Preserving The Taste Of Great Food

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It’s only been in the last few decades that we have had the luxury of canned, frozen and dried foods. We now all take it for granted that we can throw left over’s in the freezer, buy cans of vegetables and fruit out of season and buy meat weeks after it was slaughtered. Nobody wants to go back to the days before deep freezes and supermarkets, but understanding the basic ways to preserve fruit means that should you find yourself with a glut of apples or courgettes in the garden, you have some ideas up your sleeve to preserve the food and stop it from spoiling.

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Preserving The Taste Of Great Food
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Pickling

One of the traditional British ways of preserving is by pickling. The science behind pickling is that by cooking or storing foods in vinegar or alcohol, you stop bacteria from growing and therefore stop the food from going off. In the UK pickled onions or eggs are about as traditional as you can get and the country also has a long history of pickling seafood like cockles and mussels. Elsewhere in Europe it is common to find pickled cabbage, cucumbers, beetroot or carrots. Although storing food in vinegar or alcohol stops it spoiling, the main disadvantage is that the flavour of the pickling agent can completely overwhelm the food itself and not everyone likes the strong taste of vinegar on their food.

Smoking and Drying

Smoke from wood fires has been used for centuries to preserve meat and fish and items like the Arbroath Smokie are a Scottish classic. Companies import cured and dried meat products from South Africa and smoked cheese is popular in countries such as Holland and Germany. The products sold by these companies originated as a way of preserving meat under the hot South African sun, where without smoking, curing or drying it out, the meat would stay fresh for only a few days. Biltong products are often compared to similar items like beef jerky, but biltong meat is thinner and sometimes made from more unusual meats than beef such as ostrich or antelope.

Jams and Preserves

Adding sugar is a great way of stopping fruit from going off and in the UK there is a long history of jam and chutney making. Anything and everything can be made into a jam or chutney and making pots of jam is the best way of using up plums, blackcurrants, damsons or blackberries when they are in abundance in the autumn months. Chutneys are similar to jams but use vinegar as well as sugar and can contain vegetables such as tomatoes, courgettes or peppers as well as fruit. Jam can be stored in air tight jars until needed and can be stored for at least a year.

Salting and Curing

Salt has been used since ancient times to preserve meat and fish. The salt draws all of the moisture from the meat and this stops bacteria and other bugs from growing, meaning that the meat or fish can be kept for many weeks or months before eating. Sugar is sometimes added too in order to encourage the growth of helpful bacteria and to counteract the salty flavour added to the meat. Salt cod is an extremely popular type of fish in Spain and Portugal and was traditionally dried quickly outside under the hot sun. Salt cod has to be rehydrated before cooking by soaking it in water for up to three days, changing the water regularly to get rid of the saltiness. Salted fish is also extremely popular in Scandinavia, where the best quality products fetch large sums of money.
Jasmin Blunt
About the Author:

Jasmin Blunt is a writer who is amazed at the popularity of dried foods such as biltong and other cured meats. There are many companies like Biltong Direct who specialise in supplying these great and tasty foods to the general public.

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