Yes, we’re up to our ears in cucumbers, and the bountiful harvest is pouring in from the farms and gardens of this beautiful valley. But when it comes to produce, there are only so many freshly harvested, locally grown cucumbers, blueberries, tomatoes and peaches we can eat while they are in season. And if we want to eat local to support local agriculture and lower our food’s carbon footprint, what are we going to eat during the cold frosty winter ahead? This is where food preservation comes in.
Next Monday, Aug. 18, Food For All is offering a free food preservation workshop from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Not Bread Alone kitchen, 165 Main Street, Amherst. Food For All has a ¾-acre garden at the UMass Agricultural Learning Center and is staffed by Sustainable Food and Farming Program students and community volunteers. The workshop is called Local Food & Resilience: Preserving the Bounty and involves a short presentation on skills for local food system resilience, followed by a hands-on canning and fermentation workshop. Participants will go home with their own preserved food, as well as useful handouts and resources. Recipe sharing is encouraged!
To learn more about Food for All, including its mission to supply vegetables and herbs for the Amherst Survival Center and Not Bread Alone, check out the story in Friday’s Daily Hampshire Gazette.
To preserve all those cucumbers for the long winter ahead, Nick and I use two pickling methods. For years we have made bread and butter pickles, using a recipe we learned from a friend and fellow gardener, Ed Stanek. After washing and slicing the unpeeled cucumbers, we mix them with chopped onions and minced garlic. Then we salt them and cover with ice cubes and let them sit for 3 plus hours until the ice melts. We drain them and then add them to a heated mixture of sugar, turmeric, celery seed and mustard seed, water and vinegar. After cooking briefly, we put them in pint jars and process in a boiling water bath for 5 minutes. Great on tuna sandwiches!
I use filtered water for the salt brine so the residues of chlorine in our tap water won’t suppress the helpful microbes that preserve the cucumbers. I use a food-safe plastic bucket for my fermentation, covered by a plate which is weighted down to keep the cucumbers submerged in the brine. It took a little over a week for the cukes to turn into crisp, salty pickles. Then I transferred them from the crock into wide-mouth canning jars and put them in the fridge. I think I will have some for lunch today!