Thursday, February 11, 2010

Preservation Supplement to LA Times Food Section 2/11/10

This week's LA Times Food Section is a bit all over the place with dumplings for Chinese New Year and Crack Pie (no, not that sort of crack). There are a couple of articles that touch on food preservation, however.

The first is on the difficulties that artisan spirit makers are facing (Sober Times for Artisan Spirit Makers).

The craft brew movement has resulted in a plethora of artisanal beers everywhere you go. It's virtually impossible to keep up with all the varieties, let alone the brewers. Still, without a thriving beer movement there are so many lambics, bocks, and rausch beers that we'd never have the opportunity to try. Similarly, in the last few years there has been a movement to create artisinal and craft hard liquors; whiskeys, rums, gins, etc. Unfortunately, though this sounds like a good idea, actually getting a business off the ground is a lot more difficult than it seems.

Although the article doesn't mention it, I think one of the problems is that it is illegal to distill spirits at home (no moonshine). Artisanal beer got a huge boost from homebrewers. I think it is safe to say that there wouldn't be much of an craft beer movement without the training and experience many artisans gained through homebrewing. Moreover, the existence of drinkers who learned to drink more sophisticated beers through homebrewing created a ready-made market for artisan beer. Because of the anti-moonshine laws, the same can't be said for spirits.

Repeal the prohibition on moonshine, I say ... give a boost to our artisanal spirit makers!

However, just because you can't distill your own vodka, doesn't make you can't make your own infusions and liqueurs. One suffering business talked to in the article makes saffron- and tarragon-infused vodka. Fruit liqueurs are also very easy to make - add fruit, sugar and vodka - let infuse for a few weeks, strain and bottle. Fantastic.

"The Find" visits a Lebanese restaurant this week (Middle Eastern Food to Dig into). Unsurprisingly, pickles are not mentioned. Yet, you will almost always find pickles with Lebanese food. Kabees el Lift, turnip pickles (colored red by beetroot), are the classic. Kabees el Qarnabeet, pickled cauliflower, is also very common.

Perhaps pickles weren't served, but chances were they were simply ignored by the reviewer. There are space constraints, of course, but pickles are too often ignored in restaurant reviews.

By the way, the "pungent, creamy garlic paste" the reviewer liked both with french fries and grilled chicken? It is most likely Toum. Absolutely fantastic stuff. I highly recommend giving it a try ... like aioli, it goes with many different things. Not really a food preservation thing, but this stuff is really, really good.

Finally, the reviewer was impressed with the hummus, one of my favorite condiments. Hummus is something that I throw together in ten minutes whenever I need a quick dip or spread. I'm able to do this because I've pressure canned the garbanzo beans already, so I just have to open the can, rinse and drain. Highly convenient ... and cheap, since you can often find that dried garbanzo beans are quite inexpensive in the right ethnic supermarkets.

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