We are all feeling the fall coolness in the air, as the trees begin to turn, warning us that it's time to put up those fancy jams, jellies and preserves; get the freezers stocked with food; and the canning underway. Though the growing season still has a few more weeks in our northern most climates, the gleaning of the most out of our gardens and orchards takes on a more frenzied flavor.
We all have our favorite recipes for preserves; but we don't always see so much of some of the older farming traditions like canning meat and fermenting vegetables. We have also heard rumors this year of food shortages from climate crises in agricultural areas both local and nationwide. We live in a small home with a small amount of freezer space. As I have considered the amount of local meat I want to have on hand and the small amount of space I have to freeze a winter's worth of supply, I am giving consideration to canning some of my meat and fermenting, or brining some of my vegetables.
The advantage to canning meat, is that it is at least partially precooked and prepared in small portions. It is easy to take a jar off the shelf to make meat pies, quick stews, and gravied meals quickly. The other advantage is that if there is a power outage, it takes a smaller amount of fuel to warm it up. And if worse comes to worse, you can always eat it cold.
The advantage to fermenting vegetables is that once vegetables are washed and cut into appropriate size, it is easy to salt and pour into the fermenting medium and leave in a cool, dry place for the fermenting to work on its own. It takes a little space, depending on how much you are fermenting to store in a place where you can keep an eye on it. Food grade containers and buckets are often obtainable and appropriate for this
application. When the fermenting action stops you have yourself vegetables that contain good nutrition and immune building enzymes, as well as a freshness and unique flavor. The most common example of this would be sauerkraut or kimchi. There are many recipes from all over the world that result in unique flavors and textures. Once you perfect the process, you can experiment with other recipes.
Brining vegetables, although a bit different in process, is another way to preserve vegetables that is found across the globe in some of the more northern countries like Norway, Sweden and Denmark. Some of these recipes are naturally fermented while others are cooked with hot brine and processed as in canning.
There are certainly tons of recipes on line, just let the daredevil in you, take a stab at it. Start with something simple like sauerkraut or kimchi and work your way into flavors and unique combinations. I'm sure you will discover your favorites as you learn and this will become part of your yearly harvest of 'putting food by'. If you need a suggestion, here is a site that I love to explore https://zerowastechef.com/2018/02/21/how-to-
In addition, there are many of these products you can look for in your local grocery store. There is a brand of sweet red cabbage made with apples from Poland called Belveder that is imported. The work is already done and you can add them to your larder for winter supplies. It's another great way to try different flavors and vegetable combinations. One of my 'go to' books is called Stocking Up by Rodale Press. It's an older book by the Editors of Organic Gardening and Farming but still proves useful today. It is inclusive of all the techniques and traditions of preserving food including canning and smoking meats, fermenting and bringing.
Practically speaking, it could save you, your family and friends if food availability is a challenge this year. I have put a couple of my favorite recipes in the Recipe section below.
Dutch Spiced Red Cabbage: This is a sweeter cabbage brine than sauerkraut as a result of the apples that are used. I enjoy this as a side dish with any meal.
2 heads red cabbage 1 tsp pepper
1/2 C salt 1 tsp each mace, allspice,
1 gallon vinegar (I like to use apple cider cinnamon
vinegar for this as I like the apple flavor) 1/2 C honey or maple syrup
1/2 C water Or try adding half apple
1 tsp celery seed puree & half sweetener
Shred the cabbage, sprinkle with salt, let stand 24 hours. Press moisture out, stand in the sun for 3 hours. Boil the vinegar for 8 minutes with water and spices. Add honey. While hot, pour over the cabbage. Keep in large bowl or earthen jar or can.
If you decide to do hot pack as for sauerkraut, heat the ingredients by simmering 5 to 10 minutes after the boil begins and pack hot into jars to within 1/2 inch of top. Cover with hot juice and cap.
Pickled Beets: Some pickled beets recipes have a little too much vinegar for the palate. This one is pickled with savory spices which temper the sour effect of vinegar. Beets have a large nutritional value when even a few pieces are eaten. Great for mid-winter nutrition gaps.
Wash and prep your jars in soapy water. I like to boil them so that when I fill the jars, they are hot.
3 Quarts peeled & cooked (steamed) Beets - cut into quarters or eighths
Pickling Brine - bring to boil
2 Maple Syrup (or sugar)
1 T Whole Allspice Berries
1 1/2 tsp Salt
3 1/2 C Cider Vinegar
1 1/2 C Water
2 Sticks Cinnamon
1. Pack jars with beets
2. Fill with hot pickling brine, leave 1/4" space
3. Evenly distribute allspice berries & Cinnamon
4. Wipe rims dry with clean paper towel, cap jars, rings go on Finger tight
5. Water bath for 10 minutes
Set aside to cool, label and let stand for a few weeks before eating for best flavor.
Over 40 years of Herbal and nutritional experience.