Tuesday, May 4, 2010

TECHNIQUES - Food Preservation

Since prehistoric times, ensuring a daily supply of food for oneself and one's family has involved not only the cultivation, catch or purchase of that food, but also its preservation once it is at hand. Most foods, both of animal and vegetable derivation, are very perishable, and within a very short time will be rendered inedible by spoilage unless something is done to preserve them. A primitive hunter may be successful in making a large kill, but cannot take advantage of this bounty unless he can preserve the meat. Anyone who has ever cultivated home-grown vegetables or fruits knows the problem of an entire crop ripening overnight, turning abundance from a blessing to a problem.

Traditional cuisines around the world have dealt with this issue in a large number of ways, but interestingly, there are really only a handful of basic means of food preservation, and many of these have not changed significantly over the millennia. Many of the best-loved foods in every culture are not only a question of what the basic food product is but how it has been preserved. Kosher dill pickles, strawberry jam, smoked salmon, Roquefort cheese are all foods that are characterized more by the way they have been preserved than by the basic food products they are made from.

Traditional Brazilian food makes full use of most of the types of food preservation, and in the next few posts, Flavors of Brazil will highlight some of the results. Discounting more recent modern techniques, such as irradiation and chemical preservation, the list of traditional food preservation techniques includes the following:

Heating/Cooking
Cooling/Freezing
Drying
Smoking
Fermenting
Pickling
Salting
Sugaring

All of these techniques have long histories, though freezing as a food preservation technique, outside the Arctic regions, is a modern, technological innovation. Without them, we'd all be eating for dinner tonight only what we'd harvested or killed today. And we'd be eating it raw, at room temperature. And there would be very few recipes indeed on Flavors of Brazil, or any other blog. Bless food preservation!

1 comment:

  1. Indeed. Tropical food preservation is very interesting and fun. Drying is my favorite preservation technique.

    ReplyDelete