Living as we do in rural bliss near an abundant harvest, Penticton-ites have the luxury of indulging in the delights of farmer’s markets, fall fairs, and field-to-table produce. The earthly labor of love that yields all this natural, whole, unprocessed food compels us to put every last tomato and apple to good use. Indeed the terra firma of humanity is our intrinsic connection to the earth and its soils, nostalgia if you will, that compounds the harvest season and fills us with an indiscriminate sense of plentiful contentment. Heralded as a fall tradition, the once vital historical understanding of food preservation, (which facilitated our survival through the dearth of winter), has bestowed upon us a diverse culinary repertoire of jams, jellies, pickles, chutneys, smoking, salting, drying, canning or bottling. While food preservation is no longer necessary for subsistence, it nevertheless remains imperative to the conjoint nature of our relationship with the natural world, as well as our role within the food web. So why not exploit this cornucopia of historic medleys this autumn, to revisit the roots of food conception and explore a myriad of sensational flavours, tastes and smells?
Food preservation has long been used as the process of treating and handling food to halt or slow down food spoilage, edibility, and loss of quality and nutritional value. There are several methods of food preservation, each of which helps to preserve and store the food in different ways. Many vegetables for instance, keep well frozen, retaining nutrients as well as texture, flavor and color. Canning is a superior method for preserving fruits and vegetables with high water content, such as mushrooms, tomatoes, beans and peaches. The most ancient food preservation technique however is drying or dehydration and often goes hand-in-hand with fermentation and smoking, as well as the burying of food in the earth’s soil. Pickling fruits and veggies such as peppers, cauliflower, onions, beetroot, fish, apples and pears, make excellent relishes and sauces. They also lend themselves well to jelly, jam, chutney, and ketchup, like apple thyme jelly, fresh fig preserves or pear and butternut squash preserve.
Recipes for culinary fall favorites characteristically involve some type of food preservation technique, be it canning, pickling, drying or smoking. Now is the perfect time to take full advantage of the abundant harvest from our local farmers. Simple or decadent applesauce recipes can be made sweetened or unsweetened, chunky or smooth, dried apple chips are the perfect healthy grab-it-and-go snack, apple pie, apple cider, and with nothing going to waste, leftover apple cores and peels can be used to make homemade apple pectin for jams, jellies and marmalade. Freezing our tomatoes is a surefire way to create the most flavorful pasta; pizza sauces and soups, while freezing leafy greens and herbs make for excellent dips, casseroles, soups, stews, smoothies and sauces. By taking full advantage of the widely prolific summer squash for instance, one can enjoy a plentiful supply of breads, muffins, soups and purées.
Contrary to popular belief, capitalizing on the abundance of fall does not require much added effort, and the benefits of conserving nutrient-rich bounty are outstanding. With each new harvest season comes new options and possibilities in which we can branch out and expand our culinary repertoire. Preserving our food cannot only free up time in the busy season, but also allows for the enjoyment of a diverse menu throughout the winter months. The food revolution of today proclaims a newfound independence from the corporate food industry along with greater insight and knowledge of our foodstuff. Food preservation crafts the pulse of the season and gives back to ourselves the love of real food, not only rooted in our history, but from our history, our future.
Tags: Elizabeth Cucnik