Preserving food

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One area of slow living where I have had some success has been my development of an interest in food preservation. This is a skill that has very rapidly fallen out of favour due to the now widespread availability of refrigeration. The benefits to slow living should be apparent:

  • Turn a useful skill into an enjoyable interest
  • Spend time accomplishing satisfying tasks with family and/or friends
  • From the financial independence angle, less dependence on refrigeration
  • Ability to buy in large quantities foods that are on special (or in season, if growing your own) and save them for later in the year.

There are two primary recipes that I make, and a couple of others that I’ve had success with. The most success I’ve had is with this recipe for easy kimchi from Maangchi. My wife loves it, and I also like it a lot. We prepare it together. It takes some time, but it’s not particularly difficult. The kimchi has multiple uses, of course – what I understand is the most common and traditional usage (I don’t know any Koreans, actually) is as a side dish served with a main meal. But you can make it a substantial snack in itself if you like the bold flavor, just serving it up with rice. My favorite is using it to make kimchi hotpot or soup – all you need to do is add several big spoons to a fairly mild stock to make a delicious spicy soup, to which you can add mushrooms, chicken, or whatever else you fancy.

The second recipe is just simple pickled radishes. Radishes weren’t something I ate a lot of back in Australia, but since moving to Switzerland I’ve noticed these gorgeous bunches of thumb-shaped red radishes with white tips everywhere. Since they’re so plentiful and cheap, I use a simple recipe to bottle them with peppercorns and caraway seeds. They’re great on sandwiches, in a salad, or on biscuits with cheese as a snack.

My other successes have been fermented chillies/capsicums and ginger beer. The fermented chillies came about when I actually wanted to make a hot and thick sauce, however, I don’t have a food processor or blender to complete it that way. I modified this recipe, I added some capsicum and didn’t strain out the solid bits at the end. It’s more of a relish than a sauce that way, I guess. It tastes good on eggs, added to mashed potatoes, or as a topping on meat.

The ginger beer is one I haven’t actually made since leaving Australia. Unfortunately the recipe I used to use has been taken offline. Again, it’s fairly straightforward, but takes time, and it requires suitable containers that I don’t have here in Switzerland. I made a few batches, with varying success in the carbonation. Still, although delicious, since I don’t drink a lot of sweet drinks each batch took me some time to consume.

What are your best recipes for food preservation? If you try any of the ones I’ve linked above, let me know if you have success! How do you economise on the sometimes substantial equipment necessary for more adventurous food preservation? Also, has anyone out there managed to either downsize or remove their fridge because they’re so pro at keeping food the old-fashioned way?

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