canning salsaIt’s harvest season and we are still in the midst of putting up whatever is still coming out of the gardens and orchards before the hard frost hits us. It is an overwhelmingly busy time of year.  I have often thought that school should not be in session during September and October.  It would be nice to have the extra helping hands at harvest time.

“Go to the ant, consider her ways, and be wise: which having no guide, overseer, or ruler, provideth her meat in the summer, and gathereth her food in the harvest.”  -Proverbs 6:6-8

This lesson focuses on food preservation.  There are many aspects of food preservation that I have been involved in over the years and still participate in.  I have canned fruits and vegetables, made jams and jellies, dried beef (jerky), veggies, fruits and herbs, and frozen as much as will fit in the freezers.  We also store a lot of our root crops in cold rooms.  I want to address all those things to some extent, and I really look forward to sharing something that is new to me, something that I am just learning and very excited about.  Fermentation.

drying of  ears of corn on a farm in Italian

It wasn’t too long ago that drying, salting, and live storage were the only ways known for preserving produce.  Many cultures depended on sun-dried foods.  People survived bitter cold winters by eating salt-cured produce or vegetables stored live in root cellars.  Caesar’s army cured pickled food through fermentation, and the builders of the Great Wall of China dined on salt-cured vegetables.

Salt was a treasured commodity in the ancient world not just because of its flavor, but also for its ability to preserve food.  Almost any fruit or vegetable can be preserved by one or more of the salt-curing methods.  Once cured, the produce will remain fit for consumption for periods of up to three weeks, provided it is kept at a temperature of about 38 degrees.

 “The problem with storing meat and fish for use the year round is as old as mankind.”

 Most traditional methods used by people the world over involved processing with salt, smoke, and spices that not only preserve but add flavor as well.  Although modern refrigeration has solved the issue of storing meats, many still enjoy the wonderful flavors of dried, salted, brined, or smoked meats.

Old-time methods of preservation are now all but forgotten.  Poultry, cooked and deboned, was stored for months beneath a covering of lard or butter.  Roasts were kept fresh for up to a week by immersing them in cold running water – when the meat began to float, it was time for it to go into the oven.  Charcoal, a strong antibacterial agent, was often ground and rubbed into the surface of meat; fish would be kept fresh by replacing the innards with a lump of charcoal.

pemmicanAmerican Plains Indians dried their meats, then ground them into pemmican which they would carry with them in a small pouch.

In 1809 the Frenchman Nicolas Appert developed a technique of food preservation known today as canning or bottling.  By heating bottled foods to a certain temperature, dangerous micro-organisms were destroyed and the shelf life of the food significantly increased.  The technique caught on and completely changed the method of food preservation the world over.  It also changed the availability of foods.  Today we have store shelves lined with every kind of food you can think of.

There is no longer a great need to store up your own food.  Consequently, most people don’t know the first thing about food preservation.  That is not a good thing.  We are slowly becoming absolutely dependent on others to provide us with food.  In a perfect society, that might be OK.  Unfortunately there are those who are taking advantage of the situation and using food to gain power, to gain untold wealth, and to create a people who are absolutely dependent – which in my mind is nothing more than slavery.  We need to wake up and realize that many who are growing and preserving food are violating a trust we should have with each other to take care of one another.  Foods are now grown with poisons, adulterated with fillers, combined with sugars, and other harmful chemicals that create disease, addictions, and are void of nutrition.

The progress made in the last 100 years has been phenomenal in every field, yet with that progress has come great digression.  While specialization has been wonderful in that it freed mankind up so he did not have to toil away at growing his own food and he could put his time into other pursuits that have done much to raise the prosperity of the entire world, how sad it is to realize that the trust we put in the seed growers, the farmers, and the food manufacturers has indeed been violated.  We have to again take control of what we eat, how its preserved, and how its grown.

peeling apples

making apple pie filling

Thus, it is important to learn, master, and preserve the knowledge and skills of food preservation, hand them down to generations, and impress upon coming generations the need to maintain our health and our freedom through proper, time tested, food preparation and preservation.

It is also a good idea to become acquainted with local growers who are growing safely, naturally, and in harmony with the earth, who are also planting seeds that have not been altered genetically.  Not all of us can be farmers, but all of us need to be able to grow our own food or know someone who will grow it for us.

 We all need to understand and practice some form of food preservation.

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