skills for preserving foods have not
been passed down to the current generation, and need to be found and
re-learned from other sources. Sometimes that will mean trial and error
while we learn what works for us. What I need to know is what
size to cut up vegetables and how long they will (A) be
ready to eat and (B) last in
a brine. This then is my experiment in home canning. I
hope that it will give you the confidence or inspiration to try your
own real brine-canning, too.
page is aimed at those who are used to vinegar pickling and pressure
canning, to help them make the transition to natural brine pickling, as
I did. For recipes for making brined pickles, see Apricots
or plums, Beet
or sauerkraut, Chutney,
tomatoes or Salsa.
begun February 6
I peeled and quartered a turnip,
put it in a glass jar and
added full array salt* and water to it. The
total of what I
preserving turnips at the time came from a Lil Abner comic
remembered in which the
only food in the Yokums' house is jars of preserved turnips lined up on
shelves on the wall around the room. I peeled
and quartered the turnip and put it into a solution of salt
water that was 1 teaspoon real salt and 1 pint of water.
is the peeled and
quartered turnip 2
weeks later. If I tap the
glass, bubbles appear showing it is fermenting, but it's still as hard
it was when I put it in the salt water. I expect it will be months
before I can eat it as a nice, juicy pickle.
turnip that I peeled and then kept peeling,
turnip into peel-sized slices, has already been fermented and eaten.
Some of its turnip flavor was gone, but it still had a turnip
aftertaste. The chunks are still firm and fermenting, the wafer-thin
pickled quickly. Pressure canning eliminates that difference and makes
it much easier to can, but the cost of the lost nutrients and
de-naturing of the pressure-canned food isn't worth the
convenience that pressure canning brings.
Turnip, 1 month later
quartered turnip has developed a vacuum seal. As
long as the seal holds, it won't matter if the water level goes below
the turnip level. It will still be an anaerobic fermentation and will
not develop mold or toxins. If the seal should break, I will have to
replace the water and the airlock. This is why I recommend not using
bio-degradable plastic for airlocks, although they are okay for a few
turnips don't look any different than they did 2 months ago when I
first started brining them. Maybe that is the point about turnips. What
makes them most valuable is not their taste but that they preserve
well. Maybe that is the lost knowledge of preserving. It's not about
knowing *how* to can, it's knowing *what* to can. Of course, I still
have to open the jar and taste them to know for sure how they preserve.
-- 11 weeks. I
tried the turnips and I am very pleased with how they are coming along.
The outside 1/2" of the turnip has turned into the juicy, succulent
turnip I was hoping for, and the inside is still firm and still needs
to stay in the brine longer.
months) and Fish Salad
While cutting my pickled turnip, I noticed it looks and feels
much like fish, so I decided to see if I could add it to a fish salad.
I fermented some fish (see raw
fish) in sauerkraut juice and then made a fish salad with
it along with tiny pieces of pickled turnip. I covered them with olive
oil and added some chopped garlic, lemon juice and sea salt. It was
very good in that it almost completely disguised the turnip. It
probably would have tasted even better without the turnip, but for a
way to cover up pickled turnip, it was adequate. (Still preserving
quite nicely after 3 months, btw.)
This actually tasted good. You couldn't taste turnip at all.
and Lemon --
liked the taste of
turnip with blue cheese, and blue cheese is
made with penicillium mold which is the same turquoise and white mold
that grows on lemons, and I am also trying an experiment with pickling
lemons, I wondered what would happen if I pickled the turnips with a
blue-moldy lemon. (Do not breathe in mold dust (spores). See Mold.)
What happened, oddly, is that after a week the blue
mold started to vanish.
#2 -- August 4
Three months of lacto-fermenting and these are soft to the point of
being almost mushy The blue mold may have helped that before it
disappeared, I don't know, but they were a lot softer than the turnip#1
were after 3 months. Of course, the weather has been warmer. The lemon
taste was a little too pronounced and, sadly, they still have a faint
taste of turnip left to them. Still, they are not so bad that I won't
eat them, especially as I like mushy pickles. Conclusion: I will
continue to use the blue mold on lemons but scrape it off rather than
add the whole lemon peel if I want to encourage softness in a fermented
brine-canned February 24
decided to expand my brine-preserving experiment. I peeled some small
onions and put them in salt water along with a couple garlic cloves.
After 2 weeks, they are
beginning to look soft and fuzzy. I had one and it tasted great, though
a little on the crunchy side for me.
opened the pickled onions again a week later and took out another onion
and cut the rest of the whole onions into quarters. It's still too
crunchy for my chewing ability but not so much that I didn't eat and
enjoy it. I mixed it with some soft fermented apple slices to make up
for it. Served with a piece of cheese and a slice or sourdough bread,
it was a nourishing and very satisfying meal.
I finally ate all the pickled onions in that jar and put the other
onion pickles away on a high shelf where I wouldn't be tempted to eat
them until I had seen how long they would last.. I made another jar of
pickled onions in the first jar, however, because they are really,
|Rutabaga (Swede) begun
chopped up some rutabaga (swede) and put it in brine. After two weeks, although it was chopped up
into small pieces, it still looks as fresh as when I put it in.
Rutabaga (UK: "Swede") --
Much like the turnip, it is keeping well.
-- 9 weeks.
Opened the jar to try it. These 1" pieces are soft-crunchy and, best of
all, taste a lot less like a rutabaga than when they into the jar.
These small pieces need to be eaten soon, but, if they had been cut
into larger chunks, would have lasted longer.
begun March 10 I cut a few large chunks
out of a celeriac, cut some bite-sized pieces with a knife and
then shredded the rest with a coarse cheese grater. I put the big
chunks into the bottom of a glass jar, then put the bite-sized pieces
on top of
them and the thin shredded pieces on top of those. As I did so I
wondered if I
would lose the small pieces as they sank to the bottom.
I was pleased
to see that as it fermented, the smaller pieces stayed at the top,
buoyed up by the carbonation probably. That they would be easier to get
at when I opened the jar, and the larger pieces
stayed at the bottom. The pieces at the top will ferment faster than
the ones at the bottom.
After 2 weeks,
the jar has
formed its own vacuum seal. As long as the
seal remains intact, the celeriac will keep indefinately.
Celeriac -- 1
month old. The
celeriac that I cut in chunks and thin slices has turned soft and slimy
and has an odd smell. It's edible but I don't like it and I'm going to
throw it out. Note to self: don't try to brine celeriac. Find some
other use for it. Or perhaps I should have eaten it a lot sooner.
Celeriac, 5 weeks.
-- I opened the celeriac. It's still slimy, though the smell
wasn't as bad as I remembered it. Still, with soured food a bad smell
doesn't necessarily mean anything. I determined to try it before
sending it to the compost bin. So, with no fear for
one's personal safety, I took a bite and it was delicious, soft,
succulent and juicy. I added some hot spiced vinegar.
pickled celeriac is not out of the realm of the possible, but not a
good vegetable for preserving over winter.
Celeriac, 6 weeks -- I finally poured the brined celeriac
finished sauerkraut that I'm now eating. The brined celeriac was too
slimy and smelly to eat by itself, but too tasty to toss away. There's
nothing left of it now but the murkiness in a jar of kraut. Would I do
it again? I've been thinking in my fantasize-as-farmwife mode that this
would be good in a chutney. For all those leftover vegetables that
wouldn't fit in the 50-gallon barrel after it had been packed to the
top, I could chop them up into a relish, and one celeriac
add body and flavor. If I find another celeriac on sale at the farmer's
market, I may try it again that way to see what happens.
Celeriac #2 -- chutney, May 1
I made a chutney with celeriac, red peppers, onions, garlic, carrots
begun February 3 I shredded
with a potato peeler to make very fine
shavings and put it in brine.
Shredded parsnip -- 9
weeks old. Has pickled nicely and I am going to add it to
sauerkraut I am now eating. It wasn't really a good test of preserving
parsnip. I should have used whole parsnips instead. Still, if parsnips
sliced thin with a potato peeler will be edible 6 weeks after being put
in brine in the spring, it bodes well for how parsnips will preserve.
April 19. Because the finely-shredded parsnip
wasn't a good test of brine-canning, I am starting another jar with
larger chunks of parsnip. I added
some chopped chives and pieces of ginger. I expect that this will come
much like gingered carrots. If it keeps until July, I will assume
that it would have lasted for 4 winter months.
Brine-Canned Foods in the Home
You'll need to keep
an eye on your on your pickles
Two ways would be to put them in a
large barrel and take some out every day, or put them in clear glass
jars on a shelf you can see, as I have done here. If it were
autumn and I had harvested a large crop and had a family to feed thru
I would think of lining a wall with shelving made out of cinder blocks
and planks of wood.
speaking of feeding the family through the winter, see the jar on the
far right? Those are the turnips.
They have been in brine for 6
weeks and still look as firm and fresh as the day I put them in. When I
started, I had visions of biting into soft, juicy, succulent
turnips that had miraculously turned into something that did not taste
like turnips. Instead, those turnips look much the same as they did 6
weeks ago. You can see a layer of kahm (white mold) forming on the
cabbage leaf on top of them, but the turnips themselves are perfectly
preserved. That's good news for the War On Pressure Canning, but bad
news for me, because I don't actually like turnips.
(second from the
look firm and fresh, too, now after 3 weeks.
The rest of the jars are
far, I have been unable to find out how the onions would
keep after 3 weeks because I eat them. However, I
now remember that the way to
preserve onions is to sew them together in a braid (or put in a net
bag) and hang them from
the rafters where each onion is surrounded by air, so I am not going to
continue trying to brine-preserve the onions any more, but I will
continue to make brine-pickled onions..
|Lemons, begun March 16
found a recipe for pickled lemons from India on the net. Indians never
lost their tradition of salt brining as we have in the West. This
recipe caught my interest because it says it can be kept for 2 years. I
decide to make a sample of it. Here's the recipe:
25 Lemons (Nimbu)
6 tablespoons Salt (Namak)
* Prick the lemons with a sharp needle.
* Put in a jar with salt for one month in the sun
till the lemons turn slightly golden brown.
* This pickle can be kept for two years.
had found another recipe for mango pickle that had said to cover them
with a cloth for the first week, so I decide to do that with the
lemons. I get two lemons. I punched one with a small dressmakers' pin
all around and cut the other in quarters. I put them in a jar, added a
chili pepper and couple cloves of garlic, covered it with a piece of
cotton cloth secured with an elastic and set it on my south-facing
sunny kitchen window for a week. (I like this putting out in the sun
for a week and may adopt this procedure for my other lacto-ferments.)
a week, I removed the cloth cover. There was some kahm (white mold) on
the top but I drained that off. I then stuffed some leaves on top of
the lemons to keep them under the water and put a piece of plastic back
on as a cover and put them on the shelf with my other pickles.
Lemons -- 3
well, or at least they look OK. I took them out of the sun after 1 week
and put them on a kitchen shelf by mistake. They are still yellow and
not brown. A week later I moved them back into the sunlight.
bought a bunch more lemons in case it turns out I like them. The recipe
doesn't say if you're to eat the whole lemon or just part of it. No
doubt the Indians already know that. I guess I will find out when I try
-- 5 weeks
Still sitting on the window sill in the kitchen in the sun, still not
turning brown, still keeping well otherwise.
-- 3 months.
The original lemons I pickled are still in the jar. However, since that
time I have also made lemon
pickles by brine-pickling some lemon peels from moldy lemons.
These ferment and quickly to mush, so I have eaten them. They have an
interesting, tangy taste, but are best eaten with something else. They
are good to lighten up a heavy meal of meat, and I believe they help
stimulate digestion as well. I have used them to make a fruit chutney
by first making a tomato salsa
mixing it with chopped pickled lemon peel, raw honey and mixed raw
fruit, often fruit that is starting to go "off" and ferment on its own.
lots of cabbage
Notes on Brine Canning
a large, food-safe barrel
and put it in a cool place, perhaps a room on the north side of the
house or apartment or flat if you don't have a cellar. Remove the cores
from each cabbage and fill the resulting hole with salt. Place the
cabbages salt side up (upside down) in the barrel and fill with water.
Get something to weight them down so that the cabbages stay under
water, such as putting a ceramic plate on the cabbages and a heavy rock
on the ceramic plate, and then cover and leave in a cool place.
Apples & Quince
will brine preserve well but apples will crumble quickly. Wrap
each apple in a sheet of
newspaper, put in a plastic grocery bag and hang from the rafters in a
cool garage or put them any place where it's cool and the rats can't
get at them. If it's going to get below freezing bring them into the
house for awhile. That would be a good time to go through them to make
sure none are getting soft. Some apples store better than others,
however, so first it would be a good idea to ask if these particular
apples are good for storing over the winter.
parsnips and jerusalem artichokes can
also be not harvested but left in the
ground over the winter by covering them with hay over the rows.
course, you can't just preserve stuff to open at the end of winter,
you also have to have stuff ready to eat every day during the winter.
Figuring out this is probably another part of the equation in brine
preserving. Cabbage can be packed whole, large chunks and shredded
pieces to come out at different times. I have no problem keeping a
prepared sauerkraut for 2 months in the cold weather.
How much of your crop should you preserve? This will vary according to
individuals, but just as a starting benchmark I am guessing, per
person, per month of no harvest: 4-6 cabbages, 35 onions, 5 garlic, 18
carrots, 12 turnips, 12 parsnips and 1 celeriac.
OK, that's the farmwife mode who thinks
she has no other food coming in for 4 months. In the actual world we
live in where you will continue to buy food from the store during the
time of no harvest, those might be good ballpark numbers for how much
to preserve to
last the entire winter. Divide that amount into 4 parts and cut it up
in different sizes so that different parts will be ready at different
times. Pack into glass jars, cover with brine and push the veg down
under the brine. Distribute the garlic evenly thoughout the others for
flavor, and make a chutney of the celeriac and whatever pieces wouldn't
fit into jars. Cover with a piece of cloth and leave in the sun for a
week, then replace cloth cover with plastic and secure with a rubber
band. Place in different temperatures -- warm area for what you want to
eat as soon as it's ready, room temp for ongoing food source during the
winter and some of it in cool to near-freezing temperatures to last
till the end of winter. If you have 50-gallon oak barrels, of course,
you can just pack everything in there and store it in the root cellar
and the veg at the top of the barrel will be ready sooner than the
stuff at the bottom.
So What Can You
Do With An
Expensive Pressure Canner?
jars used for pressure canning can be used for brine canning. The only
part of your pressure canner that causes damage to your food is the
valve that creates the UHT (ultra high temperature)..
The pot itself
can be useful as a good-quality steamer. Find a glass or ceramic bowl
that fits inside the pot, put a glass or ceramic plate on top of the
bowl. Add water to the pot and cover. Use it to re-heat cooked foods to
replace your microwave.
You could even use it as a
frugal, low-energy slow cooker: cover and bring it to boil, turn the
off, put the valve on only to conserve heat, not to increase pressure,
and then put a bunch of quilts or some other form of insulation around
the pot and let food cook slowly at low temperature
For the more
adventurous, convert it into a still.
Food without Freezing or Canning:
Traditional Techniques Using Salt, Oil, Sugar, Alcohol, Vinegar,
Drying, Cold Storage, and Lactic Fermentation by The Gardeners and
Farmers of Centre Terre Vivante.