To me, preserving means preserving summer. Each jar of preserves is like a time capsule. When I open it, months later (or perhaps just weeks), I taste terroir and the flavor of long-faded sunshine—in this, a jar of pickled beets is not unlike a bottle of wine.
There is another way that a jar of preserves is like wine: we no longer make it to keep the food from spoiling. We go to the trouble of preparing the food and painstakingly handling the jars so we end up with something delicious. It's really just another way to cook, to bring out the taste of the produce. I am looking to create something new, whether it's tomato sauce or sauerkraut. For me, the art of pickling is as much creation as preservation.
But before I get into the more esoteric forms of preserving, I should mention a pretty simple one: freezing. This is the best way to take care of berries you want to set aside for winter. I lay them out on a tray and freeze them solid, then store them in zip-lock bags. Blackberries, blueberries, raspberries, cherries and strawberries freeze very well and have all kinds of uses: we use the berries in crumbles, tarts and sorbets, and the juice in vinaigrettes. The summer flavor comes through pretty much unaffected and brightens any winter meal.
Pickling, on the other hand, creates entirely new tastes: bright, satisfying and complex. Pickled vegetables are a pure delight on cheeseboards, on charcuterie and meat plates and in salads that need a tart component. Pickling baby carrots, for instance, transforms a humble vegetable into a spicy, tart, completely different dish. Cooking is about contrast in flavors and textures; put a pickled carrot on a salad, and you've got that contrast in spades. Plus, there is something about pickles that makes you hungry. Most chefs love pickles, and just about any vegetable, from carrots to radishes, can be pickled. Maybe that's what we'll do with the big radish delivery next summer!