OK, I am back, much improved, thank you!
I just had some broth with an egg poached in it (my lazy "soft-boiled" egg) and feel on the road to health. Which is a good thing, because everything goes to pot around here when either the Captain or I are out of commission, and this week it's been both of us. Much to do...
I took all of yesterday to just lay around like a lump. In the process I lost 3 pounds, was very whiny, and re-read all of GAPS Guide and Gut and Psychology Syndrome. I kept a mental list of all the people who have to read both books right now! So much for that, though. I wish I could just send them everywhere like Christmas cards and save the world's inhabitants from self destruction, but I know better. Maybe just for my kids--they ignore what I say anyway, so won't be offended.
In my endless hours of languishing I thought a bit about something that bothers me: our fear of things not refrigerated. Where did this come from? Many of the foods we keep in the 'fridge are fermented, which is a method of preservation. People even keep things like apples and lemons in the fridge! How odd. I think we are so enamored of technology that we have stopped thinking and using common sense.
When I was 12, I lived in Italy, in a small apartment. Our refrigerator was smaller than the (small-ish) one we have on our boat. We shopped almost daily, and only things like fresh meat, milk and leftovers were stored in the fridge. In many places around the world, there is no refrigeration, and the sanitation is not up to 1st world standards--and people not only survive, they thrive! The food is fresh, local and vibrant, something most in the West have not seen in a long time.
Here on Whale Song we have a hold, like a basement or root cellar. In it, I keep home-canned and dried foods, our home-made wine and (grain-free) beers, sometimes a 50 pound bag of onions. On the counter in the salon (it's a bit like a great room, only not so big, and serves as living and dining area, next to the galley, our kitchen) I keep bowls of fruit, onions and garlic, lemons, squash, and so on. I often will keep root veg there too, or on the aft deck, where it is cool and protected, at least until the weather warms up.
|In the hold, sorting apple, strawberry and dandelion wines, nettle and fir-tip beers|
Now, this may sound controversial, but when I make a pot of soup, that will be eaten from daily--as in Intro, I don't refrigerate it. Really. I bring it to a boil daily, and happily consume what I need. There are times I have to store pots of food on the aft deck (again, when it's cool) because I have no room left in the fridge. There are five of us living on the boat--and we usually have 1-2 or more others eating with us (Cap'n Gary eats with us every evening, for starters) I don't shop daily, more like 2-3 times a week, so I have to fit it all into an apartment-sized unit.
The only way to do that is to only refrigerate what is truly necessary. My ferments sit on the counter (extras are in the hold--sometimes for months, as long as they are covered in brine), though one that's threatening to go mushy will get stashed in the fridge. Fish ferments I do chill when done fermenting. I have a huge basket of nettles sitting on the aft deck. I was going to blanch and freeze them for the dull winter days when cabbage is the only "green", but they are starting to dry out, so I think I'll make nettle beer with them. If they get really dry before I get to it, they'll go in a jar for nettle tea/infusion. Kind of like raw milk, they don't go bad, they just change--and then I change what I do with them.
I have a wonderful book, Keeping Food Fresh, that has taught me a lot about the way our forbears kept their food. The Amazon blurb marginalizes the book because it doesn't meed USDA safety standards--which makes me feel the same way as I do when people diss herbs, homeopathy or diet as being some some of quackery. They claim that the book is some sort of historical curiosity (not).
Go ahead, mock me Amazon! I am getting strong and healthy ignoring the USDA, and you might too. I suppose this is where I am supposed to add a disclaimer: "check with your doctor" (snort!) or "the author does not intend to diagnose, treat or otherwise dispense medical advice". Obviously, I cannot assume responsibility for what anyone else does. I can't even do that with my kids (see above comment). Use common sense, and experiment slowly. The world is, in some ways, not as dangerous as it's made out to be. If food spoils, you will know it. It smells bad, has mold or is discolored. You won't want to eat it. Yes, home-canned low-acid foods can have issues, which is why it has to be done right. It's all about information and self-sufficiency. YOU get to decide. Not the USDA.
And speaking of ferments, I have to share my newest success. I know that nettle infusion is wonderful, and it's especially great for someone with adrenal issues and allergies. I try to drink it, but it smells so strongly grassy that I can't stomach it. A few weeks ago I thought to ferment it somehow. I was intending to make beet kvass anyway, so I used a nettle infusion for the water in my recipe. I tasted it after four or five days and it was pretty gross, not really tart, still strongly smelling of nettle infusion. (Aside: I love love love the taste and smell of fresh nettles. It's just the concentrated smell of the dried in infusion that puts me off. Sorry Susun Weed...) I put it back on the counter and ignored it. Today I revisited it, looking for some fresh kvass for my broth. Guess what? It was amazing! SO happy!
One more thing, whenever an "expert" tells you something, me included, check and see if it works for you. Play with it. Is there truth, even a little? I started making ferments after reading Nourishing Traditions and Wild Fermentation. Those two books differ greatly in how they approach ferments--sometimes almost opposing each other. I had to work out for myself what methods work for me. I leave my kvass out for weeks, months--often in the cool hold. It gets rich and tangy, just the way I like it. If I had been afraid, I would never have discovered how good kvass could really be.
And yes, I have had those moments of looking at a ferment with trepidation. Is it really ok? Will it make me sick? Is this stuff on top mold? I have thrown a few out without tasting, or spit out what I suspected was bad if I had dared to taste. I am here, and I know more now because of the experimentation. Very few things on this Earth will make you sick with one taste!
Be bold! Try new foods, new preparations and methods of preservation. Observe--become a scientist. And enjoy owning your knowledge.
P. S. I just went (literally, after I had posted this) to make myself some broth/egg. When I opened the jar of my home-canned broth I noticed a bit of mold on the lid--benign, like bread mold. That means the seal failed, so I tossed the whole jar. No big deal. I am hungry, but fine, using common sense. Happy experimenting!