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Preserving Food Without Freezing or Canning

(article, Liz Crain)

Originally published in 1999 as Keeping Food Fresh, this collection of food-preservation recipes was compiled by the environmental nonprofit Terre Vivante from recipes submitted by readers of its organic-gardening magazine. Preserving Food Without Freezing or Canning is an inspiring and informative celebration of tried-and-true food traditions.

Canning and freezing, two traditional methods of food preservation, keep food safe for long durations. But these techniques also tend to be expensive, use exorbitant amounts of energy (unless, in the case of freezing, you live in the Arctic), destroy nutrients, and negatively impact flavor. 

Preserving Food offers other historical techniques — mainly from French farmers and gardeners — for putting food up, such as preserving in oil, vinegar, salt, sugar, and alcohol. 

The recipes are minimally edited and vary widely; some specify ingredients and techniques, while others are frustratingly vague. This is not a cookbook, in other words, for a by-the-books cook. But for those willing to do a little bit of interpretation, this book is a wonderful testimonial to preservation techniques that have withstood the trials of time. 

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The well-known cookbook author and chef Deborah Madison introduces this second edition of Preserving Food by enlarging upon the benefits of natural preservation techniques. She writes of “food that sings, not the blues of freezer burn and heavy syrup, but the joyful chorus of elemental flavors wrought by sun and air, salt and vinegar, fat and fermentation on the good foods we grow. (Preserving Food) offers an exciting entry back into the world of real food. Use it and the past will become present.” 

With its natural, tasty recipes steeped in history, Preserving Food is especially relevant in an age when food safety often favors irradiation, pasteurization, homogenization, and sterilization. And it’s nice to know that the test kitchens of Terre Vivante include root cellars, garden sheds, and barn rafters.

p(bio). Liz Crain is a writer in Portland, Oregon.


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