Lowther: Fermentation a safe alternative to cooking

Good gardening practice combined with great weather adds up to prodigious harvests.

Good gardening practice combined with great weather adds up to prodigious harvests. Crops taste best when processed soon after picking, but standing over a hot stove blanching and canning in August daunts even the staunchest Martha Stewarts among us.

Besides, escalating power costs dampened my enthusiasm for electrical appliances so I’ve sought alternatives.

Fermenting and solar dehydrating not only fill the bill but they’re easy to accomplish and they retain vitamins. I don’t think solar cooking will work for preserving food but it’ll get us away from the stove.

“Fermentation,” says Fred Breidt of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, “is one of the oldest and safest technologies we have. As far as I know, there has never been a documented case of food-borne illness from fermented vegetables.”

I’ve been fermenting vegetables for more than 20 years and haven’t died yet, despite what my latest driver’s licence picture would have traffic officers believe.

Sandor Ellix Katz recently wrote the definitive, entertaining book on The Art of Fermentation in which there is a picture of a cleverly-designed fermentation crock. Victoria potter Gord Reisig made me one that looks as good as the tangy cucumber pickles it produced. Next time I’ll add some dill.

I haven’t made a solar dehydrator but once harvesting dies down I’ll be all over that. The internet offers plenty of designs for dehydrators as well as solar cookers, including one that a restaurant in Valle del Elqui, Chile employs exclusively for all their cooking because of the scarcity of firewood.

Last summer I made a simple prototype from foil-covered cardboard that cooked a pot of rice in three hours and works so well that I’m going to make a better one.

I figure the time saved by not canning and stove-cooking can be effectively used by writing protest letters to Hydro about my escalating electric bill.

Next year I’ll save even more time and regain friends by not planting so many cucumber and zucchini plants.