Garum: Fermented Fish Sauce for the Ancient Roman Masses

garum roman fish sauce

Fish fermentation allowed the ancient Romans to store their fish surplus for long periods, in a time when there were no freezers and fishing was bound to fish migratory patterns. [Read more…]

DIY Urban Root Cellar

urban root cellar

“As we experiment with cultivating a greater agrarian connection, it’s time for us to revisit the age-old wisdom of the root cellar. Traditionally, root cellars are underground structures used to store vegetables, fruits and other foods. Because the earth’s mean temperature hovers around 60 degrees, a root cellar serves as the perfect natural refrigerator.

Although building a root cellar may not be practical for everyone—especially for those of us who live in urban areas—we can still apply some of the same concepts and techniques utilized in traditional root cellars to keep our harvest naturally fresh and lasting longer. The design of this urban root cel­lar, by Elliott Marks, was inspired by an exhibition by Jihyun Ryou, called “Save Food from the Refrigerator.”

The design incorporates key elements of a good root cellar — a variety of shelves, humidity, and air circulation — while also being small and portable. It is easily achievable by anyone and we encourage you to adopt this design or create a version that works for you. The general concept is to create a storing space specifically designed to preserve the gar­den harvest using grandparents’ know-how.”

Read more: Make your own urban root cellar, Mother Earth News.

Preserving Food by Fermentation

kimchi“Extracting nutrition via the bacteria and yeasts that live on the surfaces of food sources has traditionally enabled people all over the world to make use of seasonal abundance for leaner times. In a climate-constrained future, when the use of fossil fuels (and thus refrigeration) will need to be greatly reduced, fermentation could play a key role in preserving both our food and our cultural diversity.

Before refrigeration came into our houses and global supply chains, most of our winter stores were salted, pickled, and dried. Many of the strong compelling flavors found in European delicatessens come via fermentation: cheese, salami, gherkins, vinegar, olives. Likewise the mainstays of Oriental cuisine—soy, miso, and tempeh—and the whole of the world’s drinks cabinet, including everyday luxuries such as coffee and chocolate.

If you were wary of venturing into this unknown territory alone, you could not hope for a more enthralling guide than Sandor Ellix Katz: “My advice is to reject the cult of expertise. Do not be afraid. You can do it yourself.” There is no recorded case, he assures us, of poisoning from fermented vegetables.”

Read more: Fermenting Change. Thanks to Aaron Vansintjan. More low-tech food preservation.

The Groundfridge

groundfridge

The Groundfridge is an innovative take on the traditional root cellar. Via Treehugger.

Bog Butter: Storing Food in Soil

Bog Butter Storing Food in Soil

“Bog butter is butter that has been buried in a peat bog. Over 430 instances of bog butter have been recorded. Of these, 274 have been found in Scotland and Ireland since 1817. The earliest discoveries are thought to come from the Middle Iron Age (400-350 BC), though this does not exclude the possibility of much more ancient roots. More recently one firsthand account tells of butter being buried for preservation in Co. Donegal 1850-60. In 1892, Rev. James O’Laverty, an advocate of the argument that the butter was buried for gastronomic reasons, dug some butter into a ‘bog bank’ and left it for eight months. His experiment was carried out in much the same spirit as ours – for analytical purposes and not for a cultural or preserving motive.”

“Peat bogs are, by their nature, cold, wet places; almost no oxygen circulates in the millennia-old build-up of plant material, which creates highly acidic conditions (our site had a pH of 3.5). Sphagnum moss bogs have remarkable preservation properties, the mechanisms of which are poorly understood. Early food preservation methods have been researched extensively by Daniel C. Fisher, in relation to the preservation of meat. In an attempt to recreate techniques used by paleoamericans in North America, Fisher sunk various meats into a frozen pond and a peat bog.

“A key finding from his research is that after one year, bacterial counts on the submerged meats were comparable to control samples which had been left in a freezer for the same amount of time. In fact, suitable foods can probably be aged in many types of soil: salt-rich that will provide dehydration, very cold/freezing that will freeze foods or slow degradation, or, as in our case, anaerobic and acidic conditions to prevent microbial action and oxidation. To our canny ancestors, this preserving characteristic provided an ideal place to bury foods.”

Read more: Bog Butter: a gastronomic perspective. Via The Year of Mud. More low-tech food preservation.

Update: Root Simple links to an interesting video about this primitive food storage technique. Thanks to Ruben Anderson.

Smoke House for Fish

smoke house for fishsmoke house for fish 2

This traditional smoke house for fish, photographed in the Ethnographic Open-Air Museum of Latvia, is made from a scrapped boat hull. Pictures by No Tech Magazine.