Food With Friends: From Summer to Fall

By Meaghan Sands

As true fall season approaches, the weather remains at steady cool temperatures and comfort foods make their way to the dinner table.

One of my favorite things about fall, and winter, is the change at meal time. Gone away are the light, crisp and fresh meals of summer and in come the rich, heavy and conserved foods of fall.

Hot soups: richly made homemade chicken noodle, velvety butternut and acorn squash, spicy tomato basil, and creamy clam chowder.

Warm beverages: hot apple cider, flavorful coffees, relaxing teas, rich hot cocoa and hot toddies for those who like to imbibe.

Oven favorites: bubbly casseroles, sweet pies and meat dishes.

These are just some of my favorites.

I enjoy walking into the house at the end of the day greeted by the warmth and smell of what is cooking in the oven.

Fall also beacons the coming of preserved foods. Especially as we inch closer to winter.

Although most people don’t do a lot of canning in California, it is a prevalent process in many other states throughout the U.S. As summer ends and gardens lose their seasonal fruits and vegetables such as tomatoes, bell peppers, strawberries and peaches people must preserve these items if they want to enjoy them during the winter season.

There’s nothing like having homemade marinara sauce or peach cobbler made with homegrown produce when it’s freezing outside (and you don’t have to pay extra at the grocery store for out of season produce).

Food preservation has permeated man’s history from ancient times to the present. Before preservation took hold humans had to eat their meat after the kill. Also, because produce begins to spoil the minute it’s picked, humans were unable to harvest large quantities at a time.

Eventually, man discovered that it could in frozen climates they could preserve meat on ice and in tropical climates they could dry fruit in the sun.

This change in the way humans treated food allowed groups of people to settle in one area and live better off the land. All civilizations have used the same food preservations throughout time.

Curing was an early preservation process, especially for meat. It involved the dehydration of meat using salts.

Fish, game, herbs, fruits and vegetables could all be dried by the sun and wind. Middle East and Oriental countries have dried foods since as early as 12,000 B.C. During Roman times “still houses” were created to dry foods in areas where strong sunlight was not available.

Pickling, preserving foods in vinegar or another acid, was another process used to preserve food. Past civilizations also found ways to reuse the pickling brine. Early ketchup was originally an oriental fish brine which, when it made its way to America, eventually had sugar added to it. Worcester sauce was a special relish forgotten in a barrel and allowed to age for many years in a basement.

Fermentation is considered a discovery, not an invention and began when early humans began noticing that food and beverages would change when certain properties and elements were left on or in it. Early civilizations were able to make beer, wine and alcohol which were considered gifts from the gods. Fermentation could also make certain undesirable foods taste better and had added health benefits.

Freezing is a preservation process that is predominantly used in homes throughout the U.S. However, before freezers became prevalent this was a preservation technique that could only be used in freezing climates. Although in other cold climates caves, streams and present day cellars could be used to prolong the storage life of foods.

Curing was an early preservation process, especially for meat. It involved the dehydration of meat using salts.

The making of jam and jellies is an old process, but is also one of the most common ones found in present households. Fruits preserved in honey or sugar was commonplace among the early cultures in Greece and Rome.

Canning is one of the earliest forms of preservation and was created in the 1790’s. The process of heating jars and cans, then letting them cool, creates a vacuum seal keeping microorganisms from spoiling the food.

We all eat foods preserved by these processes every day, with the addition of manmade chemicals that aid in the preservation process. In some states and towns throughout the U.S. though, there are individuals still holding on to the original and pure forms of preservation.

*Information courtesy of National Center for Home Food Preservation.

Food With Friends

Food With Friends

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