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Food Preservation & Storage
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Jars for fermenting vegetables
Vegetables can be fermented in glass jars of various sizes, with rubber gaskets and wire bails, using non-iodized salt (such as sea salt or pickling salt) and non-chlorinated water. Jean English photo.

Articles

Dehydrated foodsRoy and Ana Antaki of Weeping Duck Farm in Montville believe that when it comes to food preservation, basic is best. The Antakis employ four main food preservation methods: dehydration, lacto-fermentation, steam canning, and freezing, with an emphasis on the first two. At their 2012 Common Ground Country Fair talk, “Preserving the Harvest with Dehydration,” they explained how this practice is a low-impact, waste-reductive approach to keeping food.

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Bulkhead as rootcellarWhen we moved to a more modern house in central Maine, we had no good way to store root crops in the full-size heated cellar with its poured concrete foundation. The cellar did, however, have a standard bulkhead, and I decided to explore the possibility of using this bulkhead for limited storage of root crops and cabbage.

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By the time this harvest season is over, our cellar shelves will be lined with jars of spicy peach chutney, crisp bread and butter pickles, rainbow-colored marinated bean salad – even rows of canned applesauce varieties: ‘Sweet Sixteen,’ ‘Liberty,’ ‘Spencer’ and ‘Tolman Sweet.’

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“Be sure to wear gloves while handling the jalapeno peppers and avoid touching your face and eyes,” Kathy Savoie, our teacher, warns us. Following a brief lecture on processing tomatoes, our master food preserver class is about to make tomato salsa in the family and consumer science room of the Gorham Middle School.

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JarsI was re-inspired by a presentation by Roy and Ana Antaki at MOFGA's Small Farm Field Day and by the crisp, fresh taste of their lacto-fermented vegetables. And by how healthful these foods are: Lacto-fermentation partially digests vegetables, synthesizing vitamins and making them more available to our bodies, especially B vitamins. They are also high in vitamin C, and benefit our reproductive, digestive and immune systems.

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Visit www.extension.umaine.edu/ to access food safety and preservation publications and to find out about canning workshops in your county.

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Root cellar designRoot-cellaring is a saving technique for ordinary winter storage of fresh, raw, whole vegetables and fruits that have not been processed to increase their keeping quality. The root cellar is a way to hold these foods for several months after their normal harvest in a cold, rather moist environment that does not allow them to freeze or to complete their natural cycle to decomposition in the fall.

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In the face of change, and with concerns about safe, healthy food and the long distances it often travels, what can the everyday, nervous individual do? One recommendation is to grow your own or purchase locally-grown organic produce – and ‘can’ it.

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Home canning has always been “a notorious breeding ground for a bacterium called Clostridium botulinum,” reports Nicholas Bakalar in Where the Germs Are: A Scientific Safari. Botulinus, which is “actually a group of seven separate organisms distinguishable by an odorless type of nerve poison they produce,” lives in the soil all around us; and its effects can be – well – fatal.

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If you are canning foods, be sure you are using current times and techniques for processing. Only tomatoes, fruits, fruit spreads, pickles and sauerkraut have acid content enough to be safely processed in deep kettles of boiling water. All other foods, including any combination of foods that contain tomatoes, must be canned under pressure.

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Devon Zagory, Ph.D., a produce industry consultant, told participants at a workshop of the International Fresh Cut Produce Association recently that they should focus on keeping salad ingredients clean in the first place rather than worry about whether to refrigerate the ingredients or not in order to control the growth of pathogens.

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