Preservation Techniques

There are a number of techniques for food preservation, some less common than others. The main outcome you are looking for is to extend the shelf life for several months or years. But there are other reasons chef preserve things beyond the shelf life. Many items like dried vegetables, herbs, flowers can also be used as a garnish, adding another layer of texture and flavor to a dish. Todays talk will be once again about repurposing food to maximize flavors and reduce waste. And of course to increase profitability. I would like to walk you through the life of a beet that arrives at my restaurant from my local organic farmer. Keep in mind this analogy can be applied to just about anything.

The Fresh Beets Arrival

The beetroot is the taproot portion of a beet plant, usually known in Canada and the USA as beets while the vegetable is referred to as beetroot in British English, and also known as the table beetgarden beetred beetdinner beet or golden beet. It is one of several cultivated varieties of Beta vulgaris grown for their edible taproots and leaves (called beet greens); they have been classified as B. vulgaris subsp. vulgaris Conditiva Group. Other cultivars of the same species include the sugar beet, the leaf vegetable known as chard or spinach beet, and mangelwurzel, which is a fodder crop. Three subspecies are typically recognized.

Preservation Techniques

Beetroot can be roasted, boiled or steamed, peeled, and then eaten warm with or without butter as a delicacy; cooked, pickled, and then eaten cold as a condiment; or peeled, shredded raw, and then eaten as a salad. Pickled beets are a traditional food in many countries. So let’s get started. When the beets arrive, the beet greens are removed and washed and used as salad greens, lesser quality bits may be pickled or made into relishes or just preserved in vinegar. Normally I roast and peel the whole beets to be used as a vegetable. Don’t throw out the peels though. They can be repurposed into beet syrup for both savory and sweet preparations. The syrup can be used for vinaigrettes, dessert sauces or glazes. Larger, lower quality beets may be peeled, sliced thinly for beet chips, or dehydrated into culinary powders. Powders are a great pantry item, not only do they make things pretty, they also are flavor intense and nutrient dense. You will require a few tools for this, a dehydrator and a vitamix blender. There are a few shortcut methods, but let’s save that for another day.

Ideas

Here is a great list of ideas from Bon Appetit; https://www.bonappetit.com/recipes/slideshow/roast-em-fry-em-grate-em-38-ways-cook-eat-beets. If you happen to be growing your own beets, there are even more ways to make use of beets. Microgreens are a big deal now, a bit off topic…but they sure pretty up a plate. You can also create foams and gels from beet powder and extractions. All this may sound a little scientific and maybe above the typical culinary realm, perhaps pushing the envelope….

CONCLUSION

Although the topic “preservation techniques”focuses on beets, the same can be done with carrots, potatoes or any root vegetable. Anything that produces its bounty above ground may be used similarly, but often a little more finesse and care is required. This would include herbs, flowers, spring and summer vegetables and fruits. This list could go on to include nuts, mushrooms and much more. We haven’t even touched wild foods yet….here is a little ditti from a previous blog; http://www.professionalchefsfoodnetwork.org/2020/12/18/foraging-for-dummies/. Anyway, thanks for joining me today, see you tomorrow for my last installation of summer 2021. Cheers!