Preserving Food without Freezing or Canning

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Just as kids today never experienced a world without microwaves, no adult alive today was around before the invention of canning.  When we think of “preserves,” the image of heat-sterilized and sugar-sweetened jam comes to mind, rather than the wide array of traditional “preserves” that kept our ancestors fed through the winter well before the invention of the mason jar.

Preserving Food without Freezing or Canning by the Gardeners and Farmers of Terre Vivante takes the reader through 250+ recipes for preserved foods that do not involve either raising the temperature to heat sterilize by canning or lowering the temperature to slow spoilage by freezing.  Both of those techniques are modern, high-energy techniques that compromise nutritional value in exchange for increased shelf life.  The book takes the reader through traditional preservation methods involving salt, oil, sugar, alcohol, vinegar, drying, cold storage and lactic-fermentation to keep food fresh without compromising nutrition.

When canning and freezing came into vogue, other methods were mostly forgotten–used today only for niche purposes. The author notes that “By far, the best example of displacement is lactic fermentation.  Formerly used to preserve all sorts of vegetables, it has survived solely for making sauerkraut, and at that, more for gastronomic reasons than as a preservation process in its own right.”

The authors go on to say that not only is it unfortunate that lactic-fermentation has been lost as an inexpensive and nutrient-enhancing food preservation process, but that we’re better equipped than ever as a society to embrace fermentation both because of the advent of new technology that makes home fermentation so easy, such as “water sealed lactic-fermentation jars,” and because of a new understanding of the importance of beneficial bacteria in the human microbiome.

What I particularly love about this book is that it’s a collection of recipes submitted by different readers who each contribute his own particular style and taste to the selection.  The recipes were submitted to the French magazine “Les Quatre Saisons du Jardinage (Four Season Gardening)” by their readers in response to an open call for traditional techniques.  The magazine staff was so overwhelmed by the response (over 500 recipes total) that they decided that this wisdom need not be lost to the sands of time, but rather preserved for a future when old techniques may be once again sought.

The fermentation section features recipes well outside the ordinary sauerkraut, including Eggplant and Chrysanthemum Petals, Plums in Whey and a fermented ready to eat Green Bean Soup.  Preserving Food without Freezing or Canning is full of great ideas to keep the creative preservation and fermentation juices flowing while enjoying the unique flavors and tastes of other passionate preservers in the French countryside.  This book belongs on any avid home preserver’s bookshelf!


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