Kohlrabi: That weird bulb-thing

“What is that?” asked a lady at the CSA last week, holding a purple bulb.  I replied, “Kohlrabi.” “This weird bulb-thing?  That’s a kohlrabi?  What do I do with it?”

I told her that a friend of mine, who grew up in Germany, passed along that her family would grow lots of them in their garden and they ate them raw, peeled and sliced with a little salt, almost every night in the summer.

But as I was driving home, I realized that we use kohlrabi in lots of ways, from lacto-fermented to Indian food (gaanth gobhi).  It tastes sweet, but a little broccoli/cabbage-like.  The consistency is crisp and is reminiscent of broccoli stems.  Sometimes we just slice them and eat them with dip or a little salt, or add them to cold salads.  But kohlrabi is extremely versatile.  It is also a crop that comes in twice in NJ, because it is a cooler weather crop.  My CSA distributes them in the spring and then again in the fall, so I have spring/summer recipes and uses and fall/winter recipes and uses.

This time of year, we tend to the raw and lacto-fermented recipes — things that don’t heat up the kitchen!  But in the fall and winter, we roast it in chunks, cube it and add it to curries, or even cut it like french fries and pop it in the deep fryer.

Here is a super easy lacto-fermentation recipe for kohlrabi:

Garlic Kohlrabi Pickles

  • 1 large kohlrabi, peeled and cut into 1/4″ sticks, a max of 1/4″ shorter than the jar you are using
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, halved
  • 2 T sea salt OR 1 T sea salt + 1 T whey from yogurt making, if you have it
  • 2 C filtered/unchlorinated water
  • horseradish leaf (optional)**
  1. In a scrupulously clean wide-mouth pint jar, mash the horseradish leaf into the bottom of the jar.
  2. Add the kohlrabi sticks and garlic.
  3. Combine the water and salt (and whey if you are using it) to make a brine.  Mix until the salt is completely dissolved.
  4. Add the brine to the jar, being sure to leave some space at the top.
  5. Secure the lid.
  6. Leave the jar on a counter, out of direct sunlight, for 2-3 days.  When you see bubbles, put it in the fridge. One of the bonuses of lacto-fermenting is that you can open the jar and not break a seal or wreck anything.  Open the jar and look at the pickles.  Sniff them.  Taste them.  If you like how they taste, put then in the fridge.  If you want them to be a little more “done,” leave them out for another 12 hours.  These will keep in the fridge for about 6 weeks.  After that, the texture begins to degrade.

**I use horseradish leaf in all of my pickle jars. Bruising the leaf in the bottom of the jar helps release the naturally occurring potassium and magnesium that help the pickles retain their crispness.

Living La Vita Locale 7/12: Peaches

Ok, FINE! I’ll give Georgia THEIR peaches, because if you live in Georgia, and can get those gems tree-ripened, they are wonderful.  But in mid-July in New Jersey? It is all about the Jersey peach, especially white peaches that squirt juice all over when you bite them.  We like to pick peaches at the same orchard where we pick our apples, Strawberry Hill.  We bring home about a bushel of peaches and I can some, and lacto-ferment some, and dry some, and make fruit leather out of some.  And yes, we eat the rest of them: peach cobbler, yogurt with peaches, or even just a plain peach as a snack.  While I will buy “bump-and-dent” tomatoes to can into sauce (because sometimes I do not get enough tomatoes from my garden even with what is supplemented by the CSA share), I will not skimp on peaches.   They must be perfect specimens and perfectly ripe.

Peaches are number two on the list of the “Dirty Dozen” foods as defined by the Environmental Working Group.  Because they are fuzzy, peach skins retain much of the topical fungicides and pesticides that farmers spray on the fruit.  And because they are fuzzy, it is nearly impossible to get all of the chemicals washed off of the fruit.  And it is very difficult to grow a soft fruit that is susceptible to a plethora of pests and fungi without the use of chemicals.  That is why organic peaches are hard to come by. Additionally, with peaches being publicized as part of the “Dirty Dozen” more people are choosing organic over conventional.  This is why organic peaches are so expensive.

Of course I went in search of a local organic orchard!  Did I find one?  Yes.  But they did not grown peaches.  As a matter of fact, I could not find one local organic peach.  Not one.  The organic orchard I found only grew organic apples — the soft fruit orchards were on another property they owned about a mile down the road, and were not organic.  They, like Strawberry Hill, use IPM (Integrated Pest Management) system that minimizes the use of chemicals.  They do not use antibiotics (Yes! There are some pesticides that are antibiotics!), they release lady bugs and parasitic wasps to manage insect pests, but they do have to spray sometimes. Usually fungicide, and usually when it has been very wet.  My advice is to call the orchard and ask questions.  Most farmers and orchardists will be very happy to talk to you — they will be surprised that you are interested.  So while Strawberry Hill is a conventional orchard, I still buy fruit there because I feel that their practices are environmentally sound.

The absolute easiest thing to do with peaches is to lacto-ferment them.  Lacto-fermenting fruit can be a little tricky because the ferment can go “boozy” very quickly.  This is one I check about every 12 hours.  As soon as you feel a little effervescence on your tongue, it is time for this to go into the fridge!

Lacto-Fermented Peaches

2-3 ripe peaches, peeled and cut into chunks catching as much juice as possible

1/2 C fresh berries (blackberries and blueberries are usually coming in around the same time as the peaches)

1/4 C cilantro leaves

1 T salt

In a scrupulously clean quart jar, combine all of the ingredients.  Secure the lid and shake the jar until all of the ingredients are combined and the peaches and berries are broken up.  Leave this on your counter for 1-2 days, depending on the temperature of your kitchen.  This needs to be stored in the refrigerator, below 42° F.

This is delicious as is, or mixed with fresh chopped tomatoes and sweet onions as a salsa, spooned over grilled fish or chicken, or blended with a little balsamic vinegar and olive oil for salad dressing.

Not a fan of cilantro? Try some basil instead.  Don’t have blackberries?  Use strawberries.  This is just as wonderful without the berries.  If you want an amazing topping for ice-cream, leave out the herbs!  Have fun experimenting.  If you come up with a new combination, please share it in the Comments!

First Frost: Pickled Tomatoes

There is always something exciting about the first frost.  While the leaves have been changing for a while, the oranges and reds have come to dominate the tree-lined avenues.  The air turned from the heavy humidity of summer to the dry crisp of autumn seemingly overnight (well, actually it was the other day – started out about 8,000% humidity in the morning and gave way to a dry, cool breeze by the afternoon).  It is, perhaps, my favorite time of year.  There is a sense of relief when the intense heat of summer finally desists.

For me, the first frost signifies the true beginning of autumn.  The summer plants, tomatoes, peppers, and annual herbs, all “bit it” last night, leaves curling and turning dark.  Unpicked fruits soon to pucker, soon to be chicken food.

It is also the harbinger of quieter times ahead – the end of fall sports, and all of the running around inherent in being the parent of two athletes, involved in two different sports, at two different schools.  I know many of you feel my pain!

So out I went this afternoon, to pick all of the green tomatoes. They are some of our favorite pickles. The small cherry or grape tomatoes I leave whole and the larger ones are cut into halves.

 

Lacto-Fermented Pickled Green Tomatoes

Pack jars with green tomatoes, keeping like varieties together. If you have some cherry tomatoes and some larger tomatoes that you are going to cut, put them in separate jars as whole fruits will last longer than cut fruits.

Per jar, add:

¼ t black pepper corns

¼ t dill seed

1 or 2 cloves of garlic

1 dried chili (optional)

Cover the tomatoes with brine in the proportion of

1 T salt

1 C water

Put lids on the jars and leave on the counter until bubbles start to form, usually 2 or 3 days. Once there are bubbles, move them to cold storage. These are NOT shelf stable because they have not been hot processed.

Tsukemono Japanese Pickle

I would like to thank those of you who joined my daughter and me at Fernbrook Farms CSA on Saturday for the “Probiotic Preservation” Class! It was a nice crowd and people asked a lot of great questions.

One of the recipes I made that day was a take on a fermented Japanese pickle called Tsukemono. I did not have copies of the recipe with me, and thought I had posted it on the blog earlier.

I have used a variety of vegetables for this ferment: Chinese (napa) cabbage (one head, shredded), regular cabbage (one head, shredded), baby bok choi (a big bowl full), collard greens (shredded), grated kohlrabi (two big bulbs, peeled), grated carrots (about 5 medium), and grated hakurei turnips (about 10 medium).

  • Prepped vegetable of choice
  • 2-3 finely sliced green onion
  • 2 T naturally fermented soy sauce
  • the juice of one lemon*
  • 1 t of sea salt
  • ¼ C whey (if you don’t have whey, just use an extra teaspoon of salt)
  • 2 T toasted sesame oil
  1. In a large bowl, combine all of the ingredients, EXCEPT the sesame oil. If you are using cabbage, collards or any of the root vegetables, use a pounder and pound until juices begin to appear. Regular cabbage may take about 5 minutes, Chinese cabbage may only take two or three.
  2. Pack into a clean mason jar, leaving 1 inch of head space at the top. Using the pounder, press the vegetables down until they are below the level of the liquid.
  3. Secure the lid and leave out on a counter for 2 – 3 days, until bubble begin to form. Before moving to cold storage, add the toasted sesame oil and stir through. Repack the jar and put in cold storage.
  4. Toasted sesame seeds make a nice addition to this pickle when it is served.

Simple Sauerkraut

One of the easiest things to make is sauerkraut.  I always liked sauerkraut on bratwursts, but I can honestly say, in the past I would never have choosen it as a side dish.

When I started lacto-fermenting foods, this is where I started.  I needed a use for the whey leftover from yogurt making.  At the time I didn’t have chickens, and I couldn’t stand the wastefulness of pouring it down the drain.  I quickly got hooked on lacto-fermenting, and got pretty good at it.  We now have lacto-fermented foods that vary from pickles (see earlier post) to kim-chee (coming soon).  As we get vegetables from our CSA at Fernbrook Farm, I use what is left from the week before and come up with new lacto-fermented salads and combinations.

I started teaching classes on lacto-fermentation in 2010.  One day, while speaking to my sister about what I was doing, she commented that lacto-fermentation sounded “clunky and unappealing.”  That was when I started to refer to it as Probiotic Preservation.  The alliteration appeals to my English Major.  The use of the term probiotic makes the preservation technique more accessible, as many people are now familiar with it because it is used so frequently as a marketing tool.

Sauerkraut

  •  One medium head of cabbage, shredded
  • One medium carrot, shredded
  • One small onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 t caraway seeds (optional)
  • 1 T salt
  • 1/4 C Whey (if it is not available increase salt to 2 T)
  1. Mix all of the ingredients in a large bowl. I use a 4-quart, stainless steel pot.  With a pounder (a plunger from your grinder, a meat pounder, or the end of a boiled brick), pound the mixture for about 8 – 10 minutes, until juices are formed.
  2. Pack the cabbage into clean glass jars or a crock.  Be sure that the vegetables are below the surface of the juices!
  3. If you are using jars: Put the lids on the jars and place in a warm spot for 2-3days.  When bubbles form, move to cold storage.
  4. If you are using a crock:  Weight the top of the cabbage with a plate that fits inside the crock and a boiled brick.  Cover the top with cheesecloth to keep out dust and dirt.  Place the crock in a warm spot for 2-3 days.  Check the top of the brine for scum.  If scum has formed, scrape it off of the top of the brine before moving the kraut to cold storage.

We are just finishing our last jar of kraut from last fall.  It kept beautifully for 5 months.  Keep in mind that this is not heat processed and cannot be stored in a pantry with canned foods.  It must be cold-stored at a temperature below 50 degrees.

We keep our l-f vegetables in an old refrigerator we have in our mudroom that is set on the “vacation” setting.

  • Sauerkraut (traditionalnourishment.wordpress.com)