Wild Food Lab Projects:
Salted Fish in a Day
Wild Food Lab
Preserving Vegetables and Acorns (nuts) in Brine
Preservation of food with salt is an old process, if you're a food history buff, you will find records of such methods used in ancient Egypt (including the mummification process). In the dawn of agriculture, people would been aware of the need to store up provisions against natural or man made disasters.
Been able to preserve food using various methods also allowed civilisation to expand beyond the boundaries where food was readily available. The discovery of America and other territories would not have been possible without the knowledge of food preservation.
In more recent history, the American settlers survived bitter winters by using root cellars and salt-curing foods.
The principle of preserving vegetables with a salt brine is extremely simple. The spoiling of food is created by various bacterias and enzymes. Above a certain concentration of salt in food, microorganisms cannot develop and thus the preservation of food is assured.
In the past, this method of preserving vegetables would have been mostly used for soup although I also salt acorns which are used in various other recipes such as vegetarians burgers, sausages, etc...
The advantages of this methods are:
You can preserve food without the need of any power source for a long period. (I've done it for over a year in Southern California). In a cold and dark place, people have been able to store vegetables in salt for up to 3 years.
Salt is still cheap and it's easy to do. You don't need special equipment.
The disadvantages are:
The salt must be removed from the vegetables before consumming which requires soaking and repeated rinsing which eliminate some of the nutrients (Vitamin C is soluble in water for example).
Too much salt in your diet is not healthy (we're much more aware of this fact than our ancestors were) so you really need to remove it (soaking and rinsing)
Basic Recipe for Preserving Vegetables in Brine.
What you need:
Sea Salt (if you are using coarse salt you will need to weight it to have the same quantity as sea salt. One cup of coarse salt is not the same amount as one cup of fine salt. Do not use regular salt with contains iodine or other added chemical agents).
Water (not tap water which contains chlorine)
Olive oil (not a must for acorns as the acorns will fall to the bottom of the jar)
Fresh organic vegetables
Knife and cutting board.
You also may need something non-reacting to salt which can be used as a weight to keep the vegetables down in the brine although in most cases, it isn't necessary as most vegetables have a tendency to rest at the bottom of the jar after a while. I usually use a small stone (clean and pasteurized in boiling water).
Make sure the jars you will be using are clean (wash it with soap, use bleach or place in boiling water for 10 minutes).
Inspect the jars for any defects
Clean the vegetables thoroughly - do not use vegetables which my have a wax coating on it (brine can't penetrate)
If you use vegetables like tomatoes, jalapenos, habaneros, etc... you will need to cut them in such a way that the brine can penetrate inside it or it may rot. If you are preserving green beans, string them.
Use good hygiene, wash your hands often in the process.
Make a brine using a ratio of 1/4 cup of salt to 2 cups of water
Boil the brine and let the brine cool
Wash and prepare the vegetables (cut if necessary so the brine can penetrate as it is the case with Jalapenos, tomatoes, etc...)
Blanch the vegetables (I usually use 3 mins)
Place them in a jar and cover with brine
Finish with a capful of olive oil and close the jar. (The oil is an added protection and is used as a buffer for oxygen and thus reduce the risks of spoiling)
This will keep for up to a year in a cold/dark place.
Soak the vegetables in water to remove the salt before cooking them. You may need several soaking and rinsing. I usually place my vegetables in water and in the fridge for 8 hrs, change the water, taste and repeat the soaking if necessary. I do it every 2 hrs after the initial 8 hrs soaking. Most of the time, one or two soaking is all it takes. Don't forget that if you use it in a soup, a little bit of salt can be appropriate for your recipe.
There is an alernate method that I've used with acorns.
Using this method, I can skip using olive oil and create a vacuum that will seal the jars.
Place the leached acorns in a clean, pasteurized jar
Boil the brine
Pour the hot brine in the jar and immediatly seal the jars
When the brine cools off it will create a vacuum which will seal the jars.
I have preserved acorns for up to 9 months at room temperature using this method. In a cool/dark place, I'm sure they will preserve for over a year. The advantage is that you keep the nice nutty flavors which you would lose if you were drying them.
Salted acorns require more soaking and change of water before consumming than vegetables.