Illustrated Astyk

Okay, so I’ve had no communication with Sharon Astyk about illustrating her book or anything, but I really liked the alliteration of the title.  She didn’t have any photos in her book, (which I actually prefer, since it’s not supposed to be a photo book), so I thought I’d take some photos while I worked.  And, I mentioned I’d be doing some more blogs about preservation, which this is.

Ms. Astyk talks about a lot of things in her book, and I highly recommend it. She’s witty, pragmatic,  and straightforward.  One of the things she talks about is salting as a form of preservation, and the various pros and cons of the method. With a background in food history, I’ve seen salting through a different lens, but the pros and cons remain similar through most of history.

There are many forms of salting, from soaking things in brine to just rubbing foods liberally with salt and hoping for the best. What works depends on a lot of things, including climate and the foods itself. In some cases, salting is intended to limit bacterial growth to “good bacteria,” as is the case with lacto-fermenting and the process of making certain types of fish sauce (this is not a process you want to hear about, trust me). In other instances, it’s to dry the food out and make it uninhabitable for any kind of bacteria, as with salt pork and dried fish.

This recipe, which I’m not going to give in detail because I want you to go buy Ms. Astyk’s book so she can keep writing books, is for preserved lemons. It’s closest, I think, to salting to prevent any bacterial growth, and is what I suppose I’d consider a brine (though Lord’s Sauce is supposed to do the same thing with a salt and vinegar combo, and I don’t consider that a brine; so, this is a pretty arbitrary decision on my part).  It’s up for discussion if anyone’s interested, though that’s not the point. The point is, it looked yummy, and I wanted to try it even though lemons aren’t local to us.

It’s pretty simple, really.  Start by cutting some lemons to the appropriate size:

Toss them with sea salt:

Weigh them down to press out the juices:

Layer with salt and alternating layers of bay leaf, peppercorns, and cinnamon:

And fill with appropriate amount of lemon juice:

Put on lid, shake a bit, and then turn every few days. In theory, that’s it. I am still at the turning phase, so I can’t tell you how these have turned out aside from the fact that they are very pretty. I’ll give you an update on them as soon as they’re ready to be tasted, in about 3 or 4 weeks.

Now that I’ve done this, and given that I’ve been thinking a lot more about the possibility of having no electricity at some point (seriously, I have no idea how we kept power last winter given the snow, and we’re kind of prone to hurricane throwoffs here, too), I am considering tossing together a batch of Lord’s Sauce, or at least making sure I’ve got everything on hand and a printed copy, in case I need to preserve meat without canning or refrigeration. I’m hoping to post this here, too, once I get the permission of Chef Channon (my mentor and friend), who came up with the recipe I’ll be using.

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