The 4-H Food Preservation project gives 4-H members the opportunity to express creativity, practice decision making, and learn skills that will be useful throughout their lives. As a 4-H Food Preservation project leader, you set the stage to help members:
The project has two levels: Junior and Intermediate/Senior. The Junior level is for members from 9 to 11 years old and focuses on beginning food preservation skills. The Intermediate/Senior level is for members 12 to 18 years old and expands on the 4-H member’s skills in food preservation. Members are encouraged to repeat techniques until they learn the skills. They may spend several years in each level to fully explore the skills and options before moving on. Members beginning food preservation at the Intermediate or Senior age are encouraged to begin with the Junior-level skills before moving on to the skills introduced at Intermediate/Senior level. Please refer to member publications 4-H Food Preservation: Junior Level (4-H 93310), and 4-H Food Preservation: Intermediate/Senior Level (4-H 93320), for more information.
Members at all levels need to practice techniques at club meetings. Many learning experiences take place at home as well. For some activities, safety is an important consideration as members are working with heavy jars and canners, hot liquids, and a variety of equipment. Therefore, it is important that parents understand their role as supervisors of food preservation activities. Be sure parents receive the member handouts that discuss expectations of them and goals of the project.
Invite parents to the first meeting, and talk about the goals of the project; what members will be doing; and the number, length, time, and place of project meetings. Consider asking parents to help with club meeting activities, tours, or field trips.
The Oregon 4-H program has adopted the Put it Up! Food Preservation for Youth curriculum from the National Center for Home Food Preservation. The Put It Up! curriculum is a series of lessons that help youth explore and understand the science of safe food preservation. Though the hands-on food preservation activities are designed for middle school ages, they are appropriate for fourth- to 12th-graders. This curriculum is available for Oregon 4-H leaders to use at no charge thanks to funding from the United States Department of Agriculture National Institute of Food and Agriculture.
The series is composed of six different food preservation methods:
Each method is divided into a beginning hands-on activity and an advanced hands-on activity.
In addition to step-by-step procedures, reflection questions, and ideas for experimentation, each method also includes additional activities: a science-based, fill-in-the-blank challenge, a history-based word search, a glossary, a resource list, a knowledge test, and more. These activities could be used to prepare for hands-on activities while waiting for foods to process or as an alternative to a hands-on activity at some meetings. They will help 4-H’ers understand the science of food preservation.
To access pdf files of the free curriculum, click the link at the bottom of this website: http://nchfp.uga.edu/putitup.html. Once you submit the request form, you will receive a username, password, and web page address with the curriculum files. Please do not share the username/password/website with others. In order to continue to be able to offer the curriculum at no cost, the National Center for Home Food Preservation must gather information about who is using it and how it is being used. Others who wish to use the curriculum should register themselves. There is no limit on the number of people who can access this curriculum.
Additional suggestions to accompany the Put It Up! curriculum include:
The Put It Up! curriculum also includes a leader’s guide titled Food Preservation for Youth that focuses on specific ways to use the youth modules. This leader’s guide also incorporates math and science education, which allows you to help your members meet the performance expectations of the Next Generation Science Standards.
The Oregon 4-H food preservation exhibit classes for county and state fairs contain preservation techniques not in the Put it Up! curriculum. These classes include dried meat and fermentation. For these techniques and additional information, there are several resources available that leaders will find helpful:
Exhibits for county and state fairs are required to be made from recipes and instructions from these approved sources. The recipes in Put it Up! are from these sources and are acceptable for county fair entries.
As a 4-H leader, you are a teacher. If you use a variety of teaching techniques, you can stimulate and maintain interest in the project. Some of these techniques are:
A demonstration is showing by doing. You and other adults will demonstrate techniques to club members, and members might be expected to share what they have learned by demonstrating techniques to others. Plan to ask every club member to give an informal “mini-demonstration” to the club showing a skill they have learned. Doing this also gives each member an opportunity to practice speaking in front of a group.
Subject matter can be taught most effectively by having members practice techniques that the leader has demonstrated. To reinforce their learning, it is important for members to see and sample products soon after completing the preservation process. Since the preservation process is often too long to complete during a meeting, you might need to examine and evaluate some products at the next meeting. You might occasionally find it worthwhile to preserve a product ahead of time. That way, a finished product can be seen and sampled by members as they preserve the same product. This immediate feedback helps keep the members’ interest.
Field trips can be enjoyable learning experiences. Possibilities include visits to stores or stands that sell fresh produce, stores that sell equipment for preserving food, and facilities that package or process fruits, vegetable, or meats.
The Put It Up! curriculum includes experiments as a way to help youth understand why specific food preservation techniques are used. Experiments help members explore the whys and hows of food preservation. Additional experiment suggestions are included later in this publication.
There may be other learning opportunities available in your area, such as foods and nutrition participation days, food preservation judging or meal contests, educational displays, OSU Master Food Preserver clinics, or special community activities.
Experiments are a great way for youth to understand why specific techniques are used when preserving foods. Experiments also help solidify foundational scientific concepts. Here are some additional experiments that could be incorporated into club meetings.
Purpose: To evaluate the effect of packing method on the color of frozen fruit
Reference: Freezing Fruits and Vegetables (PNW 214)
Prepare 2 pounds of a light-colored fruit (apples, peaches, or pears) for freezing. Divide the fruit into three batches and pack each batch a different way, as follows:
Pack into separate freezer containers, seal, label, and freeze.
After 3 to 4 weeks, thaw and compare the color of the batches. Is the color light (like the original color), slightly brown, or very brown? Is there a difference in the sweetness?
Color of product
Dry sugar pack
Enzymes cause light-colored fruits to turn brown when they are exposed to the air. Fruits that have been treated with an anti-browning compound (such as ascorbic acid) hold their color better.
Personal preference will determine whether untreated fruit (i.e., no anti-browning compound) is too brown to serve.
Fruits packed in syrup could be served as a dessert. Fruits packed in sugar might be used for a pie.
Purpose: To evaluate the effect of blanching on the color, texture, and flavor of frozen vegetables
Reference: Freezing Fruits and Vegetables (PNW 214)
Prepare 1 pound of Chinese or other edible pod peas for freezing. (The experimental results are more clear-cut when this vegetable is used.) Wash the peas, then remove stems, blossom ends, and strings. Leave whole.
Divide the peas into two batches. Blanch one batch 2½ to 3 minutes; cool immediately. Do not blanch the second batch.
Pack into separate freezer containers; seal, label, and freeze.
After 1 to 2 weeks, thaw, cook, and compare the color, texture, and flavor.
Is the color natural or off-color? Is the flavor typical or “hay-like?” Are the peas tough or tender?
Were there differences in the color, flavor, and texture? Why?
Vegetables are blanched before freezing to stop the action of enzymes that cause changes in the color, texture, and flavor. Vegetables that are not blanched before freezing often turn off-color, become tough, and develop a “hay-like” flavor.
Purpose: To evaluate the effects of pretreating on the color of dried fruit
Reference: Drying Fruits and Vegetables (PNW 397)
Prepare 2 to 3 pounds of a light-colored fruit (apples, peaches, pears) for drying.
Divide the fruit into several batches. Leave one batch untreated. Pretreat each of the other batches a different way. Choose among:
Label each batch and dry as directed.
After drying, compare the results. Is the color light (like the original color), slightly brown, or very brown? (Members might also reconstitute the fruit and compare the flavor and texture.)
Type of pretreatment
Color of product
Which method was the most effective way to prevent browning? The least effective?
Is it always necessary to pretreat light-colored fruit before drying?
Enzymes cause light-colored fruits to turn brown when exposed to air. Pretreating by dipping or blanching before drying helps prevent browning. The method that you choose to prevent browning will depend on the fruit you are drying, the ingredients you have available, and your own personal preferences. If you don’t mind brown dried fruit, you may decide not to pretreat your light-colored fruit at all.
Encourage club members to share their skills with others and show what they have learned. Member materials include suggestions for each of the project levels. They may include:
Help members check exhibit requirements in the fair exhibitor handbook as they plan their exhibits or other participation. You’ll find more information on preparing presentations and displays on the OSU Extension 4-H website.
Topics to share through presentations and displays can be based on any of the skills or information a club member is learning. Topic examples include:
Self-evaluation is perhaps the most effective because it measures self-development. You can help members informally evaluate their own accomplishments by having them ask themselves the following: What did they learn, how did they share what they learned with others, and what do they plan to learn or do next? The Put It Up! curriculum includes a Time to Reflect worksheet in each module. Feeling good about their accomplishments can often be a better indicator of success than blue ribbons.