When I was visiting with my grandparents this past weekend, I was telling them about my recent adventures in Kefir-making. My grandma immediately remarked, “That sounds like clabber.”
I had to ask, “What exactly is clabber?” After all, I’d heard of it, and knew it involved milk, but wasn’t exactly sure what it was.
She explained that it was made by taking the fresh milk from the cow and leaving it out until it soured. As it turns out, clabber was often used as a leavening agent for baking in those days, but nowadays, since the government has largely banned consumption of fresh (raw) milk, clabber is an unknown commodity to most folks.
Those were the days.
If you’re old enough, you may have heard your grandparents or great-grandparents talk about times before electricity was commonplace.
Though my grandparents were born in the 1930s, they both distinctly remember when their houses were hooked up to the grid.
My grandfather was about five-years-old in 1938 when they “got power,” but my grandmother, a few years younger than he, says that they didn’t get electricity in her neck of the woods until the early ’40s.
Since refrigerators were dependent on electricity, my grandparents remember the days of the icebox, when their parents would go to a local ‘ice house’ to pick up a big block of ice to carry home to put in their ice box for keeping things cold.
In addition, they also commonly would tie foods to a rope and lower them down into the well to keep them cold.
Our conversation about the old days eventually got around to how my great-grandmother used to pickle vegetables — but differently than the vinegar-based way that it’s done today.
In those days, it was common knowledge that fresh garden fruits and vegetables could be preserved with lacto-fermentation, even if they’d never actually heard of that term. Pickling was often done with just salt. Sometimes they’d add whey, and sometimes herbs and spices to impart a variety of flavors.
I doubt they spent much time thinking about the nutritional advantages of this ancient food-preservation method, but they’d probably not have been too surprised to find out the benefits.
Pickles for better health?
As it turns out, the methods used in my great-grandmother’s day, and for thousands of years before, were much healthier than the vinegar-based quick pickling we typically see today.
According to an article entitled “Lacto-Fermentation” on the Weston A. Price Foundation website, this ancient method of preserving foods has multiple benefits:
“Like the fermentation of dairy products, preservation of vegetables and fruits by the process of lacto-fermentation has numerous advantages beyond those of simple preservation. The proliferation of lactobacilli in fermented vegetables enhances their digestibility and increases vitamin levels. These beneficial organisms produce numerous helpful enzymes as well as antibiotic and anticarcinogenic substances. Their main by-product, lactic acid, not only keeps vegetables and fruits in a state of perfect preservation but also promotes the growth of healthy flora throughout the intestine.” — Sally Fallon and Mary G. Enig, PhD
And one advantage of revisiting these traditional methods is that no fancy equipment is required. You don’t have to invest in a fancy pressure canner, or food dehydrator (although there is a natural method for dehydrating foods, as well, but we’ll cover that another day). All you need are some good, clean jars with sound lids, and the good stuff to put inside.
So what are some examples of foods that can be lacto-fermented for health and preservation?
- Kimchi (Korean)
- Tsukemono (Japanese)
- Curtido (Latin American)
I’ve already written about Kefir, which is lacto-fermented milk. Other lacto-fermented beverages include:
- Ginger beer
- Tibicos (water kefir)
- Lacto-fermented sodas (made from whey or a “Ginger Bug” solution)
If the grid goes down…
By God’s Grace, those of us who strive to keep our families prepared by gardening with heirloom seeds, and who’ve spent time learning old food preservation methods, among other techniques, will, hopefully, be able to not only survive, but thrive, should the grid ever go down, or any other disaster come along.
Having freezers full of food is nice, so long as there’s electricity to power them, but with a guarantee of a significant solar event in the not so-distant future, folks would be wise to look to non-electric methods of food-keeping that would’ve been commonplace in generations past.
Our modern dependence on industry, corporate agriculture and processed, instant meals has led many Americans to be totally ill-equipped should they ever need to become more self-reliant. It’s one thing to be able to find or obtain enough calories to stay alive, it’s another thing to be able to grow delicious foods and prepare them in such a healthy way that your family will thrive.