As most of you know, I’ve been highly influenced by the work of Sally Fallon’s book Nourishing Traditions. A lifestyle/holistic health/cookbook, Nourishing Traditions recalls “the culinary customs of our ancestors . . . [promoting] robust good health for young and old.” Truly a tome and full of information, one of the areas that has most interested me in reading Nourishing Traditions is the making (and eating!) of lacto-fermented fruits and vegetables.
All of my extended family lives in Northern California and growing up I was immersed in eating seasonal, fresh produce. Apricots, cherries, plums and peaches from my grandpa’s orchard, grapes from our own vines, tomatoes, from purple to orange, to green to red in salads and just sliced and served with a little salt with dinner, watermelon chilled in the creek by our cabin. It was idyllic. And along with those fresh summer feasts was evenings in the kitchen, sweat pouring down our foreheads as we made jams, jellies and preserves, canning fruits and tomatoes and pickling beans. Nothing was wasted. What we couldn’t eat when it was fresh was “put up” for the winter. By the end of each summer our pantry was full with canned peaches, pears and plums, canned tomatoes and various jams and jellies. Alongside my aunts, mother and grandmother, I learned how to preserve today’s bounty for tomorrow.
I feel that the knowledge and the intrinsic value of preserving fruits and vegetables is fast fading in our society. Not only do fewer and fewer people know how to do it, but fewer and fewer people truly value (or know of) not only the taste that a homemade preserve can offer, but also appreciate the importance of not “wasting” and saving today’s harvest for tomorrow. With today’s grocery store offering peaches in December, the artisanal craft of preserving one’s own bounty (even if bought at the store or a farmstand) is losing out.
But not anymore! I hope to inspire you this week with my series and recipes! Please know that I have NEVER before done any of these recipes, frankly I have more experience making traditional jam (with pectin, and sugar, and high heat – which we won’t be using this week) than any of these preserves. But know this: they were all easy, much faster than I expected and a journey that you too can make!
And what makes these recipes different from many? They’re lacto-fermented, meaning that they use salt or whey to preserve the fruits and vegetables rather than vinegar, and there is no use of heat; the vegetables and fruits are not cooked in any way.
Now, why lacto-fermented? Why not just use vinegar, which is a major component of most pickles and preserves these days?
By preserving the vegetables and fruits with salt or whey rather than vinegar, it creates beneficial bacteria that will help break down the food one is eating them with, while preserving all of the nutrients. Fallon explains,
“Lactic acid is a natural preservative that inhibits putrefying bacteria. Starches and sugars in vegetables and fruits are converted into lactic acid by the many species of lactic-acid-producing bacteria. These lactobacilli are ubiquitous, present on the surface of all living things . . . “
“Rich in lactic acid and lactic-acid-producing bacteria, whey acts as an inoculant, reducing the time needed for sufficient lactic acid to be produced to ensure preservation.”
So we’ve gone through the background of why I’m so interested in this craft, and the benefits of lacto-fermentation. Now let’s get to cooking!
The first recipe we’re going to start with this week is Pickled Cucumbers, and keep your eye out every morning for a new recipe! We’ll be exploring the gamut of this seasons’ fruits and vegetables . . .