"Fermentation is diplomacy and canning is a massacre"
January 2, 2019 7:32 AM   Subscribe

There is a moment in the life of fruits and vegetables that has always puzzled and fascinated me. Put out a dish of strawberries, and in days some darker spots will appear. Maybe a thin tendril of mold sprouts out from the strawberry’s body. At this point, you can still eat it, simply by cutting off the moldy bit. But all of a sudden, the strawberry has clearly died. It’s inedible, sour. It has passed over in to the world of bacteria, mold, and minerals—it is no longer a self-regulating organism. It has stopped being an individual, but has become multitudes. How does this happen? When is an organism living, and when is it dead? When is an organism living, and when is it dead? Where does death come from, and why does this change of state happen so quickly? Amazingly, we’ve developed some techniques to play with this boundary between life and death, stretch it, and blur it.

Vietnam's Low-tech Food System Takes Advantage of Decay - " Fermentation is both low-tech and democratic. It can be a fundamental component of a sustainable food system"
At the entrance of a market in Hanoi, a woman with a dưa chua stand tells us that making ‘sour vegetables’ is easy: you just add salt to some cabbage and let it sit for a couple of days. As we talk, several customers come by, eager to scoop some brine and cabbage into a plastic bag. Worried that we’re discouraging her customers, she shoos us away. She isn’t lacking business.

Is fermentation really so effortless? The short answer is yes. Many recipes will call for two things: water and salt. At just a 1:50 ratio (2%) of salt to food, you can create an environment undesireable for all the bad bacteria and encourage all the good ones. Sauerkraut, kimchi, fish sauce, sriracha, and kosher dill pickles—are all made according to this principle.

Yet other types of fermentation are a bit more complicated. They call for sugar (e.g. wild fermented alcohol like ethiopian honey wine), yeast starters (rượu nếp, most wines and beers), special fungi (tempeh, miso), or some kind of combination of fungi, bacteria, salt, or sugar (kombucha). Yet others are simpler: to make cooking vinegar, just let that bottle of bad wine sit for a couple of days, and to make sourdough, just mix water and flour and leave it on your counter.

All in all, fermentation is just controlled decay: your most important ingredient is time. This can sound like a bit too much, too fast. Take the woman I met at the entrance of the market. Her dưa chua, while in great demand, looks like wilted cabbage, soppy, floating in murky brine. Some bubbles are forming on the edges of the plastic container—for the trained eye a sign of an active fermentation process, but for the uninitiated, an alarm bell.

There’s no use beating about the bush. That dưa chua is in fact rotting in a very similar way that a peat swamp is constantly rotting, belching large doses of methane into the world. What’s happening is an anaerobic fermentation—that is, without significant amounts of oxygen. This absence of oxygen and the high levels of salt creates an environment supportive to several bacteria that also find their home in our own digestive systems.
The Art of Fermentation by Sandor Ellix Katz - review, review

How To Ferment Almost Everything // How To Turn Your Kitchen Into A Fermentation Larder
Preserving Plenty: The Beauty Of Fermented Foods
When I was a kid, every pickle my father ate was a bit of a disappointment. Dad, who grew up in the 1930s and '40s in the Bronx, New York, remembered plucking kosher sours out of barrels filled with cloudy brine—"Now those were pickles!" he'd tell us. I only knew Claussen and other vinegar-cured pickles, the kind you buy in jars off the supermarket shelf, and I liked them just fine. But when I finally tasted a real pickle—the kind made the old-fashioned way, fermented with nothing more than salt, water, and time—I realized what I had been missing. A vinegary pickle plows through your palate with its tartness (often in a most pleasing way), but a live-cultured, salt-cured, fermented one tells a more multifaceted story. It is sour, to be sure, but it tastes of something more, something elusive: It's the flavor of Middle Europe captured in one bite.
How to Make Sauerkraut and Become God of Your Own Microbial Universe
Kimchi 101: It Ain't Just Cabbage
Vietnamese Pickled Mustard Greens – Dua Chua Recipe
Fermented shark, anyone?
Preserved Lemons
Garum: Fermented Fish Sauce for the Ancient Roman Masses
Gajar Kanji Recipe
TABASCO STYLE FERMENTED HOT SAUCE



Everything you always wanted to know about fermented foods
posted by the man of twists and turns (54 comments total) 129 users marked this as a favorite
 
Woo! Thanks for this. For Christmas I got a set of mason jar fermenter lids and just this weekend cracked open my first home made fermented food ("Dilly Green beans"..which are like...green bean pickles). I am looking forward to making a bunch of other stuff in the near future so all these resources will be great.
posted by Captain_Science at 7:38 AM on January 2 [2 favorites]


This looks great. I can't read this right now, but if I put a pin in it and come back after a few days I bet it will be even better.
posted by fantabulous timewaster at 7:42 AM on January 2 [42 favorites]


There's also the Shockeys' Fermented Vegetables.

That lead quote is a little weird, though. The strawberry, qua strawberry, died when it was picked. It can become the substrate for other forms of life if you don't eat it fast enough, but that doesn't mean it isn't already dead.
posted by praemunire at 7:50 AM on January 2 [4 favorites]


Except the strawberry doesn't know it's dead yet. Alternate thread title: Plants vs. zombies.
posted by condour75 at 7:56 AM on January 2 [13 favorites]


This is inspiring me to make some kimchi.
posted by Halloween Jack at 7:57 AM on January 2 [2 favorites]


At this point, you can still eat it, simply by cutting off the moldy bit.
That's because the visible moldy bit is only the tip of the fungal iceberg. Same thing with bread. Once there is visible mold, there are non-visible mold tentacles running throughout the item. When you cut off the moldy bit and eat the rest, you are still eating mold.
posted by Lokheed at 8:01 AM on January 2 [7 favorites]




For anyone even slightly interested in this topic, I will emphatically recommend the Sandor Katz "Wild Fermentation" book linked above. It's about 50% cookbook and 50% philosophy, anecdotes, and general weird ramblings. It's the only cookbook I've ever sat and read cover-to-cover because it was just that much fun.

After reading it I've made a number of delicious pickles and ferments -- it's really easier than it seems!
posted by fader at 8:05 AM on January 2 [7 favorites]


non-visible mold tentacles

If I can't taste it, it's not there, hey?

/dies
posted by 1adam12 at 8:06 AM on January 2 [6 favorites]


but, this hyperbole about how awful canning is (because it's "modern") made me throw up in my mouth a bit:
But many of our problems are caused by technology in the first place—consider nuclear weapons, air pollution, climate change, and industrial food waste.
Yup, canning is just like those things..
posted by k5.user at 8:17 AM on January 2 [28 favorites]


It can become the substrate for other forms of life if you don't eat it fast enough, but that doesn't mean it isn't already dead.

Its seeds will also remain viable through decay of the fruit - in fact, if it's happening on soil, that decay can actually improve their chances of germination. The plant life-cycle also leverages death and rot.

For anyone even slightly interested in this topic, I will emphatically recommend the Sandor Katz "Wild Fermentation" book linked above.

Superior to, and cheaper than, his later, longer Art of Fermentation IMO.
posted by ryanshepard at 8:18 AM on January 2 [3 favorites]


non-visible mold tentacles
Should I eat it?
posted by ShawnString at 8:19 AM on January 2


Yep, I am an enthusiastic fermenter, but I definitely start backing away when anyone starts going anarchoprimitivist on me.

For folks who are more visual, I really enjoy the Instagrams of fermenteries like HEX Ferments and Cultured Pickle Shop as a way to get inspiration for new vegetable ferment combos.
posted by ITheCosmos at 8:24 AM on January 2 [2 favorites]


From the first link: When I talked to Jyotsana Singh, a friend, about this, she pointed out that we lack a common sense of how food spoils and what’s safe or unsafe to eat. As she put it, ‘people don’t trust their senses’.

Especially when the ergotism kicks in.

Part of this is the industrialized food system, but another part is also the way the economy shapes our lives. A few generations ago, most Westerners lived in multi-generational households, children together with grandparents, several families sharing tenements, and a vibrant street culture that came from dense living arrangements and reliance on walking as the primary means of transportation. With modernity, every tradition, every routine, every relationship is constantly shifting and torn apart.

I mean, yeah, but it wasn't all harmonious social relationships and healthy living way back when. If you're pining for late 19th century tenements, you might want to do a little more reading.

But that daily magic can quickly disappear when you get too precise.

It's decidedly not magic, and the quest for precision in the course of the ways people have developed various ways of processing food isn't necessarily a bad thing on its face - there are myriad ways in which people have figured out ways to not get sick from the food they eat, or have figured out how to reliably replicate specific effects of taste, texture, and the like by getting more precise with fermentation. For example, you might or might not want brettanomyces in the mix as you brew your favourite fermented adult beverage, depending on how you want it to taste.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 8:28 AM on January 2 [12 favorites]


ryanshepard: Superior to, and cheaper than, his later, longer Art of Fermentation IMO.

Oh, I didn't click the link and assumed it was the same book. Yep, "Wild Fermentation" is what I read -- I hadn't seen "The Art of Fermentation". Thanks for the correction!
posted by fader at 8:31 AM on January 2


re: mandolin conspiracy:

And also the bacteria that make your food smell "off" aren't always the ones that can make you sick, so I was skeptical of that passage as well.
posted by ITheCosmos at 8:31 AM on January 2 [2 favorites]




Canning requires glass and the ability to shape metal in very precise ways. That makes canning uniquely modern. Part of the conceit of modernity is that, to solve our problems, we need more high-tech solutions.

For fucks's sake. This is wildly overstating the technological requirements of water-bath canning. I preserve by both canning and fermentation. They are, in a manner of speaking, polar opposites in technique, but they're not adversaries.

One of the charms of fermentation is that it can help us deal with food waste. Our modern food system is extremely wasteful, with 30-40% of food going into the landfill in the United States, with 21% occurring at a household level. What’s more, it’s incredibly energy-intensive: 33% of global warming-related emissions come from agriculture. If consumers were to learn how to ferment at home, they could preserve their food without having to cook or freeze it—both requiring more energy. That makes it a low-tech solution to a high-tech problem.

Yes, this is one of the charms of canning as well. And the amount of cooking energy required is pretty small.
posted by desuetude at 8:37 AM on January 2 [7 favorites]


But many of our problems are caused by technology in the first place—consider nuclear weapons, air pollution, climate change, and industrial food waste.

Yep, I am an enthusiastic fermenter, but I definitely start backing away when anyone starts going anarchoprimitivist on me.

I think you're both misreading the point, which is that (as far as preserved foods go), fermented foods are a lot better for you than canned foods, because you're not nuking all the microbes (and a lot of the vitamins) from orbit.

(Remember how scurvy reappeared when Britain started providing their ships with cooked lemon juice? The cooking destroys vitamin C.)

That said, canned foods last a lot longer than fermented foods, so each has it's place.
posted by ragtag at 8:37 AM on January 2 [1 favorite]


This is inspiring me to make some kimchi.

I'll vouch for Maangchi's tongbaechu recipe, if you (or anyone else) needs one.
posted by tobascodagama at 8:37 AM on January 2 [6 favorites]


But many of our problems are caused by technology in the first place—consider nuclear weapons, air pollution, climate change, and industrial food waste.

If you don't want any of my peaches, you can just say "no thank you."
posted by blnkfrnk at 8:46 AM on January 2 [22 favorites]


In light of that botulism article, I find it interesting to note that Maangchi usually puts her kimchi in plastic tubs. (Although she has the traditional clay jars and demonstrates them in a couple of her videos.)

When I make it, I use gallon or half-gallon mason jars with canning lids, which I leave slightly loose to allow some air exchange. I do it to prevent pressure from building up excessively, but it's nice to know that it's also helping prevent botulism...
posted by tobascodagama at 8:47 AM on January 2 [1 favorite]


Superior to, and cheaper than, his later, longer Art of Fermentation IMO.

Haven't read "Wild Fermentation," but we have Art and it's really nice to have on hand. We've referenced it when making cheese, beer, and a wide variety of pickled things. I keep meaning to look up making vinegar in there, I hear it's hella easy.

A couple years ago I started up some kimchi from just salt and cabbage, and since then we've basically always had a batch of something in the fridge that is a descendant of that initial run. I mostly did it because I was interested in perfecting a fermented nut cheese (I am still working on that), and unlike with cabbage I don't trust salt and water alone to get my cashew paste where I want it, so now I always have a starter. And beyond that, always having a kimchi or kimchi-like substance on hand to punch up a dish or just have as a side is all upside.
posted by solotoro at 8:47 AM on January 2




I felt like I had failed as a Korean last night when I threw out a jar of kimchi that was "only" several months old.
posted by Enemy of Joy at 8:50 AM on January 2 [7 favorites]


I am an avid canner and pickler. I received the Noma Guide to Fermentation for Christmas which is really something for those of you who want to go down the dark road. Contains lots of handy recipes for koji and black garlic, but also grasshopper garum.

As others have said, water bath canning is very easy and if you're worried just follow some guidelines like those published by the USDA. Jams, preserves and jellies are an easy way to dip a toe into the waters.
posted by misterpatrick at 9:06 AM on January 2 [1 favorite]


One of the charms of fermentation is that it can help us deal with food waste. Our modern food system is extremely wasteful, with 30-40% of food going into the landfill in the United States, with 21% occurring at a household level.

I'm guessing that household waste is largely from people getting home from work at 8pm and saying "fuck it, I'm getting a pizza" until the food rots in the fridge. The (admittedly often minimal) care and feeding that fermentation requires doesn't do anything about this and actually adds more work.

And I say this as someone who ferments things a lot. It's rewarding and often fun, but time and labor saving it is not.
posted by mikesch at 9:06 AM on January 2 [24 favorites]


Now does anyone have an easy (as in really effortless) Blue Cheese recipe?

(as in actually making cheese)

(this is a joke, as a cheese lover, economies of scale and modern factory methods totally rule in this endeavour)
posted by sammyo at 9:07 AM on January 2


Strangely enough (or maybe not so much) that intro made me want to watch Martyrs again.
posted by Captain Fetid at 9:09 AM on January 2 [1 favorite]


A lot of the American fear of botulism comes from the bad old days of home-canning where folks didn't quite heat the cans up high enough. So you end up killing off all the various microbes except botulinum, which is more heat tolerant. In the absence of competition it thrives and kills you. It's not a problem if you heat your cans high enough, but it's a mistake people used to make a lot.

Home fermentation is more forgiving because you never heat it so the jar is alive with all sorts of stuff. Including lactobacillus, which outcompetes early on (salt helps) and doesn't leave room for botulinum. At least that's the theory, and it seems to work for me.

The linked article about botulism in far northern Canada says “People are using plastic jars to ferment food but there’s no oxygen in the jar, which makes it a breeding ground for botulinum toxin.” I'm a little puzzled by this, since you definitely want as little oxygen in the jar as possible to discourage yeast and molds. Lactobacillus is also anaerobic, so it does fine, although maybe it's more oxygen-tolerant than botulinum and a little leakage is no big deal? OTOH the whole article is about fermenting meat and eggs, which I know nothing about. I've only done veggies.
posted by Nelson at 9:14 AM on January 2 [7 favorites]


This hit me right in the feels, from the first link:

Our society is also marked by what food researchers call ‘de-skilling’. We’ve largely lost the food practices handed down to us over generations. What remains is a semblance of our past food cultures: fermented pickles become canned; sauces rich in character and variety become, simply, ketchup.

Part of this is the industrialized food system, but another part is also the way the economy shapes our lives. A few generations ago, most Westerners lived in multi-generational households, children together with grandparents, several families sharing tenements, and a vibrant street culture that came from dense living arrangements and reliance on walking as the primary means of transportation. With modernity, every tradition, every routine, every relationship is constantly shifting and torn apart.


Much of my interest in and love for food is trying to recreate what my grandmother did - and frankly, her own practice was probably trying to recreate what her grandmother did, under the constraints that came from the change of Italian village life to midcentury life in the USA.
posted by entropone at 9:53 AM on January 2 [2 favorites]


Fermented shark, anyone?

I am so full from lunch right now, but thanks!
posted by Devils Rancher at 9:59 AM on January 2 [3 favorites]


There is a big difference in taste between canned beets and lacto-fermented beets. I always hated canned beets. I decided to ferment some this past fall, having had good success previously with cabbage and asparagus. The fermented beets turned out great: nice and firm with residual sweetness and earthiness and a delightful tang. I also tried lacto-fermented fruit this year. The cherries turned out great. The peaches are a little weird looking with the pulp floating above clear juice, but they taste fine. It sure is great having that fresh fruit taste without an accompanying sugar syrup.
posted by No Robots at 10:09 AM on January 2 [3 favorites]


I was reading through a bunch of the writings of Haydn Pearson last year, a person who grew up in rural New Hampshire and wrote extensively about good old Yankee tradition. In one of his memoirs (written in the 1950s, I think), he laments the plight of the modern city folk who go to the supermarket to buy their sauerkraut in jars when the stuff coming out of the open barrel in the basement of his childhood home was so much better.

We do a fair amount of fermentation, canning, and other "traditional" food preservation. It's truly amazing what you can do with a bit of salt and time, and it's not hard to see why salt was so valued before modern refrigeration. The other major thing I've come to realize is how much more resilient food is than we really give it credit for - at least from my original way of thinking, when everything came from the supermarket and had been sitting around for who knows how long.
posted by backseatpilot at 10:46 AM on January 2


I guess it's kimchi-making season right now in Korea, but according to the international press I've seen people are mad because of price increases in food? One reason being that Moon Jae-in's government's minimum wage increases are factored into agricultural costs.

I would assume that the fact people are angry over difficulties in affording fermented cabbage ingredients is an indication of why minimum wage increases might be necessary, so I've been looking askance at media reports that portray this simply as disastrous economic policy on the part of the Moon govt. (In the Singapore press, for example, when Singapore imports 90% of its food and could perhaps be expected to not give a shit at all about the wages of agricultural laborers...)
posted by XMLicious at 10:56 AM on January 2 [3 favorites]


I’ve got four gallons of kimchi sitting in my fridge downstairs. It’s incredibly easy to make. As fermented foods and “gut health” etc are buzz words you can now buy all sorts of great artisanal made pickles and things here in the US. Problem is they cost an arm and a leg. Pickling is really easy and I’d love to see it taught in home-economics classes. Does home-ec even exist anymore? There are so many easy great things that people could and should learn.
posted by misterpatrick at 11:24 AM on January 2 [1 favorite]


I really enjoy fermented foods of all stripes (okay, not the shark! that was pretty grim), and am glad to see the ongoing revival, but I could do without another round of nostalgia for past foodways that glosses over how much drudgery was involved, primarily for women. Even fermentation can be quite time-consuming--throwing some radishes in a jar isn't much work, but reducing a couple of heads of cabbage to sauerkraut shape is in itself an endeavor. Those "sauces rich in character and variety?" Notoriously requiring of skilled effort and careful attention.
posted by praemunire at 12:40 PM on January 2 [7 favorites]


> I think you're both misreading the point, which is that (as far as preserved foods go), fermented foods are a lot better for you than canned foods, because you're not nuking all the microbes (and a lot of the vitamins) from orbit.

You're making some enormous generalizations about canning food, though. Cooking reduces some water soluble vitamins (like Vit C and B) and boosts the availability of fat soluble vitamins (like Vit A and K). But that's presuming that everything preserved via water-bath canning is thoroughly cooked first, which is not necessarily the case.
posted by desuetude at 12:43 PM on January 2 [4 favorites]


The owners of a small farm found themselves in a pickle. Now they plan to sue the Texas state health services department.

Selling pickled produce had always been part of the McHaneys business plan. Pickles were a “value-added product,” Jim McHaney explained, that could be sold on a schedule not tethered to the seasons. The couple wanted to sell pickled beets — maybe even pickled peaches, okra and carrots; and they thought they could under a five-year program that lets mom-and-pop businesses in the state peddle homemade pickles and other products at farmers' markets.

But as the McHaneys tried to set up their small-batch pickling operation, they realized there was a major obstacle. A recently-approved state regulation defines a pickle as one item and one item only: a pickled cucumber. Not pickled beets. Not pickled okra. And not pickled carrots.

posted by Bella Donna at 1:53 PM on January 2 [3 favorites]


misterpatrick: Me too! Looks great, doesn't it. Koji's new to me, and looks really interesting. And that shot of corn on the cob early in the book has inspired a lot of ideas. I'm also planning on some experiments making brown sauce with a fermented plum and tamarind base.
posted by Leon at 1:57 PM on January 2 [1 favorite]


This is a prescient post as I too received an "easy fermenting" kit of Mason jar lids and weights for Christmas. I'm planning to start with sauerkraut. I've been canning and pickling for a while but fermenting is a whole new world; I'm excited to try it out.

Year before last I took a two-day canning course with my local university extension. When the instructor asked why people wanted to learn, most said they wanted to get back to "traditional" methods of preserving food like their grandmothers had done, that they felt were being lost. I thought that was funny because I expect if you asked the grandmothers in question, they'd say "why would anyone do all that work if you didn't HAVE to?"
posted by cpatterson at 2:00 PM on January 2 [2 favorites]


I love canning, and making new recipes to can. I made cranberry marmalade after Thanksgiving this year, all gone. My next project is blackberry infused red wine vinegar with other add ins that suit me. I am getting one more bottle of fruity red to start the process. Rio Bravo Ranch at the mouth of Kern Canyon makes a blackberry infused balsamic vinegar that is excellent.
posted by Oyéah at 3:15 PM on January 2 [2 favorites]


Canning requires glass and the ability to shape metal in very precise ways. That makes canning uniquely modern.

Err, no? I mean, I have ceramic canning jars in my collection, both the kind that require cloth and wax lids, and the kind that will use manufactured metal lids. Some date from the Late Civil War era, and others from the early World War Two era. So that negates the first sentence. I might believe the second if you label the "modern period" as "everthing since the industrial revolution" which is sort of a thing, I guess.

Cannning is a great triumph of long term storage, and possibly is solely responsible for the greatest improvement of public health at very specific economic strata in very specific agricultural cultures, and I would never dream of separating it from fermentation in the important forward steps in preservation, and especially not as a harbringer of the end of simpler times.

The rest of this article was quite interesting, but those lines stuck in my craw and tainted (ha!) some of his other points.
posted by 1f2frfbf at 4:05 PM on January 2 [4 favorites]


I helped fund the Kickstarter for Cooking with Dice and got its first cookbook: The Acid Test, which is packed with no-heat recipes involving vinegar and brine, all suitable for kids to work with. (Available cheaper here, but doesn't include the kindle look-inside option.)
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 5:04 PM on January 2


There is an interesting dichotomy drawn in the article between fermenting and canning. One hobby I enjoy is homebrewing beer, mead, and hard cider. It is a strange blend of the "controlling death" diplomacy of fermentation and the "high-tech" massacre of canning. You need the slow decay of sugars and yeasts and sometimes bacteria, but it must be carefully controlled lest you make something that comes out of the bottle tasting of band-aids and soil.

I tend to split my homebrewing tasks into Democracy Days and Massacre Days: the brewing itself with the clouds of steam and funky smells, and the bottling/kegging with sterile washes and rubber gloves.
posted by Enkidude at 7:26 PM on January 2 [1 favorite]


I found my new favourite sausage+ place from a Health Canada alert against "traditional methods" preserved meats producers.

Nobody ever got sick, all the microbial tests were below European Pharmacopeia 8.5 limits, but they didn't use a recognized nitrite (or not at all). Had to have everything tested and results posted all over their deli. They all passed but it looked kinda humiliating.

Yummiest sausages, still, after the inspectors backed off.
posted by porpoise at 9:52 PM on January 2


A few generations ago, most Westerners lived in multi-generational households, children together with grandparents, several families sharing tenements, and a vibrant street culture that came from dense living arrangements and reliance on walking as the primary means of transportation.

I never thought I'd see nostalgia for industrial age tenements here. I suppose we'll see nostalgia for cholera outbreaks next.

I mean seriously. those tenements themselves were a product of economic dislocation and the destruction of traditional life ways. They were the children and grandchildren of farmers kicked off their land due to causes ranging from the spread of the automated loom to pogroms. And those foodways from the tenements probably weren't as old or traditional as the author thinks.

And hell, if we're talking about tenements, that's awfully European and white, isn't it?


I really enjoy fermented foods of all stripes (okay, not the shark! that was pretty grim), and am glad to see the ongoing revival, but I could do without another round of nostalgia for past foodways that glosses over how much drudgery was involved, primarily for women.

Note that the drudgery of past foodways was often alleviated by using a few household slaves or impoverished neighbors of a lower social class to take care of much of the work. Or, if one was the landowner, one could simply take one's share of the food processed by the peasantry.

You can bet that if the traditional foodways catch on again and are commercialized, as much of the labor as possible will be put on the back of either undocumented immigrants or prisoners on work release. It's traditional after all.
posted by happyroach at 9:59 PM on January 2 [10 favorites]


I suppose we'll see nostalgia for cholera outbreaks next.

We already skewered those folks (for the most part).
posted by MikeKD at 11:40 PM on January 2 [2 favorites]


One pre-industrial canning technique was stoppering earthenware jars by pouring a layer of molten pig or beef fat that then solidified, or wax for sweet preserves. It's definitely been around for centuries, just in less reliable forms that didn't travel well.

In Poland we have different words for salt-pickling (kiszenie) and vinegar-pickling- the latter are just called "whatever-in-vinegar" or marynaty (marinades). My current favourite is sauerkraut with carraway and wild mushrooms, so complex in flavour you can just eat it by the handful.
posted by I claim sanctuary at 3:57 AM on January 3 [2 favorites]


Canning is not hard and is very reliable. One of the things that I like about doing it is that I can control the amounts of sugar/salt that go into the various types of preserves. The thing about many recipes and procedures is that they push for getting 99.99% success - which is great if you don't know what you're doing. I often reuse lids, for example, because if they seal, great. If they don't it's easy to tell and it just goes into the fridge.
Sugar is a preservative, so using more means somewhat better preserving, but look at this recipe for strawberry jam. It uses 1:2 fruit:sugar which is absurd. 4:3 tastes more like fruit. Even then, it should be adjusted for the sweetness of the fruit.

Plus you can make combinations that you rarely see anywhere else. For example, stone fruit and berries go together like assault and battery. Peach blackberry, apricot raspberry, plum olallieberry, etc.
posted by plinth at 5:31 AM on January 3 [2 favorites]


> Sugar is a preservative, so using more means somewhat better preserving, but look at this recipe for strawberry jam. It uses 1:2 fruit:sugar which is absurd. 4:3 tastes more like fruit. Even then, it should be adjusted for the sweetness of the fruit.

You need the high sugar content get regular commercially-available pectin to actually set, that's why those recipes are written like that. If you want to make low-sugar preserves (which I do, my jams are barely-sweet) there's Pomona's pectin.
posted by desuetude at 7:09 AM on January 3 [6 favorites]


I ferment! I love fermenting and am so glad to have discovered it! I've experimented with just about everything and narrowed it all down to my two favourite things: crazy sauerkrauts, and fermented hot sauces. It's messy during preparation, when you are doing like 8kg of sauerkraut at a time, and takes me like half the day (I don't have a mandolin so everything is chopped and sliced by hand), and the payoff takes like three months, but, man, it's so great, and goes through you like a damn rocket.
posted by turbid dahlia at 6:27 PM on January 6 [1 favorite]


But many of our problems are caused by technology in the first place—consider nuclear weapons, air pollution, climate change, and industrial food waste.

sir, this is a Wendy’s
posted by lazaruslong at 5:26 AM on January 15




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