Originally back in the early seventeenth century, aging and preserving was simply a way to provide sustenance during periods of scarcity, but as people became accustomed to the taste, texture and uniqueness of these transformed items, those attributes created nuances that only time could produce.
As a young teenager, I was often called upon by my parents to help “make groceries” by pickling and curing items such as pickled pork, Tasso, andouille and head-cheeses during the fall season. For instance, Tasso are brined pieces of pork shoulder, pickled in saltwater and sugar, rolled into cayenne, spices and sugar and slow smoked over low heat. The technique not only preserves the odds and ends of pork, but also adds incredible flavor and depth as a seasoning meat to other dishes such as vegetables, rice dishes and more.
Rarely, if ever, were these accompanied by a written recipe. Instead my grandfather “Grand Pere” and grandmother “Grand Mere” passed along these traditions to future generations. This was often a cultural experience, involving friends, neighbors and relatives coming together to make the most of the time-consuming, but necessary process in order to sustain preserved foods for the leaner months of the year.
Today, with advancements in technology and accessibility, people can sample some of the finest preserved items from all over the world and have them at our doorsteps within just a few days. This ability, coupled with a tremendous amount of information available, has restaurant chefs constantly looking for what unique or bold tastes will appeal to their customers. Flavor evolutions from restaurants to manufacturers have dramatically shortened allowing people to experience flavors and cuisines from halfway around the world in their local grocery store or restaurant. Items ranging from Kombucha, Sauerkraut, Koji-fermented legumes, dry cured meats and pickles have become the regular interests of chefs and others alike.
Building on this trend, as food waste and upcycling becomes a top-of-mind priority, processors, retailers and food service restaurants cannot help but to turn to our roots for preservation by means of salting, pickling and curing for ways to keep food around longer and provide new tastes, textures and even probiotics from the metamorphosis of aging.