Thanks to the efforts of Master Food Preserver Ernest Miller and UC Cooperative Extension Nutrition Family & Consumer Sciences Advisor Brenda Roche, L.A. is finally relaunching its own Master Food Preserver (MFP) program after more than a decade of dormancy.

While the USDA is doing a bang up job of making sure safe canning and preserving info is available to everyone, home canning's increasing popularity among the LA Weekly set and the slow but inevitable loss of seasoned grandmothers to teach them how to do it safely is creating a bit of an information gap. A gap big enough for a bit of botulism? Of the approximately 150 cases of botulism reported in the US every year, about 22 are from food sources, mainly home canning. Doesn't sound like a big deal until you realize that botulism is a paralytic illness that attacks your nervous system, shutting down vital functions, like, you know, breathing. Seriously.

That's where the MFP programs come in. Run by various cooperative extensions nationwide, MFP programs are intensive workshops designed to churn out dedicated advocates of safe food preservation who can answer your every canning question with ease. Up until now local aspiring LA canning instructors have had to travel out to San Bernardino to participate in the Master Food Preserver program there. But come this March, qualifying Angelenos will be able to do granny proud without the long trek east.

Master Food Preserver Mary Jane Loper, who died Monday in Palm Springs, was Los Angeles County's last Master Food Preserver Instructor before the program was eliminated due to lack of funding and interest. She probably would have been delighted to hear that the program was being resurrected in L.A. this March, says Miller, who will be teaching the 12-week series to approximately 15 students at the UC Cooperative Extension in East Los Angeles.

“The class is truly amazing, it covers every aspect of safe food preservation from canning to pressure canning, of course, but also freezing, dehydration, curing, smoking, fermentation and brewing. It is a hands on class and nearly every week the participants will make and take home various preserved products,” he said.

Miller also added that this is not a class for the uncommitted. Graduates of the program are expected to commit to 30 hours of volunteer work a year, answering the public's questions about home canning and preserving and teaching classes. In addition, there's a continuing education requirement of 15 hours each year to keep up with changes in safety issues and canning trends.

Since the class size is limited to 15 students, applicants will be selected for the program based on their prior preservation, culinary, and volunteer experience. If accepted, you'll be required to submit a $120 class fee, although this covers a bucket load of materials including books and canning supplies. Interested individuals have until February 28 to apply. Acceptance notifications will be sent out March 15, and classes begin March 28, continuing every Monday evening until June.

Still interested? Apply online here.

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