Although I have had the concept in my head for quite some time and I have spent the Christmas holidays brainstorming on how to do this, I still didn’t know what to expect from the first cooking workshop and team Preservation. I knew what I wanted to show and I knew it was too much food as per usual (this was a short list, I had much more ideas). But I was excited and determined to make those people welcome in my home, around my table, thank them for the trust and hopefully teach them something new.
For me it meant a lot, launching my idea, doing what I really like, proving to myself I can be, among other things, an entrepreneur, organizing my life with my baby and a regular job as a postdoctoral researcher… But the morning of 26th, when I woke up, all I kept thinking is: please let them like me/concept/everything! And based on the feedback, they sure did! Of course, I was experimenting with the number of people, content and amount of recipes (which were, as I learned, all a little too much). In the anonymous (and thus honest) evaluation, I got very positive and constructive suggestions for improvement which I appreciate and will incorporate in future.
I welcomed everyone at noon, and everyone being very punctual, the room filled up quickly. They were sitting around the table, quiet, not knowing what to expect. We started with the high tea setting, so they can relax a bit, have a nice bite and a drink. Then we started with the introduction round, everyone said something about themselves, their background and expectations. I always like to learn a bit about the background story on what led us all to end up in the same room. I learned that my team Preservation is a group of very interesting, driven people wanting to learn. I learned that the topic of Preservation was what got them interested, so I committed to myself to make interesting and useful topics in the future.
On the day we made:
Below I will in short explain how we did it and include recipes so you can also recreate it and experiment yourself. I received several interesting health related questions you want me to cover, so I will be writing a separate post on this – stay tuned!
tbsp – tablespoon; tsp – teaspoon
In general preserving food is a very old technique and it dates back to 12,000 BC when people first started sun-drying foods. And in 500 BC ancient Greeks and Romans discovered that jams and jellies are a good way of saving fruit from rotting and cutting down the waste. With many other preservation methods to follow, today we have multiple ways we can process food and enjoy it. We can use heat, oil, sugar, salt, vinegar and other chemical compounds. It is vegan, cheap, environmentally friendly and healthy! We can make jams, chutneys, pickles, compotes, marmalades from virtually any fruit and veggie. It is very easy to make and once you do it, you can enjoy nice flavors all winter, until the fresh produce fills the stores again.
Important when preserving food is to use glass containers which can be sterilized, because you aim to keep a jar for a longer period of time. You can sterilize a dish either by washing it in a dishwasher on high heat and using it immediately or by washing it with soap and then cooking it in boiling water for 5 minutes. This way you ensure all microbes are killed and they won’t spoil the food. Of course you can skip this step if you know you will eat the content in a week or two. You should always aim to put hot content in the glass container and close it immediately and leave upside down. This way you check if it’s closed properly and the cooling down process creates the vacuum, needed to close the jar.
Another important thing is to wash your vegetables and fruit properly. It has been shown by recent research that the best way to wash fresh fruit and veggies is first under the running water and then submerging them in a solution of baking soda (about 1 tsp baking soda in 2 cups of water) for 20 minutes. It is shown to be the most effective way as it destroys 80% of pesticides and many microorganisms.
All storage times and instructions I will write below. If you want to make smaller or larger portions, use the same recipes in different quantities but keep the same proportions
This is the easiest thing you can make. All you need to do is to pick healthy fruit (can be very ripe but not rotten), take any pits out and bake in the oven. We picked plums but it can work well with other “meaty” fruit and their combinations. Plums are rich in iron, but our body cannot absorb it easily without vitamin C. This is why we also added a cup of blueberries (rich in vitamin C) to maximize the benefits of the fruit. I call it no-bullshit plum jam as it has no sugar and no additives. Natural sugars in the fruit are enough for sweet/sour fresh taste. And riper the fruit, the sweeter it gets. This is why it is important to have quality fruit as the taste depends a lot on it. And both plums and berries are types of fruit with lower glycemic index which means they do not rise your sugar levels fast and can be digested better, and thus reducing your risk of type 2 diabetes. Based on the human physiology and our hormones the healthiest time in a day to eat a fruit or a sweet snack is 4-6PM. If you don’t devour it in no time, you can reuse your jams and add to e.g. baby food, granola, smoothies, jellies and cakes!
1-2 hours depending on the fruit and water content
3 kg plums (best is Damson type, but any can work)
1 tsp cinnamon
1 cup blueberries (optional)
1 bar dark chocolate (optional) – 250g, more or less depending on the taste
Cut the plums in half to take out the pits. No need to peel or cut more – the bigger pieces, the better. Put the fruit in a deep baking tray as it will become very watery. Sprinkle with some cinnamon. Bake on 250 degrees for an hour. Once the heat penetrates the fruit, the water will go out and you should use a wooden spoon to occasionally press the fruit in the liquid to prevent burning. If the water is still there after one hour, prolong the baking. If you move the jam with a spoon and can see the bottom of a tray (without water rushing in) it is good consistency and your jam is ready. You can mash it with potato masher or use it like this.
At this point, for the chocolate version, when the jam is cooked, you can submerge one whole dark chocolate bar in the jam and wait for it to melt. Mix it well and you have your choco plum cream, perfect for spreading on a bread, pancakes or just eat with a spoon. 🙂
Anyhow, while warm, put your jam in a glass jar and close. You can keep the jam for 3 weeks in the fridge.
Now I challenge you to make some more!
In general terms chutney is any type of spicy/savory condiment made by preserving food in sugar and vinegar. It originates from India and in literal translation means “to eat with appetite”. We made apple, pear and onion chutney with a hint of Madame Jeanette chili pepper. The key to making a good chutney is slow cooking for a longer time and stirring constantly!
1 kg onions
1 kg apples
1 kg pears
1 whole garlic
1 ginger (thumb size)
1 veggie bouillon cube
1 tbsp salt
1 tbsp pepper
700ml alcoholic or apple vinegar
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp ketjap (sweet soy sauce)
5 Madame Jeanette chili peppers (to taste)
10 tbsp oil
Chop the apples, pears and onions and mince the garlic and ginger. See below how you can use the cores and skin of the fruit and veggies to reduce waste. Put oil in a large pot and start sautéing the onions on high heat. Add minced garlic and minced ginger. Reduce the heat, add the bouillon cube and stir in well. When onions become soft and translucent add the chopped fruit and stir. Once the fruit becomes soft add salt and pepper. Keep stirring on steady mid-low heat and add vinegar, sugar, balsamic vinegar and sweet soy sauce. Add sliced chili pepper, keep the seeds for extra heat (or throw them away). It is very important to keep stirring as it can stick to the bottom and burn from all the sugar we added.
Cook until it becomes a jam-like mass. Taste and add more salt/sugar/pepper/chili as needed. Use a potato masher to get it to the preferred consistency. Transfer to a glass container, close it and let it cool.
I challenge you to get creative, try making chutney with new ingredients, and share with us!
For pickling you need a special type of cucumber – Cornichons which have a tight core so it stays firm and crunchy when pickled. But as I couldn’t find them in Rotterdam, I just went with a mini snack cucumber you can find in a store. Actually, the day before the workshop, when I went to get all the ingredients, the “mini” cucumbers grew and all I could find were the big ones. However, this is also ok as you can always cut them in quarters or slices before pickling.
I have used a preservative called Potassium metabisulfite (E224), which can be bought in turkish and serbian supermarkets (if you need help buying let me know). This is commonly used in wine as an antioxidant, to retain the color and flavors of the food and to kill any microorganisms. This is the reason why you can store pickles for a long time, even 6 months or longer. Although, I dare you to keep them longer than a week, they are so tasty! If you are making a big batch of pickles, it makes sense to add this. If you just want a few jars, which you will eat quickly, you can skip this ingredient. In general, when you have a jar with pickled goods, it is important that the pickle juice stays clear. If it is cloudy, it is not good to eat.
5 kg fresh cucumbers
3 l water
1 l alcohol vinegar
16 tbsp white sugar
8 tbsp salt
1 preservative (E224)
1 tsp whole peppercorns per jar
½ tsp coriander seeds per jar
½ tsp dill (dried leaves or seed) per jar
First submerge clean cucumbers (whole or cut – depending on the size) in boiling water for 5 minutes to soften (don’t cook them!). You do not need to peel them or remove the ends. While you wait, make the pickle juice. You need to mix water, vinegar, sugar, salt and preservative (optional) in a large pot and bring it to boil until the sugar and salt are dissolved. Put the cucumbers in jars, packed as tightly as possible. Sprinkle coriander seeds, pepper and dill. Fill the jars with the hot pickle juice and close them. Leave the jars to cool down. Keep in a dry and dark place for 3 weeks and then use it. After opening, keep in the fridge.
And then try not to eat it in one go!
Very similar to pickles, you can pickle many other vegetables (peppers, cauliflower, carrots, radish, red onion, ginger…) and fruits (!) using the same procedure and the same pickle juice. What we made is a traditional serbian “turšija” which is commonly made in my country before winter (in barrels – this is how much we like it!). So the recipe is how I personally like it – just the right amount of sour! You can play with quantities and tweak the pickle juice recipe to your taste. If you prefer a milder taste, put more sugar and less vinegar, and other way around.
1 kg carrots
1 kg yellow spiked peppers
1 kg cauliflower
8 tbsp white sugar
6 tbsp salt
1 l vinegar
4.5 l water
1 tbsp whole peppercorns
1 bag (10g) preservative (E224)
Cook the water with sugar, salt and pepper until boiling. Turn off the heat and add vinegar and preservative (optional). Cut the vegetables – remove the stem and seeds from the peppers and leave them whole or cut if you have smaller jar, cut carrots in quarters and cauliflower to smaller flowers. Arrange the fresh cut vegetables in jars, pack tightly and add the warm pickle juice. Close the jars and let it cool. Keep for 3 weeks in a cool and dark place to pickle and then you can eat it.
I challenge you to try with other ingredients and share it with us!
I love this recipe and I make it in small batches all the time. It is very healthy and easy to make. Great as a cold salad and addition to the vitamin, mineral and color content of your plate. And very cheap! All you need to do is get a couple of kilos of beets from a market and cook them. Using a pressure cooker helps a lot, both in preserving nutrients and saving time (up to 70%!) and energy when cooking. So I strongly recommend getting one, but if you don’t have it, you can do the same but will take longer.
1-2 hours (depending on whether you have a pressure cooker or not)
2 kg beets
200 ml sunflower oil
200 ml alcoholic vinegar
Salt to taste
Wash the beets thoroughly and cook them whole (with skin) in water. I use a pressure cooker and it takes me no more than ½ h to cook them completely. If you are using a regular pot, it would take you 1-2 hours, depending on the beet size, or until you can put a knife through it easily. When they cool down, you can easily peel the skin and cut it to equal round slices. Arrange them horizontally in a jar adding salt every other layer. When you fill the whole jar add a solution of oil and warm vinegar in proportion 1:1 – and fill the jar completely. Close the jar and let it cool.
The oil will separate and stay on the surface to protect the content and vinegar will season the beets nicely. Make sure you flip the jar few times before opening to mix everything nicely. Make sure you keep it in the fridge after opening. This recipe does not contain any preservatives so make sure you eat it in 3-5 weeks.
You can do the same with eggplant, if you cut it in thick slices (with skin!) and bake it and then arrange in the jar with the same solution; or with pepper, if you grill it whole, remove the stem and seeds, peel the burned skin and add a bit of garlic. Do you have more ideas? Let us know in the comments!
I hate wasting food and always try to find a way to utilize everything. Preservation is already a process that is reducing food waste. But, often this is something you do in batches and only once or a few times in a year to stock up your storage for the winter. This means you make a lot of jars at once and use a lot of veggies and fruit, and may have a lot of leftovers. Here are some tips on how you can reduce your organic food waste.
I want to challenge you to do it yourself and experiment! And then share it with us in the comments!
For the panel of discussion the topic was: Preservation of your own cultural identity.
Being the first workshop and having SOOOOO much food to make, we actually did not have time to discuss this topic. I would very much like to start a discussion here in the comments below. Here are some questions to guide you:
What is your opinion on the topic?
As an international, living in the Netherlands, should you be preserving your own cultural identity, background, origin and tradition or should you tend to integrate in the society and adopt the Dutch ways?
As a Dutch person, how do you feel about many different ethnicities living in the NL?