Before the days of refrigeration, food had to be consumed quickly or preserved in one of 5 ways - drying, salting, pickling, fermenting or canning. Canning is actually a fairly new technique but the idea of making jams and syrups is not since sugar acts as a great preserver.
Vinegar, salt, sugar and oil help retard spoilage. Removing the moisture from a food also prevent spoilage. These are not 100% perfect since spoiling can still occur but our ancestors often ate the food anyway. It was often a choice between eating something or starving.
With refrigeration, we have reduced food preservation into a way to make ingredients. We still use them to preserve the harvest but freezing has taken a good deal of the need away.
Today, we worry about too much salt so preserving through salting, pickling and fermenting have lost their popularity. There was a time these were standard. I have been slowly rediscovering the art of pickling. At first it was just "pickles" - pickled cucumbers. I pickled zucchini once but the recipe was not tasty. Then one year, my aunt asked me to make pickled watermelon rind. I did and it was good but what do you eat it with? From there I pickled beets (which is still somewhat popular)and carrots. This year, I pickled pears. I have to tell you - I love them. Still haven't figured out what to do with them aside from eat them as a snack.
Pickling makes for great "junk" food. The sweet, tangy, salty flavor of the foods is like having potato chips (salt and vinegar are my favorite so this is an easy transition for me). The best part is that the treat is still low calorie and no fat. I'll be working on some ideas for how to serve pickled foods but in the meantime, try some unique pickles.
Asian Pickled Carrots
1 pound baby carrots
1/4 cup peeled and julienned ginger
3 whole allspice
3/4 cup water
3/4 cup rice vinegar
1/3 cup brown sugar
4 whole cloves
4 whole peppercorns
in saucepan, cook carrots in small amount of boiling water for 3 minutes until crisp-tender. Drain and place in jar. Add ginger and allspice to jars. In saucepan, combine remaining ingredients. Bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer 5 minutes. Pour over carrots and process jars.