Addressing Food Security with Fermented Food
With the early arrival of winter, gardening is a faded memory for most Islanders. The tradition of pickling the harvest is a resourceful way to keep fruits and vegetable into the colder months. A lesser-known preserving method is fermentation and it's gaining attention thanks to the PEI Food Exchange, a community group that teaches people cool things about food.
"Our workshops show that learning to source and preserve food with others can be fun, save money and result in more diversity in your diet," said Pauline Howard, one of the founders and board member of the PEI Food Exchange.
The provincial government supports this important work through the Community Food Security Program.
Fermentation is an easy way to preserve almost any fresh vegetables such as cabbage, carrots or beets when local produce is still available at a reasonable cost or no cost for gardeners. Take sauerkraut – the ingredients are as simple as cabbage and sea salt. It's the process that takes time.
Recently, a group of 15 gathered at the Farm Centre in Charlottetown for a free hands-on workshop led by Chef Sarah Forrester-Wendt of My Plum My Duck. She demonstrated how to make kimchi using a fermentation process that is "essentially creating the right environment for good bacteria to grow in food using salt and water."
Forrester- Wendt pointed out that people may be eating fermented food already without realizing it - yogurt, pickles, and sourdough bread. She noted the many health benefits of other fermented sources that are also gaining popularity – kimchi, kombucha and miso.
"One of the goals of the PEI Food Exchange is to ensure that individuals have the skills to cook and preserve local produce," said Howard. "We also strive to provide workshops and activities that have no financial barrier for individuals, support the local food system and promote a sharing economy."
The PEI Food Exchange is an example of a community organization addressing food security through education, training and food distribution. Visit the PEI Food Exchange Facebook group for details on upcoming workshops including Healthy Eating on a Budget and other resources.
Kimchi is a Korean pickled vegetable dish (similar to sauerkraut). The most common ingredient is cabbage with various spices and brine. Kimchee is rich in vitamins and aids in digestion. It is a delicious condiment and can be added to almost any dish.
Recipe provided by Sarah Forrester-Wendt of My Plum, My Duck:
- 1 green cabbage, sliced into 1 inch pieces or shredded
- 5 green onions, sliced into 1-2 inch pieces
- 1 small leek, tops and all, diced
- 1 lg clove garlic, minced
- 1 medium daikon radish, sliced into thin half moons
- 1 tbsp fresh ginger, grated
- 1/2 red bell pepper, diced (optional)
- 1 lg carrot, grated
- 1-4 tbsp Korean chili flakes (optional)
- 4 1/2 tbsp sea salt
Mix cabbage and 4 tbsp sea salt together in a glass or ceramic bowl, place a plate and a weight (jar of water a brick etc) on top and let sit in a warm place overnight. The next day rinse cabbage 3 times under cool water.
Add the remaining ingredients an enough water to just cover the top of the cabbage, place in bowls or jars with a cover and let sit out for 3 days in a warm place. Push cabbage down into the liquid a few times a day. After it starts to ferment keep in fridge and enjoy. Best when about a week old.
Learn more about the Community Food Security Program.