SUSTENANCE

Culinary arts, crafts and seasonal sky-watching lore from the New Human observatory.

Time for the Can-Can!

It’s a thriving micro-economy that’s growing each year. It begs the question, which came first the food or the mason jar?

If you thought the trend of pickling began several years ago, you may wish to reconsider that. The first historic evidence of pickling began 4000 years ago using cucumbers native to India. This was used as a way to preserve food for out-of-season use and for long journeys, especially by sea. Eventually more hearty items like salt pork and salt beef were included to accommodate those on the longer journeys. Sailors and lumbermen would tote them along for their durability in harsh weather conditions.

The communal ‘back to the land’ movement of the late 60’s and early 70’s, allowed people to rediscover the home pickling craft, once again as a way to preserve the harvest and also for the nutritional value. It was a boom era for the Mason jar, which had not earned such attention since its introduction to the farmers of North America in the late 1800’s.

Although the process was invented to preserve foods, pickles are also made and eaten because people enjoy the resulting flavors. Pickling may also improve the nutritional value of food by introducing B vitamins produced by bacteria. As we all know by now, fermented foods are very medicinal to the digestive system, and can even reverse the effects of that Slurpee you had for dinner.

Health and economic benefits aside, it is commonly recognized as a legitimate culinary craft, even attracting the attention of those chef-deities who try to convince us that we know nothing about food until they enlighten us. But, pickling and preserving are ancient skills, much dictated by the quality of the produce grown on your own soil and the alchemist creativity of the maker.

As you prepare for the harvest season and get out your canning gear, remember to put aside a jar or two of your cherished preserves for the staff of the NHC. Just like ol’ Doc Adams, we mostly get paid in fresh caught trout and blueberry pies.

Happy harvesting.

NHC

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