Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
10 Apr

The Definitive Guide to Traditional Food Preparation and Preservation

smokedfishBefore huge multinational corporations did it for us, humans had to figure out how to turn raw, unrefined formerly-living things into food that could be cooked or eaten. And before standup freezers, refrigerators, ice boxes, canned soup, bagged bread, tinned fish, and grocery stores hit the scene, we had to figure out how to preserve foods. Yes, we humans were a wily, resourceful bunch – still are, if you give us half a chance – who came up with an impressive number of food preparation and preservation techniques over the ages. Some techniques were designed solely to preserve the food. Some improved the taste. Others increased the density of the nutrients, as well as our ability to access them. Still others were simply concerned with removing natural toxins and making the food safe to eat. And some techniques accomplish some or all of these things at once. Whatever the technique, however, from basic mechanical pounding to month-long fermentation, these methods all sought to accomplish one simple thing: increase the availability of safe, nutritious, digestible caloric energy.

Let’s take a look at some of them and explore what, why, and how they work:

Soaking

What and When – Soaking, also known as steeping, is a basic elementary step in traditional food preparation, especially that of cereal grains, legumes, and anything bound for fermentation. As long as people have been relying on grains and legumes as a large source of calories, they have been soaking them. Because, well, you’ll see when you get to the “Why.”

How – Cover seeds with water, let sit in a warm place for at least twelve hours, drain, then rinse.

Why – Soaking does a few things. It prepares the seed for cooking by partially saturating it with water (particularly in the case of legumes). This makes cooking quicker and the finished product tastier. It also significantly reduces the phytic acid content while improving the digestibility of the food. By reducing phytic acid, you absorb more of the minerals that come with the food, instead of losing them. By improving the digestibility, you are able to extract more calories from the beans than you’d otherwise extract. Thus, the food is more nutritious and more calorific – extremely important for people who get the bulk of their nutrition from seeds.

Sprouting

What and When – After soaking a seed, grain, nut, or legume, a couple things can happen. It can be cooked immediately. It can be dried and then pounded (see below) into a flour or meal. It can also be prevented from fully drying, usually by constantly remoistening it, and allowed to sprout. These are seeds, after all, and their ultimate goal is to become a full-grown plant. Obviously, seeds have been sprouting for millions of years, but there’s not much data about exactly when people began sprouting seeds for their health benefits. I imagine soaking and fermenting produced a lot of sprouted seeds that were then incorporated into the food, if only by accident. I don’t imagine they were eating amaranth sprout salads or anything. Thus, sprouting seeds may be a traditional method of preparation mostly by accident.

How – Soak the raw seed, grain, nut, or legume for around 12 hours (depending on the variety, the time required changes). It must be raw, not roasted, or else the enzymes will be deactivated. After soaking, drain them completely in a colander. Every eight hours, rinse them with water and allow them to drain. Give them enough room and some air exposure. After a couple rinsings, they should begin to sprout.

Why – Sprouting deactivates enzyme inhibitors, thus making the sprouted seed more digestible. There’s also some evidence that it activates phytase, the phytic acid-degrading enzyme, but it doesn’t look like the increased phytase actually reduces phytic acid all the time.

Fermenting

What and When – Fermentation is the chemical transformation of complex organic substances into simpler compounds by enzymes produced by bacteria, molds, and yeasts. It’s a kind of “pre-digestion,” performed by microorganisms long before humans were around to witness it (let alone control it). The earliest confirmed instances of human-mediated fermentation involve alcohol, including the 7,000 year old winery from Armenia. Although no liquid wine was recovered, the residues confirm that humans have been consciously fermenting foods and altering our consciousness for a very long time. Evidence for production of fermented dairy in Babylon from over 5,000 years ago exists, and the first bread, a leavened long-fermented sourdough, was baked in Egypt roughly 3,500 years ago. I’m not sure if every culture has a tradition of fermented foods, but the list of cultures that do not would be exceedingly small.

How – It depends on what you’re trying to ferment – and you can ferment just about anything, so the methods are incredibly diverse. Some foods, like raw dairy, will ferment all on their own because they contain an abundance of living lactobacilli, while others, like pasteurized dairy, require the addition of a starter agent because all the lactobacilli have been killed. The pasteurized dairy will still pick up bacteria and “change” without human interference, but it won’t be a desirable change without lactobacilli present to hold off the unwanted bacteria. Still others, like cabbage, come with enough lactobacilli bacteria to start fermentation, but you have to squeeze the natural juices out to kickstart the process and then add enough salt to limit the growth of putrefactive bacteria. But in the end, fermentation always comes down to enzymatic actions taken by molds, yeasts, and/or bacteria upon foods.

Why – The fermentation products – acetic acid, lactic acid, and alcohol – act as natural preservatives for food and its nutrients while creating exciting, complex flavors. In a world without refrigeration, this was essential if you wanted to store enough food for leaner times without it spoiling or bleeding vitamins. Also, because the food is “pre-digested” by microorganisms, it’s easier to digest and you get more energy out of it. Fermentation can also create new nutrients, especially B-vitamins, and fermented food can populate our guts with helpful bacteria (or pass along helpful genetic data to existing bacteria). Obviously, traditional cultures didn’t know all these things, but they knew fermented food lasted longer, tasted better, and made them feel better.

Nixtamalization

What and When – In Mesoamerica around 1500 BC, the folks living there discovered that soaking maize (or corn) in water mixed with lime (the calcium hydroxide, not the fruit) or ashes from burnt trees (potassium hydroxide), the grain became more delicious, more digestible, and easier to work with.

How – One study describes the traditional Mayan method of nixtamalization: dissolve lime in water, add (contaminated with mycotoxin) corn kernels, bring to a boil for 1.75 hours, kill the heat, soak for 15 hours, rinse the kernels, then blend into masa. The resulting tortillas were extremely low in mycotoxins, so it appears to be an effective method.

Why – The most important effect is that nixtamalization makes the niacin, or vitamin B3, in corn bioavailable. In populations who relied on corn for sustenance without knowledge of nixtamalization, pellagra (niacin deficiency disease) flourished, while Mesoamerican civilizations, who pioneered nixtamalization, were largely free of the disease. There’s more, though. It also increases the availability of the protein and increases the calcium content while decreasing phytic acid and mycotoxin contamination.

Pounding

What and When – You might recall that study (PDF) from a couple years back that had folks excited about early man “eating bread” and “making pancakes” out of “starch grains.” Well, I had fun with it back then, but it does show that evidence for pounding and grinding of plant foods exists as far back as 30,000 years ago.

How – Mortar and pestle (of varying sizes, depending on the size of the material being pounded) are typically used. Basically, you put the food in a sturdy basin or bowl and use a blunt object to grind, crush, and pound it into meal, or just enough to remove the bran.

Why – Mostly, pounding increases the surface area of the pounded food by turning it into powder or flour, thereby increasing its digestibility and allowing those who eat it to extract the maximum amount of calories from its digestion. But the increased surface area and increased exposure also make detoxifying it easier. A study found that the most traditional of all methods of cassava preparation – pounding in a mortar and pestle – reduced toxic cyanogen content by 90%, far superior to all other methods (including the use of a fancy mechanical crusher). Pounding also removes the bran or hull of a seed or grain, as in the conversion of brown rice to white rice, and the bran contains most of the antinutrients.

Drying

What and When – Removing moisture is probably the oldest food preservation technique around. And once man had control of fire, which hominids had 1 million years ago and Neanderthals enjoyed at least 400,000 years ago, he could start drying his food quicker and more completely.

How – Before food dehydrators were around, people used the wind, the sun, the open air, and of course fire to dehydrate foods. Key factors to consider: maximizing air exposure to ensure even air circulation, uniform thickness throughout, temperature fluctuations (constant temperatures are best), humidity (lower is generally better). If drying meat or fish, salt will aid in preservation and flavor while keeping away insects. If using fire, those factors become less crucial.

Why – If you remove enough moisture from a food, it will be protected from bacterial contamination. The rats and mice and neighbors might still get it, but at least the ones you can’t see with the naked eye will not. A water activity of 0.76 or lower should do the trick. Dried meat, when combined with rendered fat and maybe some berries, could keep a person alive and thriving for months upon months.

Salt curing

What and When – Long ago, people realized that applying copious amounts of salt to a slab of animal or fish preserves it and prevents degradation. Via osmosis, the salt actually draws water out of microbial cells, thereby killing microorganisms and preventing spoilage. The meat itself loses moisture, thereby preventing future bacterial colonization.

How – All that was really used was salt, time, and a place to store everything. Adding sugar allowed the proliferation of lactobacilli (which feed on sugar), which altered the meat further. Modern curing often uses nitrates, which preserve the pink color.

Why – It’s a low-tech way to store precious meat for long periods of time. Also, the salt penetrates the tissue and, over time, denatures the proteins. This produces glutamate, which tastes really good, and concentrates the meaty flavor. The slow fermentation on account of the lacto bacteria can also create some really interesting, complex flavors and improve the preservability of the meat. It might even make certain meats healthier, too. As shown in this (admittedly limited) study, patients had better reactions to traditionally cured pastured pork than to fresh pastured pork.

Smoking

What and When – Where there’s fire, there’s smoke. And since we’ve been cooking meat, we’ve been exposing it to smoke. Ever go to an all you can eat Korean BBQ joint? You come out smelling like pure meat. Dogs will love you and vegetarians will scream at your approach. See, when you’re in a confined space, like a restaurant or a Paleolithic shelter, and a fire’s raging, you will be exposed to smoke. Same goes for meat. Again, there’s no absolute “proof” that our Paleolithic ancestors were smoking meat to preserve it, but it seems like a natural development to me.

How – Traditionally, Native Americans would expose strips of fish and meat to the air and to large amounts of smoke concurrently. This would both dehydrate and smoke the food, without technically cooking it (as the fire contributed only smoke, not heat). “Hot smoking” uses smoke and heat to cook and flavor the meat.

Why – Smoking does a couple things. It dries out the meat or fish, whether by direct cooking or indirect heat. Reducing the moisture content dissuades bacterial colonization, thereby preserving the food. But smoke also contains phenolic compounds that bind to the surface of the food and act as antioxidants. Phenolics with antioxidant capabilities, as you probably already know from previous discussions, can prevent oxidation and rancidity. A study even proposes that these phenolic compounds derived from smoking (with alder wood) act not only as preservatives, but also as potential health benefactors. If the smoking does not fully dehydrate the meat, however, only the surface will be protected.

As you can see, humans have been preserving and preparing food using a multitude of techniques, many of which remain in use today. Do you use any of these methods? Do you eat any foods that are prepared using these methods?

Be sure to leave a comment and let me know. Thanks for reading!

You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. I’ve been getting into fermentation this year, making homemade pickles, saurkraut, and fermented potatoes. Really like all three of these, and they are super easy… basically, 10-15 minutes setup time, and then just waiting. (Potatoes take a little longer, cause you have to boil and mash them first). I’d like to experiment with more veggies, and I have a friend that brews her own kombucha tea.

    When I’ve had smoked meat, it’s been really good. Would like to explore that and salt curing more in the near future.

    John wrote on April 10th, 2012
    • Ahh charcuterie, how I love thee. The French say the only part of the pig that cannot be used is the oink! (In reality the two parts that are not used for food consumption are hair and toenails… or is that hoofnail?)

      I highly recommend:
      http://www.amazon.com/Charcuterie-Craft-Salting-Smoking-Curing/dp/0393058298

      liberty1776 wrote on April 10th, 2012
      • Yum… that boks looks good enough to eat!

        Becca wrote on April 10th, 2012
      • I totally agree, Liberty. This is an amazing book appropriate for the novice or the more advanced practitioner. Making my own bacon was way simpler than I had imagined.

        Zach wrote on April 10th, 2012
    • I’ve never heard of fermented potatoes before. What does it taste like? What are the benefits of fermenting them?

      chocolatechip69 wrote on April 10th, 2012
      • Vodka!

        Will wrote on April 10th, 2012
      • Fermenting potatoes greatly reduces the acrylamide and the starches and makes it much more digestible – no more gassy systems…I love teaching traditions foods and fermentation is an obsession of mine :)

        Check out this post at pickl-ithttp://www.pickl-it.com/blog/783/traditional-potato-preparation-reduces-acrylamide/

        Lisa
        http://www.lisascounterculture.com
        Nourishing Food Workshops and Coaching

        Lisa wrote on April 10th, 2012
  2. sweeeet

    yoolieboolie wrote on April 10th, 2012
    • I love fermenting veggies and am making my first batch of beef jerky today! When we had more room we smoked meats in the summer months, and I was an avid bean-soaker in my pre-PB days.

      I’ll be altering our favorite red beans and rice recipe this week, omitting the beans and rice and adding collards to the “soup”. Locally smoked ham hocks have carved a niche in our kitchen, so I hope this conversion makes my husband happy :)

      yoolieboolie wrote on April 10th, 2012
  3. Excellent article. This is the kind of thing the Paleo world needs more of, it is sorely lacking from all of the paleo/primal books I’ve read.

    Burn wrote on April 10th, 2012
    • +1

      This is why the Nourishing Traditions cookbook is possibly the greatest cookbook to ever live. The introduction to nutrition is invaluable as well.

      Primal Toad wrote on April 10th, 2012
      • I’ll check it out. I suggest reading volume 1 of the Modernist Cuisine series. Awesome!

        liberty1776 wrote on April 10th, 2012
      • Love the Nourishing Traditions cookbook. I often turn to it as a starting point for recipes that involve “weird” things like organ meats or if I really need to have a lentil moment.

        Deanna wrote on April 10th, 2012
  4. So, what I’ve taken away here is that I should eat more bacon. Deal.

    On a serious note, you should post definitive guides on how to actually do these methods. Something going into more detail would be nice. I would turn my kitchen into a meat preserving factory in a heartbeat!

    Cherice wrote on April 10th, 2012
    • Learn the art of charcuterie.

      liberty1776 wrote on April 10th, 2012
    • There are a ton of different guides available out there; some really good ones are referenced in some of the comments above.

      Check out Alton Brown for a really good video on making jerky using a box fan and paper air conditioner filters! He even shows you how to make your own “liquid smoke” in that episode.

      Maggi wrote on April 11th, 2012
  5. Question for you fermenters…

    I made the Ginger Carrots from Nourishing traditions and it says to leave it out at “room temp” for a few days and then store in the fridge. I did just this and then had a taste and, well, I don’t think it really fermented.

    The salt taste is waaay too strong. My parents agreed and had to spit out their attempt of enjoying it.

    The average temp in our house was around 64 degrees while it was “fermenting.” Is this not warm enough? Must it be right around 72 degrees? Should I leave it out in the Sun when it’s out?

    Primal Toad wrote on April 10th, 2012
    • 64 does sound a little cool to me. I like to start my stuff off in the cabinet over my stove, where it stays nice and warm. After I start to see bubbling- and if there is fermentation, there will be bubbles- I move stuff down onto the counter or out to the garage, if it’s particularly stinky or if it’s summer.

      Sauerkraut in the house in June is just NOT the way to go.

      SpyderInFlames wrote on April 10th, 2012
      • I use the top of my bedroom TV, which is a perfect distance from my radiator and maintains a pretty even, warm temperature, to ferment veggies, make buttermilk, etc. My husband thinks I’m nuts keeping dairy in the bedroom, but it works! You just have to find the perfect spot in your house. Lots of people find that the top of their refrigerator is warm enough.

        Maryanne wrote on April 10th, 2012
    • Hey there Toad,
      It’ll ferment eventually, but the cooler the ambient temperature the slower it’ll be. A few days sounds really brief–I usually leave my pickles out for a couple of weeks. I would keep it out of the direct sun, I usually put mine in a dark cupboard away from the light. I think it’s safer that way.
      You could try rinsing the pickles before you eat them to get rid of the salt. It’s a fine line!
      Good luck, it sounds delish!

      D'Arcy wrote on April 10th, 2012
    • When the outcome of brining is to salty or strong in flavor, dispose of the water and add fresh water. The salt will naturally want to reach equilibirium, thus pulling the salt (and other seasonings) out of the food and into the “fresh” water.

      liberty1776 wrote on April 10th, 2012
    • I followed one of the sauerkraut recipes from Nourishing Traditions a while ago. It turned out… less than pleasant.

      Probably just need to play around with it some more. So far I have been to lazy though.

      Eric wrote on April 10th, 2012
      • it takes about 21 days for most things to be “pickled” if it is to strong just rince it.

        Jennifer wrote on April 10th, 2012
    • The Joy of Pickling has been a staple in my kitchen for making kim chee, saurkraut, and pickled veggies. She has recipies for other fermented delights from around the globe that I haven’t tried, but her direction is spot on. The only time I had a “blah” batch was when it was over 100° outside and I couldn’t get my house cooler than 80°… best of luck!

      yoolieboolie wrote on April 10th, 2012
      • Portlandia (tv show) has a skit on Pickling. Very funny. You tube it!
        I ferment a lot and found it very humorous.

        Kari wrote on April 10th, 2012
        • yes,
          “It’s SO good!
          lol, thanks!

          yoolieboolie wrote on April 10th, 2012
    • Hey Toad,

      64 degrees is too cold for a 3-day pickle, but it’s just right for sauerkraut! At that temp, you can make five-to-six week fermented kraut, the traditional long-lasting German stuff. I think it tastes better than summer kraut; more complicated and less cheesy. It lasts a longer too.

      The Joy of Pickling recipe is good.

      Weatherwax wrote on April 10th, 2012
      • Yes, I bought a wine fridge to keep it around 64!

        Teresa Ensslin wrote on June 5th, 2012
    • U.S. “room temperature” tends to be pretty warm. I found indoor temperatures in New Zealand to be quite chilly (yeah, okay, I’m from Hawai’i).

      I noticed that the back of the fridge put out a little heat… and that turned out to be the perfect place to ferment sauerkraut, cheese, and ginger ale! Maybe give it a shot?

      Dawn wrote on April 10th, 2012
    • Thanks for all of the responses. I read them all! I’ll just leave it out longer and try to find a spot that is warmer than the avg. temp in the house. I may just have to bring it to my bros place in Chicago this weekend where its much warmer. Easily over 72 degrees.

      I had no idea it was supposed to “bubble.” I’ll look out for this now!

      Primal Toad wrote on April 11th, 2012
    • Hey Toad,
      Temps for fermenting also depend on what and why you are fermenting. For sourdough breads, the good yeasts need cooler temps (think San Francisco sourdough). I tried getting a starter one summer (I keep my stat set at 82) and it was not a good one. I waited for winter (stat at about 70) and caught a much better one. For fermenting wines, a warmer temp (around 80) works very well. Cucumbers and other spring and summer veggies like it a bit warmer – 75 to 80. Hope this helps.
      P.S. You don’t have to wait for your wine to clear to drink it and get a buzz. If you wait for it to clear, you don’t get the live bugs into your colon.

      W.J. Purifoy wrote on April 13th, 2012
      • Also, it takes time for flavor to develop. When I pickle (ferment) I don’t bother to taste until at least a month down the line. The flavor seems to improve with age, even in the fridge. If I open a jar of pickles and it is still ‘cloudy’, I use some of that juice instead of whey to kick-start the next batch. I’ve even been known to sprinkle a little yogurt starter into my room temp liquid before pouring it over the veggies so I don’t have to use so much salt.
        A lot of veggies will get soggy when fermented unless you use something to prevent it such as grape leaves. I’ve also heard that oak leaves will keep things crisp, although I haven’t tried them.

        W.J. Purifoy wrote on April 13th, 2012
    • I’m a great NT fan, too, but the one real gripe I have is that many of the recipes are WAY too salty.

      Teresa Ensslin wrote on June 5th, 2012
  6. Mark, it amazes me how you keep finding great new topics to cover. Thanks!

    Harry Mossman wrote on April 10th, 2012
  7. I’m a smoker and salter, myself. I love making homemade pickles, kimchi, sauerkraut, and salted pork products- hams, tasso ham, sausages, and beef jerky, and finally, corned beef and pork. Homemade is the way to go. It’s simple and rewarding, if a bit time consuming. There are lots of great books out there- Charcuterie by Ruhlman and Polcyn comes to mind, it shows in great detail how to do cured meats, and has some simple recipes for sauerkraut, as well. Good resource, though it uses nitrates in the recipes, I have yet to have a problem using straight salt. The color isn’t the same, but the flavors are.

    SpyderInFlames wrote on April 10th, 2012
    • Nitrates are not necessarily bad. Especially if your curing environment is questionable. I highly recommend all people new to curing and without someone experienced over seeing the operation, to use nitrates (pink salt). I’d rather have nitrates in my food and botchulism.

      An experienced curer, that is a different story.

      liberty1776 wrote on April 10th, 2012
      • Big oops! Should read, “than botchulism”.

        liberty1776 wrote on April 10th, 2012
        • Should read “botulism”!

          TJ the Grouch wrote on April 10th, 2012
      • You made a very good point there. I tend to forget that not everyone has the same kind of experience or knowledge of food that I do. Jeeze, that sounds arrogant. Anyway, the first recipe I ever used was one without nitrates (it was a corned beef recipe), and I started playing from there. Corned beef or pork is very different thing from a salami or a cured sausage, for which nitrates are much safer.

        I used my grandfather’s recipe for ham, and that was just an old time salt/sugar cure, which sat on the ham for days and days. Once again, that was a tried and true recipe, though.

        Experience is helpful, and general knowledge about food borne illness is an essential. One must keep things clean and work with care, whether using nitrates or not. One must exercise reasonable caution, but unless one has some knowledge, it is hard to know what constitutes reasonable caution- that is why research is necessary. Luckily, there is a lot of good information out there to be found.

        SpyderInFlames wrote on April 10th, 2012
        • I think everyone should know how to properly brine.

          So simple, virtually no threats of- TJ the Grouch, this is for you- “botulism” or other bacteria if common kitchen/food prep cleaniless is followed. Sure there is prep work and the brine time depends on the volume of X, but the food when grilled, baked, roasted, etc truly is more flavorful and juicy.

          liberty1776 wrote on April 10th, 2012
    • Do you know if the Charcuterie book shows how long (and how/where) to keep meats without refrigeration?

      Maryanne wrote on April 10th, 2012
      • Charcuterie doesn’t give specifics on where to put your meat, lol, but it does give general conditions that you need for drying or curing the meat- temperature ranges, amounts of salt/nitrates/dextrose, and it isn’t really geared to keep the meat without refrigeration. There are a good number of recipes for stuff that must be kept refrigerated, i.e. pates, rillettes, confits. There are other books though, that will give you just what you’re looking for, unfortunately, my caffeine deprived brain is only half functional this morning.

        SpyderInFlames wrote on April 11th, 2012
  8. That’s incredible info. My thinking that is further indication of how we have lost our way.

    Grokitmus Primal wrote on April 10th, 2012
  9. @Mr. Primal Toad: the Nourishing Traditions
    recipe for Ginger Carrots is, indeed, unappetizingly salty – way, way too much salt in
    there! I had to spit it out, too! And no, the temperature does not need
    to be warmer – you just need to let your concoctions ferment for a longer period of time.
    I fermented a righteous crock of kimchi for four
    months this last winter at a very cool temperature – the best I’d ever made. Also, leave the whey out – I’m not sure why the recipes in NT call for it. It’s not at all necessary.

    Kathleen wrote on April 10th, 2012
    • I don’t really follow that recipe either. I only use enough salt for taste, similar to the amount i use for sauerkraut. To the carrots, I add a couple of tablespoons of the juice from my sauerkraut to give the fermentation a kick start. Once it’s going, just leave it on the counter until it suits your taste then refridgerate. You can do it without any fermented juice like sauerkraut but sometimes carrots just don’t have enough lactobacilli to ward of the bad bacteria quick enough.

      Jen wrote on April 10th, 2012
    • If you use the Whey method that she recommends, it is half the salt and oh so good!!

      Kari wrote on April 10th, 2012
  10. I heard that mongol hoards would put pieces of meat under their saddles and it would preserve it. Doesn’t sound too appetizing, but it’s worth look into

    Team Oberg wrote on April 10th, 2012
    • You heard right. The temperature would actually cook the meet. Low and slow….just the way I like it.

      chocolatechip69 wrote on April 10th, 2012
      • Having lived in Mongolia and seen the amount of fermented mares’ milk (which gets stronger by the day) produced and consumed, it probably didn’t matter if the evening’s meat tasted a bit horsey

        Sian wrote on April 10th, 2012
  11. I’ve been researching curing meat and found some info that says ancient societies used salt to cure but certain salts contained nitrites and dextrose and that is actually what protected the consumers of the preserved meats from botulism. I think nitrites are not bad for humans in low amounts but nitrates can be cancer causing above a certain thresh hold but both are the best known ways to kill botulism spores. Dextrose is a food source for lactic acid bacteria so I think it is not bad for humans to consume in low amounts either. Botulism spores hatch in a environment with a certain temperature range and a lack of oxygen, that can happen during older methods of the canning process as well as smoking and is why most if not all store bought smoked products are cured with nitrates and nitrites. There is a lot to this and I am no expert but just thought I would share what I have found and emphasize that food should also be preserved from bacteria, botulism, etc. not just spoilage.

    BG wrote on April 10th, 2012
  12. I prepared hominy using nixtamalization. I used it with pig’s feet and pickled onions to make traditional pozole. Quite good.

    Ed wrote on April 10th, 2012
    • geez that sounds awesome!

      yoolieboolie wrote on April 10th, 2012
  13. Great article! Lead to much bouncing around on MDA, Wikipedia and other internet sources :) Makes me mad I didn’t pay more attention to chemistry in college! Also lead indirectly to a much more nuanced understanding of MSG and a disconcerting look at some commenters and their faith-based views on some primal principles. All good stuff, thank you!

    Luptin Pitman wrote on April 10th, 2012
  14. Does anyone eat/prepare cassava? I was raised thinking that some varieties of cassava are poisonous unless soaked to remove the poison. I see grated cassava in the frozen section of the Korean grocery store. Is this frozen stuff safe to eat?

    Denise wrote on April 10th, 2012
  15. My family bought a smoker last summer (Big Green Egg brand) and it gets a LOT of use. I’ll need to find more paleo-friendly recipes for it, since bbq ribs have just a little bit of sugar. But the smoker provides a delicious, unique and tender meat that’s great for weekend events. Invite some friends over, have a few drinks while the food cooks and enjoy a great dinner.

    Nikhil Thomas wrote on April 10th, 2012
  16. -I just love this site! :D

    Jeannie_5 wrote on April 10th, 2012
  17. “Dogs will love you and vegetarians will scream at your approach.”

    Everyday.

    Primal Texas wrote on April 10th, 2012
  18. I am a big fan of my homemade sauerkraut. Per a Lithuanian cookbook, I add caraway seed and just a touch of dried cranberries. It is so amazingly good!

    If I decide I absolutely must have something with lentils, I buy them dried and soak them.

    I do use a food dehydrator to make my own beef jerky. I swear, it’s so easy that I’ll never buy it from a store again!

    I’m interested in salt curing, although I haven’t tried it yet. I just think salt cured pork would be the most delicious thing on the planet!

    Deanna wrote on April 10th, 2012
  19. I thought PB doesn’t eat cured meat. I’m confused. I read “5 Meats to Avoid” posted Jan 14, 2008.

    piefrog wrote on April 10th, 2012
  20. This is a great guide to the what and why. I will definitely be sharing it. I’ve mainly focused on fermenting and soaking thus far. I always have something culturing away on the counter!

    Debra wrote on April 10th, 2012
  21. This is a great blog. I read somewhere that “you can’t out train a bad diet.” That is so true. I recently lost 45 pounds and it wasn’t until I really dialed in my diet that I started seeing real results.

    jessie wrote on April 10th, 2012
  22. I’m having a disconnect moment. PB is all about “real food” and not eating anything “processed.” How are all these methods not processing? For all we know, with all that lime and fermenting, the Mayans may have invented high frustose corn syrup.

    oxide wrote on April 10th, 2012
    • I would classify eating pure raw foods as the only unprocessed way to eat.

      Cooking, adding spices, are technically a process. I think in today’s lexicon the term “processed foods” refers more to big agriculture processed and packaged foods. Think product brands like Kraft, General Mills, all the way to industrial ranching for meats, fish, and eggs.

      liberty1776 wrote on April 11th, 2012
  23. I have to wonder if food preservation is a Paleolithic practice. It certainly is a Neolithic practice, and one that has created problems for us.

    Before the advent of refrigerators and mass preserved foods, in the time of our hunter-gatherer ancestors, people generally did not eat before the afternoon. Daily fasting periods were the norm.

    Of course with a large and ready supply of preserved food, our “breakfast” comes a bit too early. Intermittent fasting and all of it’s benefits have been lost.

    Matthew Caton wrote on April 10th, 2012
    • I don’t see why they wouldn’t at least dry and/or smoke some of their foods, like meat and berries, in case hunting was bad and wintertime meant not having ready access to plant foods. Pregnant and nursing women, sick people, and little children don’t really do so well with fasting, so perhaps the preserved foods could’ve been given to them first, while everyone else made do with less, or fasted.

      Elizabeth wrote on April 10th, 2012
    • I think that at least with fermented foods, Grok would have come across some naturally fermented foods and eaten them.

      So even if Grok didn’t know how to do it himself, he still got fermented foods in his diet which doesn’t seem to indicate that we should avoid them, if anything, we should include them.

      I think a lot of the other preserving methods would have happened just as naturally (or accidentally by Grok’s misguided attempts at early cooking) and therefore can be considered ok. I mean, aren’t most great inventions accidental?

      Drumroll wrote on January 1st, 2013
  24. Great article! Although I’m quite a long way from getting to my own personal food preparation.

    Nikhil Hogan wrote on April 10th, 2012
  25. Even if most of these methods weren’t used by Paleolithic people, that doesn’t mean that they should all be avoided — one could even call them the Neolithic era’s most useful contribution to food history ;) I’m eager to try making my own sauerkraut later this year, and am hoping to give lactic fermentation a go using the whey from the yogurt-making we did from our goats’ milk. And I can say from past experience that dried heirloom summer tomatoes are a welcome treat in the cold months.

    Elizabeth wrote on April 10th, 2012
  26. I make beef / bison jerky in the oven.

    Press ground meat thin and flat on greased cookie sheet with your hands. Dry at 170 degrees, flipping once, for about 4 hours or until it is uniformly dark and dry. Cut into strips with scissors.

    My current favorite flavors are cranberry & black pepper, dried cherry & chipotle, and green chili & cumin.

    (Just to be on the safe side, I store it in the freezer.)

    Dawn wrote on April 10th, 2012
    • Wow that sounds pretty good. Do you mix those ingredients with the meat????

      virginia wrote on April 11th, 2012
  27. People, there are other fermented food out there besides sauerkraut. But what to expect from a European-dominated forum.

    PX wrote on April 10th, 2012
  28. or should i say European-ethnic origin-dominated forum.

    PX wrote on April 10th, 2012
  29. I just made some really nice (albeit a tad salty, to be reduced in the next batch) sauerkraut from Mark’s Recipe. After reading that the bacteria that proliferate in sauerkraut are lactobacilli, I had an idea.

    I’m a fan of dairy, and according to both my own experience, and a thorough allergy test I did last year, I have no issues with it. Problem is, I live in Vietnam, and finding sour cream or good yoghurt for reasonable price isn’t easy.

    The idea is to try and start a sour cream culture from a pack of full cream with a bit of juice from my sauerkraut

    Would this work? Or are the strains of bacteria too different to yield a good result?
    If anyone has experience or know-how about whether this will work, I’d be happy to partake! Otherwise I’ll probably just give it a try when I’ve made my next batch of sauerkraut!

    Henrik wrote on April 11th, 2012
    • I have no idea if the sauerkraut would make a good starter, but if you have access to cream you can easily make sour cream. I have the same problem finding some foods I miss living here in Indonesia and do a lot of home fermenting.

      Normally people use buttermilk to make sour cream from cream (lots of instructions if you do a search online). You can easily make buttermilk from turning some of your cream into butter and buttermilk. Put room temperature cream into a container and shake the heck out of it until the butter separates from the buttermilk. Drain off the buttermilk for later use, and rinse and optionally salt your butter.

      Or if you’re lazy, you can make some yummy sour cream from just adding fresh lemon juice (or vinegar) to cream and stir it up until it gets thick and has the right flavour.

      Tiggy wrote on April 11th, 2012
      • Thanks! I will give it a try.

        Henrik wrote on April 12th, 2012
    • I don’t see why that wouldn’t work. If we add whey to get sauerkraut started, then why not use the sauerkraut juice to start the yoghurt? I’ve been known to sprinkle yoghurt starter over my veggies to start them fermenting before other nasties from the air have a chance to grow; I don’t need so much salt that way.

      W.J. Purifoy wrote on April 13th, 2012
    • Sour cream and european-style unsweetened yogurt are interchangeable. Why not just make a lot of yogurt from one starter container and milk. There are instructions online.

      Casey wrote on October 23rd, 2013
  30. I just read a book called “Oak: The Frame of Civilization” by William Logan. Interesting book and worth reading, but what made me really take notice was his evidence that acorns were the staple food of many indigenous people all over the world (certainly California – but he mentions many others as well). Anybody ever try eating acorns? I know you have to leach them and then pound them, to remove the tannins – but I don’t know anyone who’s tried it.

    sarah wrote on April 13th, 2012

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