whether you grew up in a homesteading environment where the family was busy all summer putting up the harvest, came to food preservation in a desperate attempt to tame a bountiful garden, or want control over your ingredients, all you’ll need is a love of food and the willingness to learn.

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