By Brie O’Keefe
(A personal tale of pickling from an awesome Crossfit Chick)
This coming Sunday, I’ll be selling my chutney and home-infused spirits at an Underground Farmer and Craft Market at a private home in Kilburn. A market in someone’s home you say? Well, part school fête and part guerrilla dining movement – markets like these occupy the same place in the foodie world that Crossfit occupies in the fitness world: a rejection of traditional restaurants and cookie-cutter food markets. They are people who open their homes to strangers for either three-course dinners or an impromptu flea market. At the one I’m participating in this coming Sunday, you can buy cheese aged in someone’s airing cupboard, jams made with berries scavenged off the canal towpath, or ginger beer sold in bottles chilling in the bathtub.
As both a dedicated foodie and Crossfitter, I was intrigued by Andrew’s challenge: write an article about how my food and pickles can reinvigorate the Zone or Paleo eating. Certain parallels are easy: farmer’s markets often give us a chance to buy unexplored veg and fruit, in season, fresh and local. If you’re sick of spinach, buy some sorrel – or a bumpy lumpy squash! But for Paleo aficionados that’s about as far as I got. The farmer’s markets I go to celebrate our culinary heritage – all based on agriculture. Chutneys and pickles use sugar as a preserving agent. Not the easiest sell for those dedicated to the “way of the caveman”.
But for Zone subscribers there is a lot of hope. Based on principles of moderation and balance, carbohydrates are not forbidden, but to be consumed in moderation. Chutneys and pickles, consumed with the right ratio of protein and fat, could represent a welcome reprieve from the monotony of grilled meats. This past Sunday I tried some of my spicy apple chutney alongside our roast chicken and it went down a treat!
Things to remember: all pickles and chutneys rely on three principle preserving agents to keep them from going off: acid (natural fruit acids or vinegar), salt and/or sugar. Most savoury chutneys will use a combination of all three, while jams rely on natural acid within fruit and high sugar content for preservation. This isn’t about creating unnecessary sweetness or upping the calories – it’s about creating an atmosphere that bacteria hate. Using ‘real’ sugar also allows more flavour to be packed into each bite – meaning you don’t need a lot to feel satisfied.
Besides my chutneys, there will be lots of other treats (sold by others) that could be a welcome change to those of us suffering from food monotony. There will be a demonstration on how to make homemade halloumi, a sushi workshop showing you how to make the perfect rice and fillet fish, and if anyone is curious, I can also teach you how to make homemade paneer – of which pack a great protein punch.
For those of you interested, a jar of either my sweet cucumber pickle or spicy apple chutney is £2.75 (or both for £5) and you can buy tickets to come to the market here.