On the recommendation of a friend, I had to good fortune to attended the Baltimore Food Makers monthly potluck this Saturday to share home-grown, home-preserved and home-made food with a group of ~30 Food Makers. Before eating we all gathered around the spread of food and each maker discussed with zeal his or her dish– giving plenty of time for the smallest details about prep, food sourcing, and even questions from others. As the discussion of each dish drew to a close I felt a collective gasp or sigh at the embodied time and love poured into the food. I eagerly watched as cured duck and beef, bison jerky, bbq tempeh, pickled watermelon rind, cornbread, black-eyed peas, and other delicious dishes were uncovered the large dining room table. My plate, below, was full of tasty bites in no time.
The Baltimore Food Makers is a >1 yr old group that provides a forum for sharing skills and resources about cooking, eating and farming for those in Baltimore. They have a great list of local food sources, and an active google group with >100 members. Everybody that I talked to was so friendly and open. Conversation about our favorite recipes for fermented drinks was washed down with homemade sweet and dry cider, ginger beer, and kombucha. We inhaled vegan dark chocolate cake and flan, while learning about curing meat in a make-shift basement drying rack.
We didn’t shy away from discussing the risks of curing and canning either, as some discussed methods for preserving food through fermentation and canning in a high salt and low pH environment. One disease that home canners are at more risk for is botulism, a paralytic illness, caused by the toxin produced from a rod-shaped, anaerobic bacteria, Clostridium botulinum. Botulism can be deadly for infants eating home-canned baby food (Armada, Love, et al., 2003). Ways to inhibit C. botulinum while home-canning food is by controlling pH (pH <4.5) and heat pasteurizing food to >250 deg F in a pressure cooker for 20 min (CDC). Store-bought canned food that bulges, is dented, or has rust holes should be discarded.
I’m looking forward to the next Food Maker potluck, and sharing some of my own safely-canned spicy green beans, kimche (spicy fermented cabbage), and idli (steamed, fermented dal cakes). I’m excited to learn more from others who have many more years experience farming and cooking. Eating delicious food is easy, but with the right mix of local ingredients, healthful foods, and community, sharing a meal is an incredible way to re-build our food systems from the ground up.