Traditional Techniques Using Salt, Oil, Sugar, Alcohol, Vinegar, Drying, Cold Storage, and Lactic Fermentation

by The Gardeners & Farmers of Terre Vivant
(Chelsea Green Publishing; 224 pages)

Terre Vivante is an organization devoted to organic gardening, based in southeastern France, publishers of Les Quatre Saisons du Jardinage/Four-Season Gardening. From the magazine readership, the editors collected a wealth of information on traditional techniques for preserving foods that they have published in book form and translated into English.

In these 250 recipes are classic techniques with new ideas for preserving foods by using salt, alcohol, oil, vinegar, and lactic fermentation. Practical information on cellaring escarole and drying bread and yeast is provided. And, yes, these promote the concept of local eating. There is the technique for extracting “honey” from carob given by a reader in Israel. A Finnish reader extols the virtues of mashed, preserved whortleberries that are “sublime” on morning cereal.

Too, there are ideas sort of in the spirit of the Firefox series. Techniques for preserving foods that neither you nor I will dare undertake. Who has a barrel sufficient for fermenting 60 to 70 heads of cabbage, much less the cool, dry storage it requires? It’s nice to see someone mention the importance of local materials in a technique. “Well-washed stones from the Rhine work marvelously for me!” Now THAT is local.

Intriguing methods abound. Who wouldn’t want to try bottled Swiss chard ribs, lactic fermented coleslaw, or pear jam with walnuts? A delicious recipe for chutney with onion, ginger and banana simultaneously baffles and prompts salivation. Mmmmmm! (And, yes, I know where to find some locally-grown bananas, although ginger is a challenge.) Hate Heinz? What about making your OWN fresh ketchup? Making your own bouillon powder? Or what about oil-preserving cheeses?

There are a lot of ideas you can adapt for use with local produce. Don’t, for example, forget about pistou, pesto’s French cousin, when you are wondering what to do with an abundance of basil. This is great information, sage wisdom that can be used time and again. It’s also a type of heirloom worth passing along with those treasured tomato seeds.

Linda Dailey Paulson is a Ventura-based freelance writer who is looking forward to preserving her own foods as summer approaches … using someone else’s kitchen.