After reading America’s Cheapest Family yesterday and reading about how they freeze much of their food purchases I got the urge to read a book that has been on my shelf for many months. I probably should have read this book before spring and the growing season but hey I am studying up for next season right? The book is Preserving Food Without Canning or Freezing -Traditional Techniques Using Salt, Oil, Sugar, Alcohol, Vinegar, Drying, Cold Storage, and Lactic Fermentation.
The basic concept of the book is to show we can preserve food in MANY other ways besides freezing and canning. This is important to green/health conscious people because traditional canning sterilizes your food and kills most of the nutrients and all of the enzymes. Freezing does cause some nutrient damage but the issue there is that freezing requires constant energy. This book shows us all the ways we can preserve food without sterilizing it, hence keeping it a live food, and without using too much energy.
The first preservation method discussed is preservation in the ground through a homemade silo. It basically involves digging a hole in the ground and storing certain veggies inside it…covered with sand and then covering the mound with straw to keep them very cold in winter but not frozen. This is a common method of storing potatoes and other root vegetables. Then it goes on to discuss all the fruits and veggies you can store in cold cellars. I especially liked the info on preserving blueberries…it looked very easy and they are supposed to keep for up to a year.
Next up was preservation by drying. Fruits and veggies can be dried outside in the sun or with solar or electric dehydrators. One great benefit of drying fruits is that the sugar is concentrated so the dried fruits make great sweeteners. One very interesting method discussed was drying apples in elderberry flowers. It has instructions for drying peaches, plums, berries, persimmons, cherries, tomatoes, mushrooms, turnips, and so much more.
The lactic fermentation chapter was new and appealing to me with recipes for vegetable medleys, tomato sauce, pearl onions, and sauerkraut. The recipes for storing in oil and vinegar were also great but I was most interested in reading about preservation in salt. I have eaten fish and beef preserved this way and they were deliriously yummy. There are recipes for salt preservation of green beans, anchovies, tomatoes, and lemons.
The chapter on preserving with sugar was basically a collection of jam recipes that require cooking. They sound divine but I was a bit disappointed that there were not many options that did not involve cooking and therefore destroying much of the nutritional content. But all in all a very good book and one I will be referencing like crazy next spring and summer when I load up on fresh produce at the farmer’s market.