The Curry County Extension Service is your best friend, especially this time of year when folks are canning tuna and salmon, and hunting big game such as deer and elk. A division of Oregon State University, the extension service is a gold mine of information and educators. For all things having to do with canning, it is an invaluable resource.
When most people talk about canning, they are not referring to actual cans, but to mason jars that are made of glass. People either can pint or half-pint jars made by Ball or Kerr.
Sheryl McDonald, office coordinator for the Family and Community Health Education section, is the canning specialist. Sheryl recommends that everyone have their pressure gauges checked at least once a year, and the best part is that this service is offered free of charge.
If your gauge is attached to your canner lid, you can bring in the entire lid with the pressure gauge attached, or just bring in an isolated gauge.
Your gauge will be attached to a device that is connected to the extension service's master gauge. Sheryl will pump up both gauges and then compare the readings between the two. The numbers on both gauges should match. If your gauge is reading too high or too low, it's time to buy a new gauge.
Now don't assume that a newly-purchased gauge always reads correctly. Brand new gauges can be, but are often not, calibrated correctly. Just last week, I brought in a brand-new gauge to be tested. It had to be returned, but a newly-exchanged gauge passed the test with flying colors.
Having your gauges checked for accuracy is critical to make sure that you are canning your fish at safe pressures and times. The latest scientific data states that a person must can their fish at a minimum of 11 pounds for a minimum of 100 minutes. This is the minimum pressure and time that is required to kill the spores that cause botulism, a terrible disease that is often fatal. People who live through it often have permanent nerve damage.
Of course keeping your canner's pressure at precisely 11 pounds is not always possible. If your gauge should drop below 11 pounds, even if it reads 10.9999 pounds, you have to bring the canner's pressure back up to 11 pounds and start the timing all over again at 100 minutes, even if you only have 1 minute left to go. Again, botulism - bad stuff - take no chances!
So to be on the safe side, I always can my fish at 12 or even 13 pounds of pressure, and I also can at 110 minutes instead of 100. That way, there is always a buffer in case the stove's temperature should suddenly drop, or if the timer is off a little bit. In addition, I also use two timers.
So last week I had all my gauges tested. I had to throw out one gauge that hadn't been used for several years, and then there was that new gauge that also failed the test. But the other two gauges were spot-on matches to the master gauge.
You always come out of the extension service with more knowledge than what you came in with. Not too long ago, after asking about some canning tips, I walked out with all kinds of great pamphlets, one of which discussed the nuances of boning out a deer or an elk. Make sure to ask for one of these booklets since this is the season for hunting big game.
The Curry County Extension Service is located at the Gold Beach Fairgrounds. The phone number is 541-247-6672.
It was recently brought to my attention that many people do not know what the Chetco bay is. When I refer to people trolling in the Chetco bay, I am referring to the lower Chetco River near the mouth of the river, in between, but not outside an imaginary line drawn between the ends of the north and south jetties. Presently, you are allowed to fish from river mile 2.2 down to the mouth. Salmon are still slowly trickling into the mouth.
On Wednesday around 1:30 p.m., there was also some decent activity at the mouth of the Rogue River in Gold Beach, where an 18-pound hatchery coho and several other fall Chinook were caught. I saw at least four, chrome-bright salmon jump straight out of the water as well.
Don't forget that the last ocean salmon season of the year, the Chetco Ocean Terminal Area Fishery, starts Tuesday, Oct. 1 and lasts through Oct. 13. An ocean derby is being run by Sporthaven Marina - $38 entry fee. Also, please turn in the snouts of your hatchery salmon at the kiosk located inside of the Port of Brookings Harbor fillet station.
Oct. 1 also marks the opening of fishing for groundfish at all depths. Also on Oct. 1 you might start thinking about fishing for petrale sole or sanddabs, using small hooks at the halibut grounds.