Monday, February 8, 2010

Preservation Supplement to LA Times Food Section 2/4/10

I'm starting a new series in which I look at the LA Times' weekly Food Section (now published on Thursdays) from a food preservation point of view. I plan on looking at the articles and seeing what sort of food preservation twist can be drawn from them.

For example, the cover story this week is on chili, tied to yesterday's Super Bowl (Who Dat?!) (Chili: A Bowl of Red-blooded American Heaven). The article goes a bit into the history of the dish and a recitation of some of the variations, including somewhat modernized takes such as a Moroccan-inspired chili featuring harissa and Merguez sausage. Chili, of course, is a classic when it is pressure-canned. True homemade convenience food, and versatile in the ways it can be used. Here is a basic recipe from the National Center for Home Food Preservation: Chili con Carne. There are also recipes for home canned harissa.

A related article profiles the Dolores Canning Co. (Chili Bricks Built a Family Business). I've seen the bricks and I've eaten the chili (a classic SoCal flavor), but what I didn't know is that the company got its start with the paterfamilias canning menudo for sale. The chili was canned as well, but really took off when they switched to freezing. Moreover the name, "chili brick," comes from a dehydrated form of chili:
The unusual name, a reference to the the chili's shape when packaged and frozen, isn't just a clever marketing gimmick. The term hails from the earliest dehydrated chili "bricks" made by Texas cowboy cooks around 1850. Drying a mixture of pounded beef, chile peppers and salt and shaping it into stackable rectangles that could be easily rehydrated with boiling water came in handy on Mid-western cattle drives and Gold Rush treks to California.
Wow, a food preservation hat trick; three types of preservation in a couple of paragraphs.

A little later the article notes that the "family ... produces a handful of jarred pickled products, including jalapeƱo-laced pork rinds and pig's feet spiced with red chile peppers." Canning, freezing, drying and pickling; this company wouldn't exist without food preservation.

The article also includes some good cooking tips. The chili itself contains ground beef hearts along with ground beef, "to give it a more robust, meaty flavor." And Philippes uses stock to rehydrate the chili, for additional flavor. Rehydrating dried or condensed goods with a flavored liquid is a wonderful trick for all sorts of dried ingredients.

Finally, a there are a couple of brief paragraphs on the opening of Forage, a new Silver Lake restaurant that is aggressively local and seasonal (Restaurant Opening: Forage in Silver Lake Calls All Home Gardeners). So aggressive, in fact, that they encourage local gardeners to bring in their own produce, where the restaurant will turn it into something delicious:
Central to the restaurant's concept is its "foraging program," through which [chef-owners] Bacon and Kim, along with the help of a friend named Eugene Ahn, encourage diners to bring in fresh fruits and vegetables from their gardens. Then, Kim and Bacon will create a dish, pastry or drink around those ingredients.
I sure hope they make some preserves with the bounty they are likely to get.

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