Serve the Preserve
Seven ways to hold on to your summer favorites.
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PHOTO OF JESSE GRIFFITHS COURTESY OF DAI DUE
Food Preservation Expert
If anyone knows how to master the art (and science) of food preservation, it’s Jesse Griffiths, executive chef and owner of Dai Due, a local Austin butcher shop and supper club that focuses on using local ingredients year round.
What are some popular seasonal items to preserve right now in Austin?
We are really at the peak of canning season in the summer; tomatoes, eggplant, cucumbers, onions, garlic, and peppers are all at their peak and are preservable in many different methods like drying, pickling, fermenting, and smoking.
What is your personal favorite food/preservation combination?
I love a smoked pepper that's then been dried. It keeps its flavor very well, and can be rehydrated later. The smell of a good, sweet pepper that's smoked and dried is incredible, like chocolate and leather.
Preservation Methods Continued:
Curing is often used to preserve meat and fish, and focuses on drawing moisture out through osmosis. There are two different types. Dry curing involves coating your meat/fish in a salt and spice mixture and then storing it in a humidity and temperature controlled space. It is time-consuming and can take years in some cases. This is how prosciutto is made. Wet curing requires submerging the item in a cure (chilled liquid with salt, nitrites and water) and allowing it to soak for a certain time, typically a week or two. Wet curing gives you control over how much salt you add, which is a bonus.
Pro Tip: While dry curing is great, wet curing promises an equal salt concentration on the entire surface.
Smoking is another ideal process for meat and fish, in which the chemicals in smoke dry the food out, removing moisture in which bacteria could grow. It can be done in a hot environment for a short period, or at a lower temperature for a longer time.
Pro Tip: Smoked meats and fish can be kept three to four days in the fridge after being cooked, or two to three months in the freezer.
Candying, although not the healthiest, might be one of the most delicious methods. Typically done with fruit, the item is placed in a heated sugar syrup; that sugar saturation discourages the growth of spoilage microorganisms.
Pro Tip: Candied fruits have a shelf life of about a year.
Freeze drying preserves food through sublimation, the process of turning ice to vapor. Food is frozen, then placed in a strong vacuum; the water in the food then sublimates, removing all moisture. This method tends not to alter the taste of the original contents and affords an extremely long shelf life. It works well with items like coffee beans and fruits, especially apples and pears.
Pro Tip: Make sure your vacuum bag remains sealed and intact—a punctured bag will result in a botched freeze dry!
With seven different methods to choose from, there is one for every meat, fish, fruit, and vegetable. Start preserving and find out just how easy it is to have your summer all year long.