Monday, August 17, 2009

What's going on at the homestead?

We've had hardly any free time to spend on the computer! Now that the weather has finally warmed, everything is ripening quickly in the garden and our more serious harvest has begun. Tomatoes, beans, basil, zucchini...

With harvest also comes preserving. We do a fair share of canning (salsa, jams, peaches, chutney), freezing (corn, zucchini, pesto), as well as drying in our dehydrator. The best canning books I'm using these days involve small batch preserving, so that I can make one canner load (7 jars) at a time - manageable with a toddler underfoot - and it doesn't have to become an all-day process. Books I've been referring to are "Small Batch Preserving", and "The Busy Person's Guide to Preserving Foods", as well as a tattered 30 year-old copy of "Putting Food By".

However, in midst of this heat, and considering energy use, I am growing much more interested in fermentation techniques for preserving foods. Fermentation (lactic acid ferment) not only preserves the flavour, but in fact enhances nutrition (whereas by canning you essentially boil off much of the nutrient value). It is simple, quick, does not require stove top energy or heating up the house. Fermentation is an age-old, global practice - well-known foods like miso, tempeh, sauerkraut, beer, sourdoughs, and so on, are all traditionally made with the fermenting process. All you need is a series of large glass jars or ceramic crocks, and you are set. This week I'll be making crock pickles as well as dilly beans. Here is the recipe for dilly beans, which we made back in January as part of the fermentation workshop here at Little City Farm (see earlier blog post). An essential fermentation book is by Sandor Katz, "Wild Fermentation".

Dilly Beans
3 cups organic beans
1 cup garlic scapes
dill blossoms
2 Tbsp whey

Add 2 Tbsp sea salt per litre of water, to filtered water, bring to a boil, and cook beans for 5-10 minutes. This denatures the toxic protein called phasin. Sterilize 1 litre jar, and put a dill blossom and a pinch of cayenne in the bottom. Pack in beans densely, with garlic scapes intermingles, then pour cooled cooking water to cover beans to 1 cm. Add 2 Tbsp whey, put on the lids, and leave at room temperature for 8-10 days. Store cool and in the dark.

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