Harvest to last
An ancient practice to sustain populations through the seasons, food preservation is making a comeback in suburban Australia. The ATA’s Kate Leslie shares some of her experiences, with some good tips for reducing waste and making the most of your garden’s bounty.
The first supermarket supposedly appeared on the American landscape in 1946. That is not very long ago. Until then, where was all the food? Dear folks, the food was in homes, gardens, local ﬁelds, and forests. It was near kitchens, near tables, near bedsides. It was in the pantry, the cellar, the backyard.
– Joel Salatin, farmer and author.
There’s certainly pleasure to be had from preserving food. How good is an apricot crumble in winter? Indeed, there is a clear resurgence in interest in home food preserving. Many households still make jam with stonefruit in summer or marmalade in winter. Less common perhaps, some households home-brew, make homemade cheese, cure sausages and invite friends and family for passata days.
While in Australia with our relatively benign seasons and year-round food production, fermenting isn’t necessary for winter survival, there are deﬁnite gains to be had by stretching our home-grown harvests. It helps to reduce reliance on imported and transported food, and oﬀers more variety for our tables throughout the year.
Preserving food past when it would otherwise decay for eating at a later date is a science, with a dash of art. Whole books are written on each topic, but in short, preserving food can be achieved by applying one or more of heat, cold, sugar, salt, alcohol or culturing microbes, whether already present or introduced.
The favourite foods of our culture are fermented – think wine and beer, bread, cheese and cured meats. Fermenting produces a dizzying array of products including alcohol, vinegar and pickles.
I was once part of a group called Fermenting Friday Friends, a monthly, open-invitation experimentation with a diﬀerent ferment focus each month. It allowed each of us to ﬁnd those ferments which could fall in with the rhythms of our lives. Another group, the Fermenting Friday Fumblers has met this year to try yoghurt. Why not start your own fermenting experiments with friends or in a group?
Fermentation guru Sandor Katz champions this happy intersection of cultures in his book The Art of Fermentation: “I keep coming back to the profound signiﬁcance of the fact that we use the same word – culture – to describe the community of bacteria that transforms milk into yogurt, as well as the practice of subsistence itself, language, music, art, literature, science, spiritual practices, belief system, and all that human beings seek…”.
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