A Primer on Ghana and West Africa’s Processed and Preserved Goodies

The preparation of processed and preserved meat and seafood is a common practice in Africa. Communities in various regions of Africa have used food preservation methods as a means of prolonging the shelf life of meat for centuries. The ingenious ways of conservation have been used for centuries, and in West Africa, they are still popularly used today. Here are 7 popular preparations of processed and preserved meat and seafood from Ghana and West Africa.

1. Canning

Canning is the process of pasteurizing food products at specified temperatures than sealing the pasteurized food in a vacuum seal. Canning works for almost all types of meat; however, it requires the use of special jars or containers and sealing lids. Ghana has a strong canning industry, and exports canned fish and seafood, which is plentiful, to markets all over the world, as well as canned tomatoes.

2. Freezing

Freezing requires one to chill meat and seafood to at least temperatures of 0°F or lower. Freezing is the most ideal and convenient way of preparing food for preservation. Please note that it is impossible to completely freeze your meat in a regular refrigerator freezer because the freezer is typically warmer with temperatures ranging between 10°F to 32°F. It is no surprise that Ghana also has these facilities in large numbers, given the nation’s strong fishing industry – and that for West African countries near the sea.

3. Drying

Drying is the process through which food is dehydrated until all the moisture that supports microbial activity is removed. Water removal from meat and seafood also concentrates the flavors in the food, therefore enhancing the taste. Drying requires specialized equipment like food dehydrators. Dried food appear throughout Ghanaian cuisine, such as konkonte, dried snails, dried meat, fungi, and seafoods, as well as dried and salted tilapia – which go perfectly with Ghanaian stews and local viands. Be sure to check out this dried tilapia recipe.

4. Fermenting

Fermenting is one of the most popular methods of food preservation in West Africa. Foods that are fermented are technically aged; however, they age as a result of beneficial microbes instead of hostile ones that cause the food to spoil. Fermentation occurs when one kind of microbe acts on a food substance converting some of the food’s constituents into acids or alcohols. Ghanaian cuisine is no stranger to fermented foods – fermented corn and maize are popular in Ghana, in preparations such as akple or kenkey; asaana is also a popular Ghanaian drink made from fermented maize. Additionally, fermented millet is made into pitoo – the local tipple.

5. Pickling

Pickling involves soaking meat or fish in a solution made of salt, acid or alcohol. Most people prefer to pickle with vinegar as it is more readily available. It is essential to be careful with the pickling process as it can be unsafe when done incorrectly. Pickled cucumbers (or pickled vegetables of any kind) go perfect with the traditionally hot and spicy cuisine of West Africa.

6. Curing

Curing procedures are similar to pickling methods as they utilize salts, nitrates or acids. Modern curing methods often require refrigeration, and they are typically used in combination with other preparation methods such as fermenting or smoking. Toolu beef is a traditional salted and cured Ghanaian beef dish that goes perfectly with fried rice, served with traditional Ghanaian shito sauce.

7. Smoking

Smoking is the most common traditional method of preserving fish. Today, the smoking technique is mostly used to enhance the flavors of meat and seafood. Smoke can be applied to a food product either through a liquid or through natural smoke. Natural smoke is acquired from various types of wood such hickory while liquid smoke is extracted scientifically from natural wood smoke. Smoked meat, seafood, and offal is very common in Ghana’s rich soups and stews, and gives them their fragrance and kick.

Man, that sure sounds good, doesn’t it? Well, why not check out some online stores to grab your fill?