Photos by Hillary Ehlen
With food being one of our means for survival, food preservation became paramount in the evolution of human beings. Preserving food is the idea of getting the total use of the food product before the onset of spoilage.
Most of civilization had to deal without refrigeration until somewhere between the 18th and 20th century. Before that, there was a lot of experimentation to see what worked and what didn’t work to preserve the food, I’d like to thank all of those who had to bear the ramifications of finding out what didn’t work. The basic idea of preserving is to either slow down the growth of microorganisms or to kill them altogether. Many of the techniques that were used are still used today, including refrigeration, freezing, drying, salting, canning, pickling, dehydration, fermentation and many more.
In the Midwest, the most popular preservation technique is to can your food, no matter what it is. Whether it’s raspberry jam, green beans or eggs, you can find cans of something buried away in a pantry or basement. When canning things, you’re boiling the contents of the can to kill all of the bacteria, as well as to seal the can to prevent any new bacteria from coming in. Since the can or jar is now sterilized, it will not spoil. But once the can or jar is opened, bacteria can enter and start to attack the food, so once it is opened, it needs to be refrigerated to slow the growth of microorganisms.
At the restaurant, we use a lot of the preservation techniques, but fermentation has to be our favorite to use. Fermentation is a little different than the rest of the techniques. With fermentation, you’re transforming the food with the use of microorganisms rather than killing them off. The true definition of fermentation is the process by which a microorganism converts sugar into another substance in the absence of oxygen. When a product is fermented, the overall taste gets heightened and transformed into a more delicious product.
With summer getting close, take some time to collect your favorite vegetables and fruits to can so that during the cold dreary months of winter you can taste a little bit of summer.
Canned Marinated Peppers
Yields 6-8 16 oz. Jars
- 8 pounds roasted red bell peppers
- 1 cup olive oil
- 100 percent pure sea salt
- 2 cups lemon juice
- 4 cups white vinegar
- 8 tablespoons 100 percent pure pickling salt
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano, per jar
- 1 cup red onions, sliced
- 8 whole garlic cloves, peeled
- For the pickling solution, bring water, salt and vinegar to a boil and then cool.
- Place an equal amount of onions and garlic cloves into the jars. Add oregano.
- Pack jars tightly with peppers up to the curve of the jar.
- Ladle pickling solution into the jars, just enough to just cover the peppers.
- Place on lids and process. Either boil for 2.5 hours or use a pressure canner for 15 minutes.
Lacto–Fermented Fresno Hot Sauce
Yields 2 Mason Jars
- 4 cups Fresno peppers, chopped
- 8 garlic cloves, smashed
- 4 cups water
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 2 fresh bay leaves
- Place peppers, garlic and bay leaves into jars.
- Heat up water and salt together, bring to a boil and cool.
- Pour over peppers
- Cover loosely with lids and place at room temperature to sit for 3-4 days, making sure to stir the liquid every day to prevent mold from forming.
- The mix should turn cloudy. When it does, blend it in a blender until smooth, then strain. You can ferment it up to two weeks at room temperature to develop more flavor.
- Transfer to another bottle and cover tightly. Store in the refrigerator for several months.