Sometimes, the idea of “preservation” brings up images of other people. Hippies with epic sauerkraut crocks. Farmers with 200 pounds of tomatoes. Brooklyn hipsters with secret connections at the Greenmarket. People with more time, less work, more gardening skills, better grandmothers who taught them how to make blueberry jam.
In reality, at least in this kitchen, preservation tends to happen in tiny bursts. I shove a handful of green beens into brine, push it into the back of the fridge, forget about it for a few months. The presence of plums on the counter creates a mist of fruit flies and I fight them back, slicing each plum into two open rounds for a freezer bag. Sage slid into a jar of vinegar. Long red peppers roasted, blended, stored in the fridge for another day’s lunch.
Really, I’m just taking one thing and turning it into another that might last just a little bit longer.
My favorite fridge pickle brine right now is from a new book called Mastering Fermentation. Combine 2 cups of water, 1 1/2 tablespoons sea salt, 1 1/2 cups apple cider vinegar, 2 tablespoons honey, 1 teaspoon whole grain mustard, and (here’s the kicker) 2 tablespoons sauerkraut brine. Make the brine and store it in the fridge, and then any time you have a few too many radishes, turnips, green beans–anything, pack them into a clean jar, cover with brine, and fasten a piece of cheesecloth or thinly woven fabric to the top with a rubber band. leave out on the counter for 8 hours or so. Replace the cheesecloth with a lid, and put the jar in the refrigerator. The beauty of having the brine already made in the refrigerator is that you can make pickles before you even realize you’ve embarked on “preserving.” Two minutes later, you’re done. Tomorrow, you can eat them.
This weekend, Joey and I had one of those money conversations. I laid out all the numbers in the back of my notebook, and we crossed off numbers, added others back in, tried to figure out how to make the math work. Nearly everyone I know is facing this right now in some way. We came up with something of a solution (anyone out there in the market for a car?), and went for a walk. On our way back through the yard, we stopped at the weedy garden bed that I left to its own devices back in mid-summer. Before I knew it, we were both down on our knees, Joey digging up potatoes, me, reaching my hand into the self-seeded tomatillo plants, feeling for those that were bursting out of their lanterns. Sadie came outside and started a potato pile of her own, talking us all the while through the plot of the book she’d just finished. Rosie burst out of the screen door carrying the cat, and together they worked on some dance move on the porch.
Joey said how hard it was to worry about money when every time he stuck his hand in the dirt, there was another potato.
“We are rich in potatoes!”
I agreed. Sadie kept talking. Rosie and the cat danced on the porch.
Just taking one thing and turning it into another so it can last a little…bit…longer.