I´d like to show you how to preserve food with olive oil.
There are some very useful techniques for not only preserving food but for improving its taste and imparting it with unique flavours. As an added bonus, the food will stay delicious for months after cooking.
In fact, due to the vast enjoyment of Spanish Cuisine all over the world, it is somewhat of a golden age for preserving fish, meat and vegetables.
I’m going to introduce you to some food preservation methods along with some delicious and easy recipes involving preservation.
Table of Contents
A long time ago, humans used different methods for preserving food for long periods of time. They had left the nomadic lifestyle and began preserving their foods to create a surplus which could be kept for the future.
In these cases, depending on the climate, several preservation techniques were employed. Foods were dehydrated in the sun. Later, they could be moistened and prepared for consumption.
In the same way, in colder climates, ice and snow were used to keep food preserved through freezing. This method was even used a few years ago in some areas of South-East Andalusia, near Sierra Nevada.
Later, more innovative methods were developed by improving traditional uses. Newly discovered preservatives like salt (Spanish:”salazon”) smoke (Spanish:”ahumados”) and olive oil came into common use.
In regions where olive trees grew, people began to heavily adopt olive oil into their food preservation processes. People would cook foods in big amphoras and cover it with olive oil to sustain it for lengthy periods of time.
These techniques were widely used during the ancient Greek times and onward. This was one of the most common uses of Olive Oil in these times, leading up to the present time due to Olive Oil’s great performance across the centuries.
Why use these methods today?
Food Preservation using olive oil is an excellent way of enjoying out-of-season fish, meats and vegetables from all over the world, no matter where you are, while keeping most vitamins and other benefits in tact.
Olive Oil isolates ailments and creates a barrier against the contact of microorganisms, assuring total nutrition. Furthermore, in several preservations, products might be kept in optimal conditions for years.
That being said, methods of preserving food with olive oil are used today with the aim of being consumed in a shorter period of time – quite far from their original objective.
These techniques have become “haute cuisine” that leave those who dare to try them surprised, both for its simplicity and incredible results.
Basis of preserving food
Preservation of homemade products has traditionally been done with the objective of saving food for future consumption. However it’s vital to take into account certain precautions to avoid very serious illnesses.
FAO and several International organizations recommend Not to make and Not to consume homemade preserves, but it is such a widespread practice than it is very difficult to be carried out.
You must educate yourself properly before attempting your own food preservation as to avoid any health risks.
The main thing to keep in mind when dabbling in food preservation techniques is that bacteria attacks food easily, even in hermetically sealed containers.
One of the most famous bacteria is Clostridium Botulinum, which has a toxin that causes botulism, a serious disease which even can cause death. These bacteria survive without oxygen, which is why closed containers are a suitable place for them to grow/ Furthermore, the bacteria is resilient even in high temperature environments.
Fortunately, the bacteria can’t grow in acidic environments (PH < 4.6), nor can they survive in low temperatures ( <4ºC).
Therefore, all conservation methods try to exploit these weaknesses in order to avoid health problems from eating these products. The steps for preparing food safely must be followed without any exceptions. Also, if you have any doubts, it’s always better to scrap it and redo it completely.
Food preserves without Olive Oil
There are some traditional methods of preserving food, for example: drying, refrigeration, freezing, smoking, and curing. You can even take a look at modern techniques such as pasteurization, vacuum packing, etc on this website.
Preserve Food with Olive Oil
As described before, foods are perishable mainly due to the attack of microorganisms. Olive Oil creates an insulation layer on the foods that prevents their entry, thereby preventing deterioration of the food.
Example: We need salt, sugar, bay leaves, grains of pepper and garlic, 2 parts of olive oil to 1 part of vinegar and 1 part of white wine.
Cook the garlic until it’s brown, add the spices and later, add the wine and the vinegar. Something similar to a spicy sauce should result.
At this point we can choose between two options.
Cook the food submerged into the “escabeche” for 20 minutes.
After cooking separately (grilling or frying) and being at room temperature (both the escabeche and food) put them together.
TAKE INTO ACCOUNT. THE SERIOUS RISK OF IMPROPER PREPARATION.
For a escabeche with olive oil, food must be previously cooked.
For a hot escabeche, the entire mixture (escabeche and food) must boil for at least a few seconds.
For cold escabeche, both parts must be mixed at room temperature to avoid fermentation.
Before packaging, you must remove garlic and other vegetables (if you used them) to avoid fermentation.
Marinating with Olive Oil began as a way of preservation mainly for big game hunting cuts, but today it’s used with all kind of fish or meat.
The advantage to this method is that you can remove strong flavours from gamey meat and that you can soften them and impart a pleasant aroma before cooking. Finally the main advantage is that it can increase shelf life.
Two types of ingredients are used to make a marinade: acidic components and flavoring components.
Acid components are liquids, like Olive Oil, which create a protective film to repel microorganisms, vinegar (which is responsible of softening meat), and white wine (we use white in order to not change the colour of the meat) for giving food a soft taste.
Flavouring components can consist of almost any ingredients from vegetables like carrots, celery, garlic, and onions to herbs like thyme, parsley, rosemary, or even dried berries such as pepper and juniper.
In the same way as escabeche can be cold or hot made, there are two types of marinades: raw or cooked.
Raw marinades are made by mixing olive oil, vinegar, white wine and spices, and finally adding the food into the resulting liquid.
Cooked marinade basically involves cooking ingredients into olive oil, vinegar and white wine, then adding the rest of the ingredients and leaving the liquid to set until it reaches room temperature. When it’s at this point, you soak the cooked piece of food into the marinade.
When preparing this type of marinade, if you are working with fish, the vinegar proportion must be less than 10% of the total liquid quantity.
Marinades are more common than escabeche since nowadays it isn’t taken as a food preservation technique but as way of pre-preparing food to be cooked. In this case, food remains in the liquid for a shorter time. Instead of using this technique to preserve our food with olive oil, we are using it as a cooking technique.
When marinades are made with Olive Oil and paprika, it’s called Adobo, and it’s a very popular and well-appreciated way of preserving food in Spain. It’s widely used with meats, and sometimes with fish. When used for fish, we just change some of the spices to make it a little lighter.
Only Olive Oil
We can choose to only use one ingredient: Olive Oil. We simply submerge the food (the food must be cooked and chopped prior to doing this). Then, we simply vacuum pack it or store it in crystal jars or tin cans.
Seafood, octopus, and fish should be exposed to high temperatures before being packed and sterilized.
So far, I have shown how to make preserves to be consumed in the days near their preparation.
If you want to save food for a long time, as with canning, you should follow these tips and follow warnings:
Remember, your safety and that of your family is above everything.
- Choose fresh food of optimal freshness..
- Choose vegetables and fruits without mushiness or bruises.
- Food should not be too green or too ripe. The first would be tasteless and the latter would break up.
- Wash your fruits and vegetables well.
- Do not use detergents or disinfectants that destroy microbial flora.
- Remove any germs by blanching your vegetables for 5 minutes prior to cooking.
- Maintain scrupulous hygiene when handling food: clean your hands, clothes, hair, tools, etc.
- Sterilize the tools to be used in the preparation as strainers, tongs or bottles byboiling them in water for 15 minutes.
- Hold the jars by the neck once sterilized as to avoid contamination.
- Use pots, casseroles dishes and pans made of stainless steel, glass or porcelain.
- Preferably, use wide mouth jars with thick edges that resist high temperatures well.
- Do not use overly large jars, stick to those around 500 cc.
- Distribute food utilizing the capacity of the shape, leaving a gap of an inch at the top.
- Let the jar stand and try to get rid of air bubbles before starting to cook the jar. The air that is inside it can cause the food to ferment.
- Once the product is introduced into the container, it must be closed and put it in a pressure cooker for approximately 20 minutes to make it vacuum sealed. If you don’t have a pressure cooker, you can use a double boiler. The time needed to make it airtight is often double that necessary with a pressure cooker. However, the time depends on the amount and type of product. As always, when finished cooking, you must check to make sure that the package has been sealed properly. If it isn’t, you need to continue the cooking process
- If you have a wooden rack, place the jars on it to avoid touching the bottom or touching each other. Cover with water so in excess of 5 or 6 inches from the height of the jars and let the water boil.
- If producing several preserves, label each jar with the product name and the date it was prepared.
- The vacuum sealed canned foods last years, but it is best enjoyed within 12 months after production.
- Canned olive oil is a perfect dressing for salads.
- Discard those jars that have broken or cracked, or have bulging caps (which is a sure sign of bacterial activity).
- The ideal storage conditions require mean temperatures of no more than 30° c and places where the sun does not shine directly on the glass.
- The time between the steps (cleaning, cooking, packaging) should be kept short and refrigeration should be used whenever necessary.
- Reject the containers whose covers/lids offer no resistance when opened.
- Preserves must not exhibit strange odours or mold in the bottom of the cap or walls of the glass.
- Once opened, store preserves in the fridge and use within 2 to 3 days.
- Canned foods that are served and not consumed should never be re-introduced into the jars.
- If in doubt about the status of the preserves, throw it out and do it again. It’s not worth the risk.
Preserve food with olive oil and you will discover awesome tastes in foods you’ve already been using for years.
Since theory is written, read and understood, next week I will show how to cook a lot of food with this technique.
La pagina de Bedri: http://www.bedri.es
La gastronomia de Jose Soler : http://www.gastrosoler.com
Cocinero Aficionado de Cesar Gonzalez: http://cocineroaficionado.wordpress.com
Sabor Artesano de Bajo Aragon: http://www.sabor-artesano.com
Directo al Paladar: http://www.directoalpaladar.com
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