Last weekend I took a terrific food preservation class that gave me the confidence I need to forge ahead with my canning ideas. In the past I've canned a little salsa and jam, but I've always been anxious that the end result won't be safe or just plain won't taste good. I always felt like I was doing it in the dark, fudging things without the right techniques and equipment. Even though I own a few books on canning, I didn't know enough about the science behind food preservation to riff on some of the more traditional recipes and make them my own. I want this food to end up being something I'll actually want to eat in February. I can only eat so many dilly beans. Am I risking botulism if I don't refrigerate this tomato confit? (Perhaps.) Am I screwing up the pH of these marinated peppers by adding extra garlic? (No.)
This year we have enough extra produce that it would be a big waste not to put some of it up. It's also fun to play with all the fruits and veggies coming in. My day with Leda Meredith at Genesis Farm was eye-opening on all counts. Meredith is committed to seasonal, sustainable food, but she also wants it to taste good, and she talks about less well known techniques for preserving food like salting, drying, and lactic fermentation, which I am very curious about.
So far I've process a gallon of tomatoes, dried 10 pounds of the same, put hot peppers in vinegar, and made pickles using lactic fermentation. In the hopper I've got some jam made from peaches acquired through bartering with our farmer neighbors (am I a pioneer superhero or what?) and a batch of verdurette, which is basically vegetable bouillon and, according to Meredith, keeps basically forever.
The adventure continues!