Updated on Tuesday, 15ᵗʰ February, 2022
Humankind has been preserving foods for thousands of years and today it is a common activity among every culture on Earth. Not only can food preserving create delicious and unexpected flavours, but it can also help us better manage the often-needless waste associated with unused fresh food.
Ideas around preservation methods have evolved as we learn what works best for certain foods and nutrition needs. Pickling and curing have proved to be sustainable techniques, in part because they are relatively straightforward processes that don’t require any special equipment.
Pickling in practice
Take a cup of white vinegar, a bay leaf, peppercorns, some salt, sugar and the vegetable of your choice—we like the flavour and colour of julienned carrots, rounds of cucumbers and slivers of blush-pink or bullseye radishes—and you have an uplifting addition to any summer menu. But add fried chicken wings and a chilli lime dressing to pickled carrots in an orange glaze, as they do at Mama’s Buoi in Melbourne, and it’s a whole new ballgame.
Fermenting vegetables is a great way to store seasonal produce, increase your vitamin and mineral absorption and enjoy a good dose of probiotic goodness and flavour, too. Rob Cockerill’s southern octopus at iconic Sydney restaurant Bennelong is paired with charred pickled cucumber, salted lime aioli and agretti ice plant, while the dinner menu at Chris Thornton’s Restaurant Mason in Newcastle features roasted and pickled cabbage alongside wagyu beef with Katsuobushi potato butter and barbequed shiitakes.
Best mates Joel Mevissen and Calvin Lidden have made a successful business out of Westmont Pickles, with the company’s wares on the menu at a number of Australia’s best restaurants, pubs and cafés.
Alex Elliott-Howery, co-owner of Sydney’s Cornersmith Café and Mikey Hilburger from Brisbane’s Picklehead Pickles both offer DIY masterclasses in the art of pickling and fermentation.
The culture of curing
Meanwhile, curing comes in many forms, from salmon drenched in a coffee, sea salt and brown sugar slurry via celebrated Melbourne chef Scott Pickett, to a lightly cured ocean trout with herb oil, crème fraîche and salmon roe at Hobart’s Restaurant Tasman.
A grilled cured duck tenderloin is on the lunch menu at Launceston’s Brisbane Street Bistro, while the venue covers all bases with its mouth-watering cheeseburger featuring a ground striploin patty, house-cured bacon, tomato relish, house pickle, mustard and American cheese served on a brioche bun with chips.