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ACES Grassroots Needs Assessment

Dear ACES Stakeholder,

You have been identified as a stakeholder in your county. The Alabama Cooperative Extension System wants your help to plan programs that address county needs. Please take about 10 minutes to complete the following planning questions. You will not be identified unless you give us your contact information at the end of the survey.

Your answers will be combined with other stakeholders’ answers.  Results will be used to create a program plan for the county. We certainly appreciate and value your input; however, your participation in this survey is optional.

You may stop at any point in the survey, and you may skip questions that you do not want to answer. If you have questions or concerns regarding the survey, please contact your county Extension office.

Shelby County Extension Office: #205-669-6763

ACES 2018 GRASSROOTS NEEDS ASSESSMENT

 

 

 

Pickles Pickles Pickles

The pungent aroma of vinegar mixed with spices such as dill, cinnamon, cloves, mustard seed indicate that something is being pickled in the kitchen.  This aroma brings to mind the wonderful sweet lime pickles that my grandmother made, which have always been one of my favorite pickles.

Some of you may think that making pickles is too difficult or takes too long, but there are several different ways to make pickled foods including a process called “quick-pack” that anyone who does home food preservation can get done in a few hours.

In fact, there are four basic types of pickles:  brined or fermented, fresh pack or quick process, fruit pickles, and relishes.  Almost any food can be pickled if that’s your preferred method of preservation!

The brined or fermented pickles are those that take a longer time because the product is brined or cured over a 3 to 6 week period of time in a high salt solution (brine).  These pickles are those where the cucumber has color changes – the green goes to an olive or yellow-green and the inside changes from white to translucent.

Fresh-pack or quick process pickles are not fermented.  There are two ways to make this type of pickle:  one method requires soaking the vegetables in a low-salt solution for several hours or overnight to draw some of the salt from the cells; the vegetables are then drained and processed with vinegar, spices, and seasonings.

The second type of fresh-pack pickle calls for cooking the vegetable with vinegar and spices, then packaging and processing the product immediately.  Beet pickles, bread and butter pickles, and pickled asparagus or green beans use the fresh-pack method.

Fruit pickles are just what the name implies – fruits simmered in spicy syrup then packed and processed.  Watermelon rind pickles fall into this category.

Finally, relishes are mixtures of fruits and/or vegetables that are chopped, seasoned and cooked in a vinegar and spice solution then packed and processed.

All types of pickles are better when allowed to stand for several weeks after processing.  This allows the flavors to develop to their fullest.

 SECRETs FOR CRUNCHY PICKLES

  1. Use small, firm cucumbers. This is, hands-down, the most important! If you start with a big soft cucumber, you’ll end up with big soft pickles. Always, always select the smallest, most firm cucumbers and leave the big soft ones out of the pickle jar. It’s a natural law of sorts– if you are using ginormous, overgrown cucumbers for your pickles, nothing is going turn them crunchy… No matter how creative you get.
  2. Jar them immediately after picking, or as soon as possible. Going straight from the vine to the jar is the best, and I always try to plan room in my schedule to can up a batch right away on pickle-picking day. However, I’ve still had good results using farmer’s market cucumbers– providing they are firm when I buy them, and I don’t leave them on the counter for days and days.
  3. Soak cucumbers in an ice water bath for a couple hours. If I can’t get to work canning my cucumbers immediately after picking them (or when I get home from the farmer’s market), submerging them in an icy bowl of water in the fridge will help them firm up/stay firm.
  4. Cut off the blossom end of cucumber. The blossom-end of a cucumber is said to contain enzymes which can cause mushy pickles. Cutting it off is your best bet.
  5. Low-Temperature Pasteurization Treatment  The following treatment results in a better product texture but must be carefully managed to avoid possible spoilage. Place jars in a canner filled half way with warm (120º to 140º F) water. Then, add hot water to a level 1 inch above jars. Heat the water enough to maintain 180º to 185º F water temperature for 30 minutes. Check with a candy or jelly thermometer to be certain that the water temperature is at least 180ºF during the entire 30 minutes. Temperatures higher than 185ºF may cause unnecessary softening of pickles. Caution: Use only when recipe indicates.

What about Alum? Back in the day, it was recommended to add alum or food-grade lime to pickle recipes to help with crispness. It’s not recommended anymore, due to safety considerations.

What if I STILL get mushy pickles? Well, then you might as well just quit this whole canning thing and go back to buying everything from the store…., not really.  Sometimes mushiness still happens, even if you do everything in your power to prevent it.  Mushy pickles are still quite edible, and if I get super-duper mushiness going on, you can use those for chopping up to add to potato salad, etc. Just keep experimenting– you’ll get into your crispy-pickle groove eventually.

Quick Fresh-Pack Dill Pickles

  • 8 lbs of 3- to 5-inch pickling cucumbers
  • 2 gals water
  • 1¼ cups canning or pickling salt
  • 1½ qts vinegar (5 percent)
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 2 quarts water
  • 2 tbsp whole mixed pickling spice
  • about 3 tbsp whole mustard seed (2 tsp to 1 tsp per pint jar)
  • about 14 heads of fresh dill (1½ heads per pint jar)
    or 4 ½ tbsp dill seed (1½ tsp per pint jar)

Yield: 7 to 9 pints

Procedure: Wash cucumbers. Cut 1/16-inch slice off blossom end and discard, but leave ¼-inch of stem attached. Dissolve ¾ cup salt in 2 gals ice water. Pour over cucumbers and let stand 12 hours. Drain. Combine vinegar, ½ cup salt, sugar and 2 quarts water. Add mixed pickling spices tied in a clean white cloth. Heat to boiling. Fill jars with cucumbers. Add 1 tsp mustard seed and 1½ heads fresh dill per pint. Cover with boiling pickling solution, leaving ½-inch headspace. Adjust lids and process or use the low- temperature pasteurization treatment.  If you want to process without low-temp pasteurization you will process in a waterbath canner pints 10 minutes and quarts 15 minutes.

A great place to get more recipes is the National Center for Home Food Preservation which is operated by the University Georgia Extension Service or any state Cooperative Extension Website all of their information is researched and the safest recipes you can get.

Angela Treadaway (REA-Food Safety & Quality)

Office: #205-669-6763

Cell: #205-410-3696

Email: treadas@aces.edu

 

The Alabama Cooperative Extension System (Alabama A&M and Auburn Universities), is an equal opportunity employer and educator. Everyone is welcome!

 

 

 

Freezing Foods as a method of Preserving

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Freezing has many advantages over other methods of food preservation. Frozen foods are often more like fresh, because they often retain their color, flavor and nutritive value. Freezing is also one of the easiest, less labor-intensive food preservation methods.

Foods naturally contain enzymes which cause chemical changes which lead to deterioration. In most cases, vegetables are blanched and fruits are treated to retard enzyme activity, prior to freezing.

When freezing most vegetables, you want to heat-treat them for a short period of time to reduce the enzyme activity. This process is called blanching. Blanching is placing the vegetables into rapidly boiling water, or sometimes steam, for a short period of time. This step stops or slows down the enzymes that cause undesirable changes.. Refer to a reliable freezing reference for recommended blanching times for particular vegetable.

After blanching, it is recommended to immediately immerse the vegetables in ice water to stop the cooking process. Blanching is not intended to cook the vegetables, simply to inactivate the enzyme activity. You generally chill the foods for the same amount of time as is recommended for blanching. Now drain and I prefer to dry the foods before packing. Draining/drying reduces the formation of ice crystals which will affect the quality of the product. Finally, place the cooled, dried vegetable in an air-tight, vapor resistant container, designed for freezing. Remove as much air as possible, from the container. Label and store in a freezer, that is 0 degrees or colder.

Some prefer to completely cook certain vegetables before freezing, which is also acceptable. A couple of vegetables that are often prepared this way are, cream-style corn and greens. After cooking the food to the desired doneness, they also need to be cooled before freezing. These foods are generally placed in a large bowl or pot that is set in ice water and stirred until the food is cool.

Blanching softens the texture of fruits, so controlling enzyme activity in fruits is best accomplished by adding sugar and antioxidants. Darkening of fruit is caused by oxidation, when the fruit is exposed to air. Ascorbic acid, vitamin C, citric acid, or sugar syrup helps to prevent discoloration. Steaming fruit just until hot before packing will also control darkening. Steaming works best for fruit that will be cooked before use.

Three methods are generally used to pack fruit for freezing: syrup pack, sugar pack, and unsweetened pack. The syrup or sugar pack, help the fruit retain better texture, color and flavor. But, for those watching their weight or needing to limit their sugar consumption, dry pack is acceptable.

Some foods such as berries, and chopped onions and peppers are especially easy to freeze. After rinsing and drying, spread on a cookie sheet and freeze. Then quickly place in a freezer container, remove as much air from the container as possible and return to the freezer. By freezing this way, the desired portion is easily removed, and the rest can remain frozen for future use.

Freezer bags, rigid plastic containers and freezer jars are all suitable for freezing. Freezer bags are better suited for dry packed foods, while rigid containers and glass are especially recommended for liquid packs but also suitable for dry packs. If you use glass containers, make sure the jars are designed for freezing.

Keep these following tips, in mind, when freezing:
1. For optimal quality and storage life, your freezer should be keep at 0 degrees F. or lower.
2. Do not overload your freezer with unfrozen food – no more than 2-3 lbs. of unfrozen food per cubic foot of freezer space.
3. Leave space between unfrozen packages to allow air circulation. After the food is frozen, packages can then be stacked.
4. Be sure to label each package with the name of the product and the packaging date. Use freezer tape or pens and labels that are especially made for freezer use.

 

The Alabama Cooperative Extension System (Alabama A&M and Auburn Universities), is an equal opportunity employer and educator. Everyone is welcome!

4-H Spotlight!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4-H Summer Camp

So much FUN happened at camp this year like swimming, canoeing, rock wall climbing, swinging on the giant swing, DANCING, Archery, Paddle boarding, survival techniques and so much more!  If you didn’t get to come this year please sign up to join in on the FUN next year!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

RiverKids Kayaking

These youth have enjoyed adventuring and exploring on their kayaks this summer.

 

 

 

 

 

Baking Camp

Everyone enjoyed baking a variety of goodies with volunteer leader Mrs. Kristin Smith.

Mrs. Smith is leading a Baking Club that meets once a month if you would like to join in.  Please contact the Shelby County Extension Office for more information #205-669-6763.

 

Canning Workshops

Mrs. Angela Treadaway taught youth what it takes to properly and safely can peach jam.  They all got to sample and take some home.

Soil Sampling Program

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Soil Sampling Program

Monday, September 17, 2018

Time:       12:00 PM – 1:00PM

Where:   Chelsea Public Library

16623 Highway 208

Chelsea, Alabama 35043

 

The workshop is for anyone that wants to learn the correct way to collect a soil sample and how to use the soil test report. The program will cover Soil PH, Soil Groups, Nutrient Ratings, Lime Recommendations, and Fertilization recommendations. There is no cost to attend, but please call the Chelsea Public Library to register at #205-847-5750 by September 13, 2018.

Nelson Wynn (REA-Home Grounds, Gardens and Home Pests)

Office: #205-669-6763

Cell: #205-438-3725

Email: wynnnel@aces.edu

 

The Alabama Cooperative Extension System (Alabama A&M and Auburn Universities), is an equal opportunity employer and educator. Everyone is welcome!

 

Watch Out For Snakes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

With warmer weather upon us, snakes and other wildlife are more active. It is not uncommon to run across a nonvenomous snake during the summer months. While venomous snakes are known as the bigger threat, nonvenomous snakes can still pose a health risk to people.

They do not have venom to harm people, but a snake bite can cause infections. Left untreated, these infections could cause serious health problems.

Places Snakes Are Found

As silly as it sounds, the greatest health risk nonvenomous snakes pose to humans is people hurting themselves trying to get away when they are frightened. Knowing where snakes tend to hang around can help people be alert when in these areas.

Snakes are found just about anywhere. Sheds, barns, flower beds, gardens and wood piles are great places for snakes to hang out.

Dr. Jim Armstrong, an Alabama Extension wildlife specialist, said snakes like to stay in areas where they can find food and feel protected.

“Snakes are most likely to be found in areas that provide cover or shelter for them and their prey,” Armstrong said. “Removing these types of areas from around your house will help reduce, but not eliminate, the possibility of snakes around the home.”

Snakes May Be Aggressive

Armstrong said that snakes can be aggressive creatures.

“Overall, most snakes, regardless of species, are not aggressive. However, any snake, venomous or not, may be aggressive if cornered or picked up,” Armstrong said. “Some species tend to bite more readily than others, but there is great variation even within a species.”

Health Risk

Nonvenomous snake bites can cause problems because of possible infection. Armstrong said that anytime skin is opened, the risk of infection is there.

“All snakes have teeth so, they all have the potential to break the skin,” Armstrong said. “This introduces infection to the area.”

What To Do When Bitten

In the event of a person being bitten, Armstrong said that thoroughly washing the wound is usually enough. However, people should always watch the area for any signs of infection.

“Generally, washing the wound site with soap and water is sufficient,” Armstrong said. “Any wound, regardless of the source, should be monitored.”

Don’t Pick Up Snakes

When a snake comes near a home, a general first reaction is to want to move the snake far away. Armstrong said that this is the main reason people are bitten by nonvenomous snakes.

“Most bites occur when people are handling snakes,” he said. “I recommend leaving them alone if they are not venomous.”

Armstrong wrote a line to remind people about picking up snakes; “some snakes bite, but others don’t. It’s a chance you shouldn’t take. So, in the wild don’t pick ‘em up and you won’t make a big mistake.”
As a general rule, Armstrong said that if you are in an area where snakes might be present, closed-toe shoes and long pants are a must.

Find more information about snakes in Alabama in Alabama Extension’s publication, “Identification and Control of Snakes in Alabama.” This covers information and some common myths about about snakes, both venomous and nonvenomous. To download the full publication, visit Alabama Extension online here. For further information, contact your county Extension office.

Shelby County Extension Office (205) 669-6763

 

The Alabama Cooperative Extension System (Alabama A&M and Auburn Universities), is an equal opportunity employer and educator. Everyone is welcome!

 

Shelby County Master Gardener Course

Gardening tools and flowers on the terrace

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*Course begins August 15, 2018

Where: Shelby County Extension Office

56 Kelley Lane, Columbiana, AL. 35051

When: August 15-November 7, 2018

Time: Wednesdays from 9:00am until 3:00pm (12-1 lunch)

Class Limit: 25 participants (please send in your registration form and $150 payment to guarantee your spot)

*Certification Requirements:

Complete Master Gardener Course (same year)

Volunteer 50 hours of service to community through approved projects

*Course Topics include:

Soils and Plant Nutrition, Plant Physiology, Entomology, Plant Pathology, Care of Landscape Plants, Landscape Design, Plant Selection, Lawn Care, Weed Identification, Houseplants, Vegetable Gardening, Home Orchards and Plant Propagation.

*For more information or an application contact:

Shelby County Extension Office at 205-669-6763

Nelson Wynn (Regional Extension Agent) 205-438-3725 or email: wynnnel@aces.edu

*Mailing Address:

P.O. Box 1606, Columbiana, AL. 35051

*Print the Application:

https://www.aces.edu/pubs/docs/A/ANR-1155/ANR-1155.pdf

 

The Alabama Cooperative Extension System (Alabama A&M and Auburn Universities), is an equal opportunity employer and educator. Everyone is welcome!

 

Protect Pastures from Fire Ants

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

From the field to the pasture, fire ants cause issues for producers on many levels. Surprisingly, the biggest issue they cause is damage to equipment. This not only cost farmers time but there is also the cost of the labor and repair.

Dr. Fudd Graham, an Alabama Extension entomologist, said the first step to treatment is determining the level of infestation and how to treat it.

“First determine if it is necessary to treat the pasture,” Graham said, who is also a researcher in the Auburn University Department of Entomology and Plant Pathology. “Unless it is a calving pasture, it may not be economical to treat. Hayfields are another story since the mounds can damage equipment.”

Extension professionals have developed a worksheet to help farmers decide if fire ant treatment would benefit their pasture systems.

Choosing Fire Ant Bait

If it is determined that treatment is necessary, producers must learn how to properly treat fire ants in order to get the most fire ant control for the lowest cost. For pasture and hayfield situations, a fire ant bait is the proper choice.

Farmers need to pick a fire ant bait registered for their use site. The Alabama Cooperative Extension IPM guide for pastures and forages has a list of baits safe for pasture use.

Equipment for Spreading

For medium and large sized pastures, Graham said it is best to apply bait using a GT-77 Herd Seeder. More than 40 of these seeders are available for producers to borrow through the Alabama Extension.

Because of the small amount of bait applied, fertilizer spreaders do not work as they apply too much material. Seeders with rotating agitators tend to turn the bait into an oily mush that clogs the seeder. The Herd seeder has a vibrating agitator, which allows the bait to exit the seeder without clogging.

Treatment Recommendations

“Bait begins to break down as soon as it is applied,” Graham said. “Therefore, we recommend applications only when ants are actively foraging, from spring to fall.”

Make summer applications in the morning or evening hours using only fresh bait, because ants do not forage in extreme heat. If the bait is rancid, ants won’t be attracted to it.

Graham said one to two pasture treatments per year should be enough to keep the fire ant population in check.

“Treat pastures once a year in September, preferably with a bait containing an insect growth regulator,” he said. “When applying two treatments per year, apply in June and September. Insect growth regulator baits provide a longer fire ant free period than do the fast acting baits.”

For more information on fire ant treatment and control, visit Alabama Extension online at www.aces.edu. There is also more information on fire ants that  can be found here www.eXtension.org/fire_ants.

In Text Image: Rebekah D. Wallace, University of Georgia, Bugwood.org

 

The Alabama Cooperative Extension System (Alabama A&M and Auburn Universities), is an equal opportunity employer and educator. Everyone is welcome!

Grilling: Safely for the Summer

Man grilling meat on garden barbecue party, in the background friends eating and drinking

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

With news stories about food contamination and harmful chemicals appearing almost weekly, it is not surprising that many would-be chefs are taking food preparation more seriously, particularly food safety: Grilling, in fact, is one area of food preparation that needs particular scrutiny.

Is Grilling Safe?

Grilling gets a bad reputation because more people are likely to feel ill after a summer barbeque than after an indoor meal. In reality, however, many cases of food poisoning and upset stomachs are not caused by grilling at all, but may be the result of overindulgence at a picnic, spoiled diary products such as mayonnaise in potato salad, or overexertion (hiking, flag football, etc.) too soon after a meal. Yet with proper preparation and attention to hygiene, grilling is a safe and delicious way to cook meats and vegetables.

Tips for Food Safety: Grilling

Proper food safety has many steps, from buying the food to disposing of leftovers.

Grocery Shopping

Safely grilled food begins with safe grocery shopping. When buying food for the grill, remember these safety tips:

  • Buy meats last when picking up groceries so they are out of refrigeration for the shortest time.
  • If possible, buy meats that are still frozen.
  • Place meats in a plastic grocery bag away from other foods so juice does not drip on other items.
  • If necessary, transport food home in a cooler to keep it cold.
  • Freeze meat immediately if it will not be used within one or two days.

 

Getting Ready for the Grill

Before firing up the grill, food must be properly prepared so it can be safely cooked.

  • Thaw meats completely before grilling so they will cook more evenly.
  • Never thaw meat on the counter – thaw in the refrigerator or in the sink with cool not hot water running.
  • If using a marinade, reserve some for basting or flavoring instead of reusing the sauce that has been in contact with the raw meat. If a marinade must be reused, boil it first to kill any bacteria.
  • Consider precooking meats by boiling or microwaving to lower the amount of grilling time and ensure doneness especially items like large chicken breasts that will take longer cooking times.
  • Wash vegetables to be grilled thoroughly before cooking.
  • If grilling at home, keep meats refrigerated until time to grill.
  • If food needs to be transported to a park or campsite, store it in a cooler in the shade. Do not open the cooler frequently and do not store other foods or drinks in the same cooler.
  • Use clean utensils and platters when handling food.
  • Wash hands thoroughly before handling food or placing it on the grill and after placing raw meat on the grill if you handled it with your bare hands.

On The Grill

While grilling, it is vital to follow certain precautions to ensure food safety:

Meat should reach a healthy internal temperature to be thoroughly cooked: poultry should reach 165 degrees, burgers 155 degrees, pork 145 degrees, and steaks 145 degrees for medium rare cuts and 160 degrees for medium cuts.

  • Browning and char is not an accurate indicator of thorough cooking; use a meat thermometer to check for doneness.
  • If grilling meat and vegetables on the same surface, use separate utensils to handle each type of food and do not allow meat drippings to fall onto vegetables.
  • Use a clean platter for cooked meat; do not place it on the same platter that was used for raw cuts.
  • Keep meat hot until served by moving it away from the fire but keeping it on the heated grill.

Serving

Proper grilling safety should also include serving precautions to ensure that cooked food does not accidentally become contaminated before it is eaten.

  • Wash hands thoroughly before eating or handling food; if restrooms are not available, use anti-bacterial gels or wipes.
  • Discard burned or charred portions before eating; several studies have indicated that soot from char may contain carcinogens and other dangerous chemicals.
  • Cover food on the table to prevent flies or other insects from enjoying a free meal and spreading germs.
  • Do not use insect repellents or other harsh chemicals near food, and choose a table away from restrooms or other insect-attracting locations.

 

Leftovers

Grilling safety precautions should not end when the meal is over. Leftovers need to be treated carefully to ensure they are still safe.

  • Try to gauge portions properly to avoid leftovers if possible.
  • Store leftovers in the cooler immediately and refrigerate as soon as possible.
  • Food left out for more than two hours should be discarded.
  • Leftovers must be reheated to safe internal temperatures before being eaten

 

More Grill Safety

There is more to grilling safety than just safe, thoroughly cooked food. Both charcoal and propane grills can be dangerous if used improperly, and even delicious food can be unappetizing after a grill accident. To prevent problems:

  • Use proper grilling equipment and fuel.
  • Keep children away from the grill area.
  • Do not leave the grill unattended.
  • Trim excess fat from meats to prevent flare-ups from drippings.
  • Use barbeque utensils and heat-resistant mitts to protect hands.
  • Only use a grill in a well ventilated, open area.
  • Keep a fire extinguisher nearby while grilling.

 

In Conclusion

The majority of food bacteria grows between 41 and 135 degrees Fahrenheit, and keeping food at proper hot or cold temperatures is critical for food safety: grilling can also be dangerous, however, if the food is not handled appropriately. From the grocery store the leftover storage container, following proper grilling safety tips can help make summer barbeques a tasty tradition without fear of accidents or illnesses.

 

The Alabama Cooperative Extension System (Alabama A&M and Auburn Universities), is an equal opportunity employer and educator. Everyone is welcome!