Fermented Things

As you might remember, the May Cook It 2012 Project was to ferment something.  I made traditional napa cabbage kimchi, which was delicious and gone already (I need to fork over the big money for a crock, so I can make a huge batch!) So, before I post the recipe for these amazing canned brandied cherries that I can’t stop eating, I wanted to share these other projects from my fellow bloggers:

The Kitchen Ninja made these beautiful lacto-fermented dill pickles.  I’m so happy she made them since this is such a classic and delicious fermentation project.  The remoulade recipe included also looks pretty epic, and since I’m a fiend for a good po’boy I’m sure we’ll give this a try once the cucumbers come in.

There really is nothing quite as beautiful as a jar of pickles, right? (or a jar of canned apricots… or dilly beans.  Yes. Not only do I spend huge amounts of time photographing canned goods, I’m also actively aware of which canned goods I think are the most beautiful and interesting to photograph.)

Speaking of beautiful… that brings me to the lovely glowing bottles of fizzy homemade ginger beer from Homemade Trade. What a brilliant idea!

I basically read Aimee’s post and then ran to the store as fast as I could to buy a big huge piece of ginger so I could make the project myself.  Because, you know, one of the main things I’ve learned from the fermentation challenge was that it is so, so easy, so you might as well give it a try. There’s so little work involved, so few ingredients, and so little equipment.  Time is the only thing you really need…

(I really did go get ginger. My starter is just starting to fizz = so exciting I can barely deal with it)

Aimee and Ninj: always inspiring to read what you’re up to! such beautiful projects…

and to everyone else: Don’t forget, the June Cook it 2012 resolution is to make jam, so if you haven’t yet, go get yourself some fruit and get jamming.

_______________________________________________________

To be included in the jam round-up post, e-mail me a link to your post by July 15, 2012.  My e-mail is thejamgirl@gmail.com

_______________________________________________________

Cook it! 2012 May Resolution

It’s that time again… In case you’re just showing up to the party,  this year a little group of us decided to tackle a different kitchen project every month.  It began as a New Year’s Resolution, a decision to devote some time to learning new skills and having fun messing around in the kitchen.  So far, we’ve made pasta from scratch, baked bread, made fresh butter and fresh cheese.

Now that the sun is out and the garden is starting to grow like crazy, I thought it would be a good idea to get away from dry goods and dairy and start doing something with all these veggies.   Which brings me to the May resolution–  to keep it really broad, let’s just say…. the goal is to ferment something.  It could be something with vegetables, like sauerkraut or kimchi, or it could be wine, beer, kombucha, sourdough bread…  whatever.

I haven’t done nearly enough projects involving fermentation and I wanted to devote some time to learning about this ancient method of food preservation.  Wikipedia says that there’s evidence that people were fermenting beverages in Babylon around 3000 B.C.   (After doing manual farm labor in the sun all day, my brilliant insights regarding this are:  Holy crap.  That is a long time ago.)   The whole concept of it is magical, that you can take some cabbage or cucumbers or whatever and combine them with salt and then wait awhile and *poof* the vegetables preserve themselves.   I love the simplicity.

I’m also drawn to the fact that the produce isn’t really cooked, (unlike preservation via canning) so it will be higher in vitamins and minerals.  And, as you may know, the process of fermentation also creates all of the beneficial microorganisms that make for healthy digestive systems.

— and that last phrase, right there, is why I think I haven’t bothered much with fermentation in the past.   It wasn’t a conscious decision at all.  I fell in love with jam-making and all those jewel-toned jars so easily.  Discussions about jam usually mean talking about apricots and strawberries, and whether or not Weck jars are worth the price.  It seems like chatting about fermentation, on the other hand, almost invariably fast forwards right to conversations about pooping.   If you google kimchi and start researching health benefits, you get a couple sentences into the article and then hear about how eating kimchi helps prevent yeast infections — because really, nothing says “domestic goddess” like healthy girl parts.

So, yeah, health benefits aside, I’m really just doing this because I wanted a way to preserve all these spring vegetables.

The ferment that I made first this month is a traditional napa cabbage kimchi.  Kimchi doesn’t have to be made with napa cabbage, but there’s something about the texture of the fermented cabbage that I really love.  I started small with this project, doing a mini-batch since I don’t own any big fermenting crocks.

Small Batch Kimchi

This recipe is adapted from The Hungry Tigress’ Kimchi Primer, since I know absolutely nothing about making kimchi but she seems like she’s got it down pretty well.  This version is (I think) somewhat traditional, but I used easter egg radishes from my garden instead of asian daikon radishes.  It’s also a little heavy on the radish part since I had a lot of them and they needed preserving.

cook time: 25 minutes active cooking, and then a couple days to ferment

makes: about 2 quart jars

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium sized napa cabbage
  • 1 bunch of radishes
  • 1/2 c.green garlic tops, spring onion tops or scallions, diced
  • 1 tbs. paprika
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 tbs. ginger, grated
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • about 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper, or to taste

for the brine:

  • 1/2 c. sea salt
  • 2 quarts filtered water

Wash the cabbage and slice it into two inch squares.  Wash the radishes, remove the tops, and slice them into very thin rounds.  Combine the salt and water in a large nonreactive bowl and stir well to combine.  Add the cabbage and radishes to the brine.  To keep the veggies from floating, put a plate on top of them and then cover the whole thing with saran wrap.  Leave it out at room temperature overnight to soak.

The next morning, drain the vegetables, reserving the brine.  Mix together all of the rest of the ingredients in a separate bowl (the minced garlic bulb and ginger, green garlic tops, paprika, sugar and cayenne).   Pour this mixture over the cabbage and radishes.  Give a few stirs to make sure everything’s nicely combined.

Transfer the seasoned vegetable mixture to two clean quart jars* and cover with the reserved brine.  Screw on lids and set in a warm, dark corner somewhere in your house.  For the next few days, you’ll need to open the jars and stir them with a clean wooden spoon or chopstick  (to make sure everything is fully submerged in the brine).   The kimchi takes anywhere from 3-6 days to ferment.  It’s hard to describe exactly how you know that it’s fermented, but if you taste it every day, you’ll know when it’s there.  How? Because it tastes awesome. You’ll know.  Once it’s fermented, move it to the fridge.  This will slow everything way down and keep the flavors and textures from changing too much.  Once the kimchi is in the fridge, it will last for months and months.

*I like to sterilize my jars for fridge pickles and ferments because, I mean, it can’t hurt, right?

And then you can have stuff like this for breakfast.  I was making a small bowl of basmati rice with some kimchi, and J. looked at it and said “you should put an egg on that” and man oh man oh man oh man was he right.  Kimchi is good as it is, but it into rice with warm egg yolk  it will definitely put a grin on your face.  Salty, creamy, warm and spicy, it’s hard to beat as far as quick meals go.

Kimchi Breakfast Bowl

serves: 1

cook time: 5 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 c. steamed basmati rice
  • a few tablespoons of kimchi
  • 1 egg, cooked however you like, seasoned with fresh cracked black pepper (sunny side up or over easy works best for this)
  • any of these: chopped fresh scallions, dried or fresh chilis, a tiny splash of ume plum vinegar or soy sauce, leftover chicken, some salted peanuts or cashews, fresh cilantro….. (whatever ya got)

Combine the kimchi and rice in a bowl.  Top with the egg. Garnish with whatever toppings you have on hand and feel like eating.

_______________________________________________________

To be included in the fermenting round-up, send me an e-mail at thejamgirl@gmail.com with the link to your post by June 15, 2012. If whatever you’re making hasn’t fully fermented yet, just tell us your plans and what you’ve done so far.

_______________________________________________________

Top 10 Posts from 2011

Wasting time on the internet reading Top 10 lists is such a delightful tradition right before Jan 1.  I want to enable anyone else who enjoys it as much as I do, by writing yet another top 10 list.  You know you love ’em.  Don’t go be productive, sit here on the computer, for just another few minutes.

1. How To Preserve 100+ lbs. of Tomatoes With Almost No Work

This is probably my favorite post too, detailing the massive amounts of tomato preservation that happens at the farm every summer.  Sometimes I come home from the farmers market with more tomatoes than I actually took, which is completely ridiculous.  At the end of the market, when vendors have unsold tomatoes, if I hear mutters of “ah, feed ’em to the chickens,” I try to get in on the action before the hens.  End of summer, heavily discounted tomatoes are where it’s at.

2. Stout Beer Jelly

This is such a weird jelly.  It’s good and all, but…  This post made it to the front page of reddit, which hurt my brain, since there are so many other preserves I’ve made that I would recommend more than this one.  It’s a novelty jelly.  It’s definitely really tasty in certain situations, like on grilled lamb, or with toasted pumpernickel bread with cream cheese.  This is what happens if you, um, partake on St. Patrick’s Day and are a huge canning nerd, and then you decide to start making jelly out of random stuff in the kitchen.

So here’s the deal: I’m working on a new version, with tart cherries, some dried spices and bay leaves.  Please, I beg you, wait for the updated recipe before you make this. It’ll be worth it, I promise.

3. Vanilla Peach Jam

This jam is killer, and this post has step-by-step instructions for beginners.  Vanilla bean and ripe, juicy peaches is a pretty perfect combination.

4. Chocolate Plum Jam

I spent days and days and days canning in the commercial kitchen I use (that’s the door, in the picture below) for the National Heirloom Expo this September. The chocolate plum jam was a creation for that event, which you can make at home if you didn’t get to go.  It’s another winner, absolutely delicious.

5. Concord Grape Jam

What’s not to love about grape jam? It’s heavenly…

6. Pineapple Weed Tea

So…  I was all excited about how popular this post was, sitting in my living room going “gosh it’s so great that people are so interested in foraging these days”… and then I realized, after reading the search terms a little more closely:

There’s a strain of marijuana named “pineapple” and when I wrote “pineapple weed tea” a lot of people thought that I meant I was making tea out of marijuana and got really excited about my blog.

Am I naive? Yes. Is this post about getting high off your tea? Sadly, no. Is it still delicious tea? Yes.

7. My Grandma Molly’s Recipe for Pickled Watermelon Rind

Pickled watermelon was all kinds of trendy this year, and I saw recipes popping up all over the place.  Well, this is the exact recipe that my grandma from North Carolina was making, decades ago.  It’s a tedious recipe, true, but keep a jar in the fridge during the summer, and you’ll be rewarded with the most deliciously sweet, cold, crunchy pickle you’ve ever had.  People sometimes ask me what this pickle is for, exactly, and let me just say: Fried Chicken.  A big southern dinner is never complete without a little glass dish of pickles out on the table.

8. Pear Cardamom Jam 

This is my personal favorite jam, the one that I put on my toast.  Pears have such a bold, juicy flavor- I can’t get enough.

9. Candied Buddha’s Hand

One of the most exotic fruits you’ll ever see, chopped up in little pieces, cooked in sugar and turned into sweet little bites, perfect for putting in bread, cookies and fruitcake.

10. Kimchi

‘cuz kimchi is totally a thing now, like cupcakes and making jam…

This is a small batch recipe that ferments in the fridge, adapted from The Hungry Tigress, who adapted it from Tart and Sweet, which is a fantastic cookbook that I just got for Christmas! Funny how it works like that… (Thanks, my sweet little sister, you rock).

And that’s the top 10…

Thanks for reading this year, and here’s to another epic year of jamming pickling fermenting baking roasting braising gardening and all that stuff that we all love! Happy New Year!