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What are your favourite resources for food preservation?

 
gardener
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I am looking for a book on cold cellering and best practices for how to store vegetables over the winter, but would welcome other suggestions for favourite resources for other types of preservation.

A lot of websites i find are very conservative with their suggestions and hardly match historical norms and are pretty useless in quantity. For example, today I googled "how to store beets" and was told they would last 2 months in the fridge. I wouldnt have any fridge left if I put all my beets in it!  Similar to onions, etc .

What are your go to resources to learn to preserve your food?
 
pollinator
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We are lucky I guess.  My family has always taught us from a young age. We started persevering food from the time we could walk.  We all have cellars that stay about 60 deg. f all year round.  We store potatoes, garlic, onions, wine, hams, eggs,, and canned goods there.  The potatoes bin is on the ground where it is coolest.  Hams, onions, and garlic are hung from the ceiling. Eggs are stored point down and will last 6 months like that. We pickle beets, cabbage, and cucumbers.  My father always would repeat to us how he learned it when he was a child.  1 fist of salt and 2 fists of cabbage then tamp, makes good kraut.  The left over cabbage we store upside down in the shade covered in leaves and straw.  This will keep well into December for us. Dad would always make sure when curing hams to remind everybody to brine the bone after packing the salt then rap.  Hang it for as many days as it is pounds then smoke it.  Jill Winger and Melissa K. Norris are two good recourses on the web to listen to.  They both have blogs that are more hands on.
 
master steward
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"Putting Food By" written by Ruth Hertzberg, Beatrice Vaughan, and Janet Greene is my go-to book for anything about food preservation.

There is a 22-page section on Root-Cellaring.

This section discusses the basics, indoor, basement, outdoor, fruits, vegetables, etc.
 
Catie George
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Thanks Anne - I'll check that book out!

Christopher - you are so lucky that those traditions have been passed down. I know that even when my mom was a child, my grandmother grew most of their produce, canned it, and saved it in the cold cellar in the basement, and grew up on a farm which was nearly self sufficient. Somehow, though, those skills never got passed down even to my mother, let alone to me. If I ask my grandmother (who has some dementia) she usually says she can't remember, or what she answers doesn't match my mother's few recollections. Then, there's the issue with replicablility - a lot of my grandparents produce was saved in wooden bushel baskets (which produce? no one remembers). I'm not sure what the modern equivalent would be. We do have grandma's (great grandmas?) saurkraut crocks, and recipes, but most of the rest of it has been lost.
 
pollinator
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Look for old household management type books, or wartime pamphlets. the books have everything in, I have a Danish one from the 1930's it contains everything from recipes, to cleaning to how to breastfeed and knitting patterns!, it also has how to preserve pretty much anything you might find.
Unfortunately websites have to be SAFE to avoid any liability issues, but beetroot will keep fine in the ground if it's not to cold and will keep from September through till March in damp sand in a cellar here. they will keep through till June but by then they are not in my opinion edible.
 
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I really like how all the processes are described in "The Noma Guide to Fermentation"
 
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My mother was the first of five sisters to get a bachelor's degree, in home-ec of course because she was a girl in the 1930s. She became the first home agent in Green County, Wisconsin. I'm sure that she educated her rural neighbors, the farmers' wives who always made angel food cake when she visited.

She didn't put much effort into educating her own daughters however. But I remember watching her can food, wax on top of jelly jars and rubber rings to seal jars of vegetables with a glass top that snapped down. She did instill a love of gardening and thrift so when I had my own family I taught myself more modern gardening and canning skills. How much easier things are with jar tops that seal (no rubber rings) and a pressure cooker that pretty much manages itself. The Ball's Blue Book has step by step directions for the basics. I have my daughter a copy, both are well worn.

Cool storage should be easy for me as I live underground and my garage stays about forty degrees in winter. I keep potatoes, onions, and some winter squash on plastic shelves but need to do some reading about storing such things as carrots in sand, etc. Dried herbs are easy to hang out there.

I think it's a matter of what works for you. If you don't enjoy gardening, resent the time it takes to can food, don't do it. I have very generous neighbors, picked twenty plus pounds of pie cherries last week from a friend's tree. Of course then they have to be pitted and processed. Another neighbor has a large community garden where I can pick things and leave a little cash in a jar.

Freezing can be easier than canning if you have the freezer space. I steam and freeze early kale and spinach in sandwich bags pressed flat so I can "file" them in a box in the freezer. Later I can toss them into soup, casseroles, spaghetti sauce, etc.  Anyway, whatever you decide to do just try to enjoy looking at, and eating what you've done.
IMG_20200718_095509771.jpg
Canning cupboard
Canning cupboard
 
roberta mccanse
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Skanbi, found this booklet from the Department of Agriculture at a garage sale. Published in 1960s so not really old but good bedtime reading.
Home-and-garden-bulletin-no.-92.jpg
Home and garden bulletin no. 92
Home and garden bulletin no. 92
 
master pollinator
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More and more I am dehydrating food.  I certainly  still can, but dehydrating is growing.    Freezer space is virtually solely for meat.  I do use a corner of the basement for storing seed potatoes .....and some root crops for consumption.

Check Mother Earth for The Fundementals of Root Cellaring.
 
steward
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My favorite resources for food preservation are the following:

The National Center for Home Food Preservation
Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon
Wild Fermentation by Sandor Katz

I’m rather fond of fermentation, which is why I like Nourishing Traditions and Wild Fermentation.
 
pollinator
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Here are two books I own. They're a bit older, so they have that flavour of passed-down wisdom. I'm just beginning on the food preservation journey, so I haven't done a lot of it yet, but they both open my mind to possibilities I wouldn't have thought of.
Preserving-Food-Book.jpg
Preserving Food Book
Preserving Food Book
Root-Cellaring.jpg
Root Cellaring
Root Cellaring
 
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I use a freezer &canning, but I want to get more into the root cellar, I have the book by the same name.
MEN Magazine(Mother Earth News):
"In addition to the sturdy root and cole vegetables that are obvious candidates for the root cellar, you can also store celery, leeks, brussels sprouts, peppers, grapes, escarole and citrus fruits in your cold room for periods ranging from two to eight weeks, depending on the type of vegetable and the conditions. Onions, garlic, squash, pumpkins, sweet potatoes and green tomatoes will last until spring if you keep them dry and cool. The place for these foods is in an unheated bedroom or a cool closet rather than in the kind of damp, cold place where apples and root vegetables keep best."  https://www.motherearthnews.com/real-food/root-cellaring/stocking-the-root-cellar-zmaz90sozshe#:~:text=In%20addition%20to%20the%20sturdy,of%20vegetable%20and%20the%20conditions.
I have kept butternut squash in a basket in the kitchen for about 6 months, just to see if they would keep, they where a little dry, not has wet in the seed cavern as the first ones we ate, but tasted fine once cooked.
 
pollinator
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John F Dean wrote:More and more I am dehydrating food.  I certainly  still can, but dehydrating is growing.    Freezer space is virtually solely for meat.  I do use a corner of the basement for storing seed potatoes .....and some root crops for consumption.

Check Mother Earth for The Fundementals of Root Cellaring.



John, I would like to dehydrate more, but I'm concerned with taste/texture when rehydrating.  My favorite dehydrated food is mushrooms, 2nd is tomatoes. These are two I've found easy and convenient to use in cooking.  What have you rehydrated that you feel worked well?  What did you not like after rehydrating?  Did you use those foods differently than you would fresh?  

Bonnie
 
Bonnie Kuhlman
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Christopher Shepherd wrote:We are lucky I guess.  My family has always taught us from a young age. We started persevering food from the time we could walk.  We all have cellars that stay about 60 deg. f all year round.  We store potatoes, garlic, onions, wine, hams, eggs,, and canned goods there.  The potatoes bin is on the ground where it is coolest.  Hams, onions, and garlic are hung from the ceiling. Eggs are stored point down and will last 6 months like that. We pickle beets, cabbage, and cucumbers.  My father always would repeat to us how he learned it when he was a child.  1 fist of salt and 2 fists of cabbage then tamp, makes good kraut.  The left over cabbage we store upside down in the shade covered in leaves and straw.  This will keep well into December for us. Dad would always make sure when curing hams to remind everybody to brine the bone after packing the salt then rap.  Hang it for as many days as it is pounds then smoke it.  Jill Winger and Melissa K. Norris are two good recourses on the web to listen to.  They both have blogs that are more hands on.



Hi Christopher, this is ALL such good information/knowledge/wisdom.  Are you able to expand on any of these techniques?  Like, why is it important to store the cabbage upside down?  What do you mean by 'rap' the ham bone? (spelling error? wrap?).  It sounds like you have a wealth of knowledge and I would love to learn more.  These are the things that are being lost to this generation.

Bonnie
 
Christopher Shepherd
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Hi Bonnie,  please forgive me of my misspellings.  I am an engineer by trade and spelling and writing are my two worst subjects.  I am trying to learn to communicate my ideas better by writing here on permies.  

The cabbage upside down sheds the water and a layer of leaves or straw keep them cool.  

Wrapping the ham is done to keep the salt on them so it doesn’t drip off.  We use old fashioned grocery heavy paper bags.  We wrap them then use twin to hold it on and hang it.  The key to preserving meat is to dehydrate it rapidly so botulism cannot grow.

I hope to get better at writing and make a small book of the way we do things to give out to people like you how thirst for the knowledge.
 
Bonnie Kuhlman
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Christopher Shepherd wrote:Hi Bonnie,  please forgive me of my misspellings.  I am an engineer by trade and spelling and writing are my two worst subjects.  I am trying to learn to communicate my ideas better by writing here on permies.  

The cabbage upside down sheds the water and a layer of leaves or straw keep them cool.  

Wrapping the ham is done to keep the salt on them so it doesn’t drip off.  We use old fashioned grocery heavy paper bags.  We wrap them then use twin to hold it on and hang it.  The key to preserving meat is to dehydrate it rapidly so botulism cannot grow.

I hope to get better at writing and make a small book of the way we do things to give out to people like you how thirst for the knowledge.



Christopher, well.  An engineer, huh?  I taught English, haha.  I think I can forgive your spelling, but it will certainly cost you 😉  Actually, if you want to write a book, I'd love to help you.  

A little back story:  My mom, born 1915, grew up on a farm in SC.  She would often give me little glimpses into their life on the farm.  For a school assignment, my daughter requested a letter from her many years ago outlining much of my mom's life as a young girl.  It has lots of info, but there is still much missing.  She mentioned all the things they grew in their garden, in addition to the commercial farm, but not how they preserved it.  I do remember her telling me some about butchering hogs, and hanging meat in the smokehouse.  They grew or raised almost all their own food.  I have so often wished I had asked her for more details.  

You see, now that you explain it, it makes perfect sense why you would store the cabbage upside down.  I hope to hear more from you, and I'm sure I don't just speak for myself.  

Bonnie


 
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My grandparent's knew how to do everything from butcher livestock to farm to fly small planes and repair engines :) They passed all the knowledge they could onto their 4 kids, who prompty tossed all the useless old ways out and never looked back.
My nana would pass on information to us grandchildren whenever oppourtunity presented itself, but such oppourtunities dimished as she aged. I learned from her to make cheese,  jam, and to salt and smoke fish.

My inlaws are Yugoslavian, and  have also been quite helpful to share the preservation techniques they know, although I am the only one of this generation that's really interested. I find it interesting that they preserve all their cabbages whole.

Besides oral traditions, I have actually enjoyed sniffing out old books. I have a few Victorian references that can offer some insights to 19th century and sometimes older methods of preservation and brewing. There's even a bit to be gleaned from Book of the Farm by Henry Stephens, even though it's mostly focused on large things like grain and hay storage. Beeton's Book of Household Management has some good info on jams and pickles, but also some strange recipes. Considering Mrs. Beeton was such a well to do lady, I expect that none of the recipes are hers, but rather that she collected from her servants. Some other very old versions of Good Housekeeping Illustrated cookbook and a few Foods of the World Series cooking books from Time-Life Books from the 1960s add a bit more insight, as well as recipes and meal customs to use such varied preserves.

Food preservation is also quite different in different parts of the world. I learned how to make preserved lemons in salt from a Moroccan coworker. I lesrned to make richly sticky, opaque pork stock from a lovely ramen chef in Tokyo- if I get to visit Japan again maybe I will learn to they make pickled ginger.  Lots of places to learn from, when we look beyond our doorsteps.
 
Bonnie Kuhlman
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Sionainn Cailís wrote:My grandparent's knew how to do everything from butcher livestock to farm to fly small planes and repair engines :) They passed all the knowledge they could onto their 4 kids, who prompty tossed all the useless old ways out and never looked back.
My nana would pass on information to us grandchildren whenever oppourtunity presented itself, but such oppourtunities dimished as she aged. I learned from her to make cheese,  jam, and to salt and smoke fish.

My inlaws are Yugoslavian, and  have also been quite helpful to share the preservation techniques they know, although I am the only one of this generation that's really interested. I find it interesting that they preserve all their cabbages whole.

Besides oral traditions, I have actually enjoyed sniffing out old books. I have a few Victorian references that can offer some insights to 19th century and sometimes older methods of preservation and brewing. There's even a bit to be gleaned from Book of the Farm by Henry Stephens, even though it's mostly focused on large things like grain and hay storage. Beeton's Book of Household Management has some good info on jams and pickles, but also some strange recipes. Considering Mrs. Beeton was such a well to do lady, I expect that none of the recipes are hers, but rather that she collected from her servants. Some other very old versions of Good Housekeeping Illustrated cookbook and a few Foods of the World Series cooking books from Time-Life Books from the 1960s add a bit more insight, as well as recipes and meal customs to use such varied preserves.

Food preservation is also quite different in different parts of the world. I learned how to make preserved lemons in salt from a Moroccan coworker. I lesrned to make richly sticky, opaque pork stock from a lovely ramen chef in Tokyo- if I get to visit Japan again maybe I will learn to they make pickled ginger.  Lots of places to learn from, when we look beyond our doorsteps.



Sionainn, thank you for sharing all that history and information.  I would love to hear more, especially about preserving the cabbages whole.  I'll be on the look-out for the books you mentioned.  It's comforting to see that other people are interested in preserving (pun?) this rich heritage.

Bonnie
 
Sionainn Cailís
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Bonnie, sorry for my ramblings, hah. I guess I inherited the Irish curse of wordiness..

Here are many more words :)
----
Balkan cabbage preparation is a lactoferment. Compared to German krauts I would say it is usually less salty and sour and it is preferred for the favoured cooking methods to pack the heads whole or at least with big leaves, instead of shredding and packing like for german style.

Whole cabbage preservation to make kisela kupus (sour cabbage) :

All my inlaws have huge barrels that they pack cabbages into for fermenting. Cabbages are picked in autumn, washed, any loose outer leaves removed, and cored. Outer leaves are used to make a layer on the bottom and then again on the top. They use handfuls of plain salt (not iodized) to pack the cores, and really stuff all the cabbages into the barrel.

Some portion are halved or quartered and used to pack in the holes between each whole head. All the while someone gets the cauldron going with salted water. Once all the barrel is packed, outer leaves are layered on top, then some specially made hardwood sticks are shoved in to hold the cabbage tight, and a big stone is placed on top to anchor them down. Water is cooled with plain water (but needs a certain portion boiled to dissolve the salt into it hence big cauldron) and then this salted water is added to fill in the barrel.

Now it is time to hermetically seal the barrel and be patient. :)

Cabbage packed in September harvest will likely be ready sometime in end November. My husband's family saint is michael, so their orthodox slava date falls November 21. Quarter heads are ready by this time, but sometimes inside of the whole heads still has a bit longer to be ready. We will always start to eat it by Christmas celebrations (orthodox christmas is January 7th.) We usually will finish the barrel right around his uncle's slava, which is May 6th.

----

My mother in law makes it the best of anyone (not just my compliment, she is known by all the others to have the best) and her tips are:

1.) Take time to fully remove the entire core and pack well with salt. If not, the outer leaves will ferment too much and get too soft before the heart is fermented. This can also cause rot and for the brine to turn very clouded. It won't last the whole winter. Even in southern Canada we have decent winters. ;)

2.) Pack as tightly as possible, which is why her barrel holds usually 24-28  big winter cabbages, and usually about 7-8 of them are chopped to half or quarter to tightly pack all her layers. Also make sure you have winter cabbages with very tight leaves. I am told loose heads make for bad kiseli kupus.

3.) Cold is best. It takes longer for ferment to finish, but the colder the storage means you use less salt and the cabbage brine is better. You get a better flavour/colour/scent and the cabbage also usually doesn't need rinsing. Cold rooms in basements are very popular here (except for brand new housing since not many cook anymore) so the cold room is best. The warmer it is, the more salt is needed, and more frequent topups with salt water.

As a side note, the drum weighs at least a couple hundred kilos if not more. Choose locations and positioning carefully because once full and sealed, no one is moving it. lol.

Also, periodically through winter the brine needs to be drained from the bottom and poured back into the top. All of their enormous drums have a tap installed at the bottom used for this purpose in addition to draining the finished drum. After it's opened and is being used through winter, it needs to periodically top up with more salt water and mix the brine from bottom to top.

---

Whole cabbage leaves are very often used for sarma - the Balkan version of cabbage rolls, made either vegetarian or with pork meat mixed into the rice filling, and boiled in tomato juice. Sometimes also some smoked bacon is added to filling to cooked in the pot in the liquid.

It is also used to make sour cabbage soup. (I can't remember the name for this at the moment ) This is winter soup with cured sausage, sometimes with beans or just with potato.

The quarter heads are usually shredded very thin to make podvarak - baked sour cabbage. (Forgive my crude translations) Podvarak can be made vegetarian or with either smoked pork neck, smoked turkey, or smoked sausages. the cabbage is sauteed with lots of sliced onions and garlic, and the meat, and baked in oven. I like to use julienned carrots to add a bit more veg.

Vegetarian versions of all dishes are usually made for the fasting purposes, otherwise Balkan people are really meat lovers.

Last but definitely not least is as side salad, not cooked but just shredded and dressed with a bit of vinegar and pepper and thin sliced salted onions. adding grayed carrots is also nice, but then it needs more vinegar.

All these dish suggestions also go well served with ajvar (or "Serbian ketchup"  as I sometimes refer to it) which we also make yearly, and is a spicy roasted pepper spread. In fact, I am prepping my jars now for next week to do the ajvar making.
-------

It you made it through all this congrats. lol. Hopefully someone can reference it when looking for ideas on how to save and eat their cabbage harvest. ;)  
 
Catie George
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Sionainn - what is the brine solution recipe? And how do you make the pepper spread? I love a commercially made eastern european pepper condiment that is used to add flavour to soups and stews and would love go make something similar at home.
 
Sionainn Cailís
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Catie George wrote:Sionainn - what is the brine solution recipe? And how do you make the pepper spread? I love a commercially made eastern european pepper condiment that is used to add flavour to soups and stews and would love go make something similar at home.



Oof!! My inlaws have no recipes. Oral tradition and shown example is so important for that reason. Hundreds of years of little regional traditions, and there is never a recipe to be located. :) It's okay, my family never wrote down anything either. Also in the habits of oral traditions and showing by examples. This is probably the case for 95% of all European peasant families lol.  

I would have to give it a best guess.

I would estimate each cabbage head is close to around 2kg mark. The family only picks the biggest, and most dense winter green cabbages for this job, and they are BIG.

So maybe one barrel is approximately 50-55 kg cabbages. I think approximately two boxes regular sea salt (1 kg each) is about what is used to pack cores and the rest mixed to make salt water. Mom cuts a bigger and more squared hole when she cores, so whatever is the size of the hole needs to be packed with salt. I have no idea for drum size, except that I could probably take a swim in it, lol, because the drums used for cabbage are impressive. The drum fits approx that much cabbage, with enough space for the big stone to be lifted on top of it.

Also, my mother in law used to add whole peppercorns before, stuffing them into the cores along with the salt. She only stopped last few years because she seems to have developed an allergy to black pepper. She also likes some whole bay leaves, and told me they used to sometimes also add a piece of horseradish root to the brine in her village. Father in law mentioned before that it was common in his village to add some dried whole paprika peppers into the pack.

My mother in law is an ethnic Serb from part of the region that is now in central- eastern Croatia. Her methods are different from her husband's family, which is a region that is part of very southeast Serbia, and also HER brother in law (the uncle who picks the cabbages) as his family is from mid-southwest Serbia. Each little hamlet and village will produce the same item with a slightly different special taste. :)
 
Bonnie Kuhlman
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Sionnain, thank you for sharing all this food prep history with us.  It's fascinating to say the least, to hear about how different cultures prepared and preserved their food.  So much that is lost to young people today that have no clue how to live without modern conveniences.  

Bonnie
 
Sionainn Cailís
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Catie George wrote:Sionainn -  And how do you make the pepper spread? I love a commercially made eastern european pepper condiment that is used to add flavour to soups and stews and would love go make something similar at home.



Sorry for pause, it IS pepper picking time lol. We just finished picking the peppers yesterday!

We make ajvar, I have never seen it used to flavour soup or stews, but it is very useful condiment to flavour eggs, meats, smear on bread, serve with cheese or sour cream, etc.

Ajvar needs red peppers, garlic, pepper, salt, and oil. We always use a mix of of spicy and sweet peppers for the best taste. Years ago I also convinced my mother in law to switch from cheap oil to very good quality olive oil, it is healthier and olive oil is also tasty.

We use 10 bushels (Canadian bushel is I think about 36.5 litres) red peppers-  for that quantity we need 2 bushels eggplants, a few litres of olive oil, maybe 1 kg salt (14 handfuls of salt), 2 handfuls freshly ground black pepper, and about 2 kg fresh crushed garlic cloves.

Wash all the peppers and eggplants, roast all over open flames until the outsides are blackening. Peel them all, deseed them all, and put them all through a grinder. Grind up your garlic. About half the olive oil is added, and it gets slowly cooked down over low flame until it is all a beautiful dark red colour and thick spread. Usually takes about 4-6 hours of stirring a cauldron like a witch. Add in the salt and pepper. Put it to jars and we use the rest of the olive oil to top each full jar to make like a secondary air seal before we cap and put in the oven to seal.

We make approx 50 Litres of finished product from this amount. It keeps over a year easily, not that we ever have jars last so long. 500ml jars are, imo, the best size, as once opened a jar lasts about a week in the fridge since theres not much preservatives.


 
I hired a bunch of ninjas. The fridge is empty, but I can't find them to tell them the mission.
BWB second printing, pre-order dealio (poor man's poll)
https://permies.com/t/147624/BWB-printing-pre-order-dealio
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