All posts filed under: An Urge to Preserve

An Urge to Preserve

It is hard to imagine that a mere two generations ago most (if not all) households up and down the European continent were busy bottling and preserving the summer and early autumn glut of fruit and vegetables for winter consumption. In the dark, cold days of winter nothing much grows in Europe – how else were populations supposed to survive? Self sufficiency was not a fashionable past-time for the middle-classes seeking the good-life. Earlier generations needed to preserve food, not because they had an overwhelming nostalgia to do so, but because they had to. It was less a case of “An Urge to Preserve” and more “A Need to Feed”. How old-fashioned food preservation seems in today’s world of fossil fuel possibilities. Easy access to cheap energy has transformed our age-old understanding of food. What are five or six decades in the history of food? A mere speck. Yet, it was only fifty years ago that my German grandfather grew enough food in the garden to feed his family and my German grandmother spent the …

Fermented Pickles

For the provenance, taste, nutritional benefits and health benefits of fermentation see here. “As far as I know there has never been a documented case of food-borne illness from fermented vegetables.” Fred Breidt, Microbiologist for the US Department of Agriculture. Preserving food through the process of fermentation is as old as the hills. It is a well known fact that some animals ferment their foods to prevent them from fouling. It is thus perfectly conceivable that our stone-age ancestors carried the practice of lacto-fermentation with them as they emerged out of the primordial soup and began to spread across the globe as homos erectus. In spite of its ancient lineage home cooks today believe that engaging in this form of food preservation is the astro-physics of culinary know-how. Many labour under the impression that such an advanced form of food preparation can only be practiced safely by trained chefs working with sterile equipment and an army of sous-chefs. Nothing could be further from the truth. Sure chefs can ferment a carrot – but so can …

Brined gherkins commonly known as Kosher Pickles, Dill Pickles or lacto-fermented gherkins

For the provenance, taste, nutritional benefits and health benefits of fermentation see here. “As far as I know there has never been a documented case of food-borne illness from fermented vegetables.” Fred Breidt, Microbiologist for the US Department of Agriculture. Although initially brined in salt water lacto-fermented vegetables taste pleasingly sour and refreshing. This is because the amount of salt added to the brine is not so strong that it tastes unpalatable and inhibits the growth of all microorganisms. A 10% salt solution roughly 100 gr of salt per litre (the point at which an egg can float) is too salty for any living organism. A 5% salt solution – or 50 gr of salt per litre, on the other hand, is ideal for encouraging the more saline tolerant beneficial micro-organisms whilst inhibiting the colonisation of pathogenic bacteria. Salt-sour fermented brines are common across eastern Europe – from Poland, Ukraine, the Baltic States and Russia through southern and central Europe – Bulgaria, Greece, Turkey and right across the Middle East – Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Israel and across into …

Sauerkraut

Lacto-fermentation is an artisanal craft that does not lend itself to industrialisation. Results are not always predictable. For this reason, when the pickling process became industrialised, many changes were made that rendered the final product more uniform and more saleable but not necessarily more nutritious. Chief among these was the use of vinegar for the brine, resulting in a product that is more acidic and not necessarily beneficial when eaten in large quantities; and of subjecting the final product to pasteurisation, thereby effectively killing all the lactic-acid-producing bacteria and robbing consumers of their beneficial effect on the digestions, Sally Fallon and Mary Enig, Nourish Traditions. The recipe listed below is 100% lacto-fermented meaning it is full of live, beneficial bacteria, brimming with boosted nutrients and alive with helpful enzymes. It is easy to prepare and simply delicious when served raw alongside cooked foods, sitting atop a home-made hamburger, as a simple side-salad or a refreshing snack. Ingredients 1 white or red cabbage Some sea salt[*] – ok, if you want to be exact, no more than …

Sauerrüben: or fermented turnip pickles

My fellow communards have rarely been as enthusiastic about any of my ferments as they were the night I first served sauerrüben. They went on about it as if it were a rich chocolate desert. Sandor Katz, Wild Fermentation. Sauerrüben, or lacto-fermented turnips, are common in some parts of Germany and Poland, though not quite as ubiquitous as sauerkraut. Like sauerkraut they are a dry-brined ferment. They taste delicious as a condiment on a sandwich or sitting alongside some cooked meat. Turnips contain a lot of water and are thus easy to dry-brine. They are also slightly sweeter than cabbage thus making a very pleasing and easy to prepare ferment. I added radishes which gives them a pleasing, pink blush. You can add what ever you like – onions, garlic, fennel seeds etc. For a more in-depth analysis of dry-brined ferments see my post on sauerkraut. You may also be interested in: “Micro-organisms and the human biome” and “Fermented Pickles” Ingredients 2-3 turnips Radishes (optional) Sea salt Directions Wash, but do not peel, the turnips. …