On Food Preservation

CSA members making sauerkraut at an August workshop at Bluestem Farm.

CSA members making sauerkraut at an August workshop at Bluestem Farm.

Aaron and I joke about how anyone looking in our shopping cart at the grocery store must think we are miserable, unhealthy people. Flour, sugar, butter, the odd bag of chips or chocolate chips or 2-liter of soda. But of course we don't live on that stuff. The vast majority of what we eat is made up of protein and vegetables that come from our farm. It should be said that a big part of being able to live well and locally means putting up a bunch of food now. At our house, we are in food preservation hyperdrive this time of year.

One reason we offer our CSA members food for preserving at no extra charge is because we want them to eat well all year long, too, relying mostly on good food from around here. The photo above shows just one of the free food workshops we made available to CSA members for preservation this season—a sauerkraut party in August.  And the banner image at the top of this blog pictures more of the food we've handed over for preservation to our members, again, at no extra charge. From the left are purple cabbage sauerkraut, basil pesto, kimchi, and green cabbage/carrot sauerkraut. That doesn't even include the greens and zucchini many of us blanched, froze, pickled, and fermented, and the jars of crushed tomatoes many of us canned. This week, we added cucumbers to the list, as well. Am I the only one who gets a little misty thinking of all of us doing this for our families? 

Nearly all world cuisines rely on fermented food of some kind: in our own culture, witness the popularity of sourdough bread and coffee, alcohol, cheese, salami, and yogurt. They're all fermented foods. Yet the word 'pickle' in most people's minds is synonymous with vinegar-canned cucumbers. Something you eat as a snack, not a meal. But fermented, pickled foods form a significant part of our diet here at Bluestem Farm, and just as importantly, it's the best kind of convenience food.

The jars of sauerkraut I am socking away now will form the bulwark of many bowls of winter borscht, the lovely, sour soup we learned to love when we lived in Russia. The pickled zucchini slices I'm buried in today will be a bright and nutritious counterpoint to those simmering sausages my family will enjoy so much in January. There's no BPA in my tomatoes. These foods free up my cooking time in winter. These foods make me feel like I'm rich. They came from this clean soil. 

The name 'canned food' just doesn't seem to do it justice, does it? 

Mary BrowerComment