...and kiss these two books on food fermentation. You're gonna love 'em!
Keeping your carbon footprint small can involve several strategies, one of which is food preservation. Locavores eat foods that are locally grown, foods that haven’t had to travel by planes, trains, and ocean liners to get to them. But what do locavores do between harvest times? It helps to know something about food preservation.
We’re not talking about artificial preservatives, here. No, that wouldn’t be green dining at all. But foodstuffs have been preserved for centuries, long before anybody came up with sodium metabisulfite, butylated hydroxytoluene, et al. One of the ways it was done long ago involves fermentation, which, when managed properly, produces compounds that protect the food from invasion by harmful (to us) molds and bacteria.
Various microbes live and thrive in the foods and beverages that we consume. Most of the time, we keep them from taking over by refrigerating our perishables and consuming things before they, well, ferment. But certain foods like cheese, yogurt, tempeh, and kimchi and beverages like beer, wine, kefir to name just a few of each, are only possible because of fermentation.
Some foods that were traditionally fermented, like pickles and sauerkraut, are no longer prepared that way by the companies who produce high volumes of food. They add vinegar to take the place of naturally-fermented acid that was once the preservative for those foods. And trust me, the store-bought sauerkraut tastes nothing like what my great-grandmother made (she was descended from German immigrants in the North GA mountains).Well, I have recently made some kraut and some sour dill pickles without using one drop of vinegar and let me tell you, they are mahvelous. Want to try it yourself? I’ve got a couple of books to recommend.
I found the first book, The Art Of Fermentation by Sandor Ellis Katz, in Avid, a great little bookstore in Athens, GA. The subtitle is, “an in-depth exploration of essential concepts and processes from around the world”, and that it certainly is. If you want to know anything and everything about the history, the science, the culture of culturing, then this is the book for you. It’s an encyclopedia devoted to the subject of food and beverage fermentation, a wealth of information on a fascinating subject. Some of the chapter titles are: Chapter 1 – Fermentation as a Coevolutionary Force; Chapter 2 – Practical Benefits of Fermentation; Chapter 10 – Growing Mold Cultures. There are also chapters on specific food groups: Chapter 5 – Fermenting Vegetables (and Some Fruits Too); Chapter 10 – Fermenting Milk. I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in learning all they can about food fermentation. You can use this book as a reference for starting your own food fermentation or just read it for the education, it’s great either way. Katz is the author of another book on this subject, "Wild Fermentation" and a book about the food revolution "The Future Will Not Be Microwaved".
The second book is more of a cookbook in nature, a “how-to” book with lots of color pictures showing exactly how to do it, with recipes for most of the common fermentable foods. "Real Food Fermentation" by Alex Lewin is for those less interested in the whole fermentation story and more interested in getting things going in the kitchen. “Real Food Fermentation” may not cover everything that “Art of Fermentation” does (it never mentions fermenting acorns, for instance) but it’s a great book for anyone who wants to know exactly what they need and how to do it when making sauerkraut, pickles, kimchi, yogurt, kefir, crème fraiche, kombucha, and a bunch more. It’s a very attractive book with lots of color photos to help you see the process better. While “Art…” does have some interesting electron microscope photos of the bacteria and molds that do the work, when I’m waiting for my first attempt to develop into edible food I prefer the before and after shots of the sauerkraut in “Real…”. Lewin authors a blog called "Feed Me Like You Mean It."
I’m glad to have both books and if I had it to do over again I would still get both. I can’t even recommend which to get if you’re only getting one, because it depends on how you like it. If you prefer in-depth knowledge over nice photography and quick start-up, then get “The Art of Fermentation”. If you prefer a user-friendly how-to book that will let you jump right in and start cooking, then go for “Real Food Fermentation”. I read the instructions in both books for making sauerkraut and for making cucumber pickles and found no contradictory information. I used info from both but it was "Real..." that I had open on the counter when I made the kraut and the pickles (see below).
Actually, on the sidebar to the right side of this blog (you may have to scroll up or down and look for them) you’ll find links to both books on Amazon. Go check them out and see what you think. I’m going back to the fridge for another pickle (yum!).
Lucky us, we were invited to attend the soft opening of Davio 's in Phipps Plaza last week, complete with bite-size samples of their fabulous food and an assortment of adult beverages. “Why?” Larry asked when I told him. After all, Davio’s bills itself as a Northern Italian Steakhouse, not normally the kind of place that screams green to folks like us that eat with the environment in mind.
I didn’t know why. Maybe it was because they get their beef from Brandt, the Brawley, California ranchers who feed their cattle vegetarian diets of corn and locally-grown alfalfa, who compost waste and send it back to the alfalfa farm in order to reduce or eliminate the need for chemical fertilizers, who have sworn off hormone and antibiotic injections for their well animals, and who advocate the use of the whole cow as one way to reduce waste. We don’t eat cows but we think people who do should have the choice of purchasing meat that comes from sustainable operations like Brandt, a ranch whose owners care about the humane treatment of their animals. The increasing availability of meat from ranches like this that are both sustainable and humane are likely the driving force behind the increase in the number of flexitarians , those often-former vegetarians that eat limited amounts of meat now that you can get it somewhere besides those nasty factory farms.
Or maybe we were invited because there was a social ecology slant to the event. All attendees were encouraged to make a donation to the Schenck School, whose mission is to educate students with dyslexia and related learning disorders. As we've mentioned before, we think humans are a fabulous species every bit as worthy of love and care as the spotted owl, the snail darter or any of those fellow creatures our type is more well-known for throwing ourselves in front of bulldozers and chainsaws to protect. Telling ourselves that we were going just to support the children, we hopped in the car and took off for Buckhead.
We went to Savannah last month to dip our feet in the water and dive into the sumptuous culinary offerings of Thrive, a Carryout Cafe . Thrive is the second Georgia restaurant to earn the designation of Certified Green Restaurant awarded by the Green Restaurant Association (GRA).
Since we've already gone on and on in this blog about what it takes to be a Certified Green Restaurant (be Styrofoam free, use sustainable furnishings and building materials as well as sustainable food sources, efficiency in water and fuel consumption, waste reduction and recycling, chemical and pollution reduction, and the use of eco-ware if disposables are used at all)...why not go on about it again? It's quite an accomplishment for a restaurant to meet these standards and to commit to the GRA's requirements for ongoing progress in reducing their carbon footprint.
We knew going in that we were going to be really happy with Thrive's greening efforts. What we didn't know was – Can they cook?<< MORE >>
We were already crazy about their food and observing this act of thoughtfulness toward the world made us feel even better about them. It was like finding out that someone you've already fallen in love with just happens to be independently wealthy and you didn't even know it. It was icing on an already sweet cake.