Power smart food preservation – Cowichan Valley Citizen

Forty years ago, David was seduced by BC Hydro when it insisted that its electricity was the cheapest and most environmentally friendly available. Advertisements and offers were everywhere, and eventually he succumbed to the enticements. He replaced his old oil-fired furnace with a plenum heater at a discounted rate promised as permanent and joined the march of progress towards affordable environmental sustainability. At the risk of mutilating my metaphors, he hitched his horse to their gleaming electric cart.

Times are changing, it seems. Today, the desire is to use less energy, using a strategy of punitive tariffs that target the very people who have been convinced by Hydro’s promises. Literally billions of dollars have been spent on special meters to detect when and how we use electricity, allowing the Authority to apply charges that penalize those of us who use electricity during “off hours”. point”. Rush hours seem to be when most of us are awake and need the service. If you really want to save money by canning your own tomatoes, BC Hydro suggests you do it at 3am every second Wednesday morning! You can also consider unplugging your freezer during the day.

What can a successful grower do? We can freeze and can, but there is something to be said for storing food without electricity. Cold cellar storage and dehydrating outdoors in the sun are good options, as is fermentation. If you have an abundance of produce, why not try fermenting some, as generations before us have done? This centuries-old custom kept our ancestors alive, and many cultures still preserve food this way.

In his book The art of fermentation, author Sandor Ellix Katz includes a wealth of contributions from people whose families have been fermenting food for generations without the need for electricity, skills developed long before Nicholas Appert and Clarence Birdseye made the discoveries that created our age. of abundance. But as canning and refrigeration become more expensive, we might consider this energy-smart alternative.

Katz explains that different bacteria and yeasts produce different ferments. The bacteria present on all vegetables naturally accumulate lactic acid when the plants are submerged, preventing the formation of mold, preserving food and greatly improving the absorption of vitamins and minerals from the intestine. Dr. S. Hemalatha reported in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition that the bioavailability of zinc and iron was significantly increased when a rice and lentil paste was fermented.

Kimchi and sauerkraut, both made from fermented cabbage, are promoted as part of a healthy diet. Many foods we commonly eat have been fermented, such as cocoa beans; yeasts, acetic acids and lactic acids ferment the pulp surrounding the beans, allowing them to be rinsed cleanly. The tomato seeds are left to ferment for three days under water to kill any pathogens and help dissolve the mucilage surrounding the seeds. Then they are washed, dried and saved for next year’s planting.

Here is what doctor Johannes Kuhl, a German researcher, has to say about fermented foods: “The natural lactic acid and fermentative enzymes that are produced during the fermentation process have a beneficial effect on the metabolism and a healing effect on the diseases. Lactic acid destroys harmful intestinal bacteria and contributes to better digestion and assimilation of nutrients.

Given the extra produce from the garden at this time of year, we can afford to try a little experimentation by fermenting some of that excess. Monique Trahan from Massachusetts uses her extra herbs to make a fresh herb dressing mix by chopping all the herbs she has with a little chili, adding brine, and fermenting it at room temperature for three days. Then she stores it in the refrigerator where it lasts all winter. When she makes a salad, she adds a spoonful of oil and vinegar and says it’s also good in soups or as a dip.

Of course, grapes have also long been fermented for later consumption. The debate may still go on about the health benefits of wine, but, provided it’s served at room temperature, we can take comfort in the assurance that at least it’s smart.

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