PRESERVING 101 WITH ALCHEMY PICKLE COMPANY
The end of summer marks the beginning of harvest season. The bounty of the garden is overflowing with fruits and vegetables, and we’re left wondering what to do with all of this ripening food, that we surely do not want to have rotten on the vine.
Food Waste is a large issue in North America where 40% of food goes to waste, with consumers being one of the largest sources of waste.
Food Waste is a large issue in North America where 40% of food goes to waste, with consumers being one of the largest sources of waste. Preserving vegetables can be a great way to minimize food waste from your vegetable patch, these veggies offer an abundance of nutrients all year long that we can put to good use. Extending the bounty gives us the opportunity to enjoy the rewards of our labor throughout the winter — like preserving summer in a jar!
I decided to ask Master Pickler and studio neighbor Rebekka from Alchemy Pickle Company about preserving, fermentation, and sustainability in the food industry.
Why did you start a pickling company?
My grandparents from both sides (Scottish & Chinese) preserved food to be thrifty; smalltown Prairie living from the 40’s through the 1980’s. My Chinese grandparents owned the only grocery shop in the small town they grew up in and would preserve the vegetables that were just about to go off in the store. My Poh Poh later turned her entire backyard into a small farm and canned everything she grew.
From early on I had an interest in growing food in cities and began working in urban agriculture. Learning about farming and connecting with family farms and the farming community began a love affair with food and local agriculture. Preserving food seemed like a natural next step.
Can you tell me a bit about your process?
We put a lot of effort into sourcing local ingredients & developing recipes along with nurturing relationships with the farmers we work with
We make fermented food and drinks with local organic produce. We mix vegetables with salt which inhibits bad bacteria and enables good bacteria to come in and provide complex layers of flavour, and natural preservation.
All the produce we use comes from certified organic, local family farms. We put a lot of effort into sourcing local ingredients & developing recipes along with nurturing relationships with the farmers we work with. We process ferments year-round because we are fortunate to have farmers with great storage crops we can access into March and April. A few things we make only once a year like our Sour Cucumbers, and the annual Fermented Hot Sauce.
What is the difference between Fermentation and Pickling?
Pickling is a way of preserving vegetables — you can pickle with vinegar or through fermentation, which uses salt. Vinegar pickles are made by heating an acidified product to drive out the air from a jar to make the product shelf-stable. High acid + Heat + No air. Fermentation is salt at room temperature — that’s it. These products are stored in the fridge to slow down the fermentation process enough to store it for a few months to several years, depending on the product.
Is one better than the other?
With fermentation, the vegetables are still alive as they are not heated. This process increases the bioavailability of the nutrients in the vegetables, making them easier for your body access and to digest.
A vinegar or shelf-stable pickle has a longer shelf life, but it has been cooked and you may be eating it a year later. There are some nutrients, but not like picking a vegetable right out of the ground.
What are some of the health benefits?
The one people are most familiar with are probiotics. Probiotics support your digestive and immune system which in turn helps your body do what it should be doing, like keeping you from getting sick and processing your food so you can get the nutrients out of it to ultimately be healthy. Good bacteria are created in the fermentation process — that’s what creates all those good flavours and preservation.
Can you tell me more about the Good Food Movement?
This is a big topic! To begin, sustainability and accessibility has to address racial injustice.
There are so many pieces that need to come together and are at play in creating a system that is just, fair, accessible, and healthy. This is just a very tiny part; there are so many individuals, groups and organizations doing much more work in this. Ultimately, I’ve created a company based on how I want to eat and put it into a product.
- We don’t import when we can access food right here.
- We try and buy vegetables in the most fair and sustainable way we can, meaning we pay the person who grows the food directly, as well as paying a fair wage to our farmers.
- Lastly, we’re creating diversity on your plate. Offering highly nutritious delicious food.
Can you share one of your favorite recipes?
One of our favourite staff lunches is rice and pickles.
Steamed Jasmine rice, or short-grain brown rice, fresh Seasonal Kimchi, assorted pickles like Sichuan Daikon, Classic Sauerkraut, Mustard Carrots, or Beet Turnip Pickles, some tamari, chili crisp or Fermented Hot Sauce and a fried egg or tofu on top! You could also add some fresh shredded carrot or cubed cucumber, or roasted beets to this with a creamy salad dressing.