Archive for the ‘Food Preservation’ Category

Today is strawberry preserve making day.  The strawberries were beautiful at the farmers market, so I impulse bought a flat of them.  I think that I am going to make two batches.  The first one is a basic recipe but the other is pretty fancy sounding, Strawberry Preserves with Black Pepper and Balsamic Vinegar.  I am really looking forward to having some homemade jams around, because it has been a while since I’ve done any preserving.

Strawberry rinsed and ready for preserve-making.

Other fun food preservation experiments:


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I have been amazed at how much I like the recipe that I posted for Homemade Vegetable Stock in a Jar. It is tasty, easy to use, and healthy (in moderation, there is after all a lot of salt in it). I used to make traditional stock all the time, which requires a bit of foresight, and now I rarely do. The only time that I still make stock from scratch now is when I need a lighter broth. While this soup base tastes great, it can overpower simpler soups such as egg drop soup.

This stock-in-a-jar has kept in my cupboard just fine so far. Which is great because I have so much of it around, that I can’t picture running out for a long long time. I used to keep store-bought bullion in the pantry, just in case I forgot to make homemade stock, but this tastes so much better and is significantly cheaper than the varieties found at the store. The good brands that are all natural cost about $2.50 for six little cubes, and the boxes of ready-made stock cost $3.00 a box.   All told, I spent about $10.00 on the ingredients for this recipe, and it has made untold numbers of soups and stews so far, with quite a few jars still sitting on the shelves.

Make it from scratch:

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At least I think that it has been a success. I tried the batch of sauerkraut today and it was quite tasty.  I was a bit nervous about trying it because the brining water turned cloudy and mold did grow on top of the brine; but everything that I have read said this was normal, so I bit the bullet and have lived to tell about it.

I felt like such a wimp being so nervous about trying something that people have been eating for centuries.  It amazes me how ingrained it is in our culture only to eat things that look as perfect as possible.  Even though I am aware of our society’s collective perfectionist bent, it doesn’t really help me overcome my own inner voice.  The last time I tried fermenting vegetables, I ended up throwing them out, even though many people told me that they would be fine.  I just couldn’t bring myself to tell that little voice in my head to shut up.

No matter how well I can rationalize with that voice, there is part of me that believes that the industrial food industry can keep me safe, and if I try to do it myself, I may make a fatal mistake.  It is amazing that I can more easily put my trust in faceless corporations that are creating so much havoc in our food culture.

My German great-grandmother probably made sauerkraut and all sorts of other things with the confidence that her mother and grand-mothers all did it as well.  But that link to me has been broken.  My mother certainly didn’t make pickles or preserves of any type, and so I never learned what could be safely made and eaten.  This loss of traditional foods saddens me, because what the corporations have substituted it with is so markedly inferior.

Sauerkraut and Baked Potato

More on my thoughts and experiments with food preservation:

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Last summer, I tried my hand at storing green beans the old-fashioned way. It involves a process that few have heard of before, but everyone’s benefited from at one point or another. That process is called lactic fermentation. Basically, you put clean, raw vegetables into a pot and cover them with lightly salted water and weight them down so that they are completely submerged. You let them sit like this for a month, skimming any mold that forms off the top of the water.

The most common vegetable preserved this way is cabbage in the form of sauerkraut. Well, last time I was at the grocery store, cabbage was on sale for only 25 cents a pound, and it seemed like a sign that I should try again. With my green beans, I was making them in quart sized jars, and it was a pain to scrape all the mold off. Eventually, I just got too disgusted, and couldn’t bring myself to eat them. But I love sauerkraut, and this is the way that it is made. Everywhere online assures me that even if a little bit of the mold sinks into the cabbage, that the brine renders it harmless.

So here I go, taking deep breaths, and hoping that this time I can bring myself to eat it, instead of wasting it.

My first batch of sauerkraut

Here’s more on my failed green bean experiment:

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I’ve just finished my first recipe out of “Keeping Food Fresh”, and it was great. I try to keep enough vegetable stock around, but it is hard for me to always remember to replace it, so inevitably I end up using bullion every once in awhile. Now, I no longer will feel bad when I forget to make stock, because all I will need to do is whip out my very own homemade jar of instant soup stock.

This recipe is fun and easy, because all it involves is using a food processor to grind up the vegetables, and then adding salt. The salt keeps it from spoiling, and according to the recipe it can last up to 3 years. This is great because it makes a fair bit of stock. I think that I am going to put half in small jars to use as presents.

Stock in a Jar

Migaine De Thezou (Mixed Vegetable Stock)

Adapted from “Keeping Food Fresh” by The Gardeners and Farmers of Terre Vivante (this book is out of print, their second edition is called “Preserving Food without Freezing or Canning,” but I am uncertain if this recipe appears in that book.)


  • 1 Ib. leeks
  • 1 Ib. carrots
  • 1 Ib. onions
  • 3/4 Ib. parsley
  • 1/2 Ib. turnips
  • 1/2 Ib. celery
  • 10 cloves of garlic
  • 1 Ib. salt (I prefer sea salt or kosher salt)


  • In a food processor, grind up all ingredients. You will probably have to do this in batches.
  • Put the mixture in a large bowl and stir till well combined.
  • Cover and let sit overnight.
  • Remix and put in jars.
  • Store in the cellar or some other cool place.
  • Use 1 Tbs for every 2-3 cups water in soup, or to taste. I would also cut back the amount of salt you add to any soup recipe, because this stock has a fair bit of it already.


Old-fashioned food preservation:

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I’ve always wondered how people used to preserve food before modern methods were developed. Canning has only been around since the 1800s and I know that people ate preserves before then, so how did they do it?

I just finished reading the book “Keeping Food Fresh: Old World Techniques and Recipes,” and it was fantastic. I stumbled across it in the library and was amazed at the recipes in it. The more recent edition is called Preserving Food without Freezing or Canning, which perfectly describes the content. I’m not sure if the newer version is a significant update, but the first edition is a wonderful source of information, so I can only imagine that the the second edition is at least as good, if not better.

The main premise of the book is that many of our food-preservation techniques aren’t as healthy or as energy-efficient as the techniques that had been used for centuries before canning and freezing were invented. This is because while the modern ones are more scientifically exact, many of them focus on contamination eradication, which leads to killing off beneficial properties of food as well as potential contaminants. It was written in France, where many of these techniques are still used in local markets.

While I was reading, I was amazed at how little I know about food preservation, even though I have dabbled in making preserves and pickles. I’ve already picked out a couple recipes that I am looking forward to trying, including: homemade vegetable bullion; a couple recipes for preserving tomatoes and tomato sauce; and a plethora of old-fashioned preserve recipes.

Keeping food fresh

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Aunt Sue had a big pumpkin that she no longer needed since Halloween is over, so I just cleaned out the seeds and roasted them.  They are fantastic.  I love nuts and seeds, and homemade ones taste the best!  I’ve done this before, but I think that my recipe needed a bit of changing.  Last time, I did them at 275 degrees and they took forever.  I had thought it was because I soaked them a bit to try to get the gunk off, but as I didn’t soak them this time, I think it was because the oven was too cool so I have changed the temperature to 325 and it worked like a charm.

Even though I’m still squeamish about eating my preserved green beans, I can tell that doing things the old-fashioned way is helping me to gradually get over my silly fears .   I have always had an irrational fear of putting my hands in gunk, especially when I can’t see exactly what they are touching.  When I clean squash, I usually do it as daintily as possible and it takes me forever.  This time though, I sucked it up and used my fingers instead of a spoon.  It is amazing how much quicker it went as soon as I lost my fear of the slimy gross factor.

Me getting my hands dirty

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