Anticipation

I am ready for this school year to end. I am tired of attempting to teach a bunch of high school seniors who are ready to graduate. It’s all about prom and dresses and limo and the week at the shore following. Yes, you read that correctly, week at the shore following. No matter that we will be finishing units, taking unit tests, and preparing for final exams (although we have taken to calling them assessments here). And I have piles to go before I sleep, so to speak. Much grading to do, much whining to listen to.

But that’s all OK. I can deal, because last week I received an email about opening day at our CSA at Fernbrook Farm. It is only a day away! Forget Memorial Day weekend. For me, the start of summer is marked by going to the farm for the first day of the season. We like to go early in the morning, when everything is still wet with dew, and the sun is not too strong. We pick our U-pick crops, get our produce from the “shop” and then mosey around to say hello to the animals. It is a slow time, and I enjoy that very much. My daughter sometimes gets frustrated because I chat with everyone who wants to chat (She reprimanded me once, about talking to strangers). Why is she in a rush? Because visiting the goats, sheep, and chickens always comes last.

After six years, the farm has become as comfortable as a second home, and tomorrow I look forward to a kind of homecoming. While I haven’t received the weekly email as to what I can expect this week, my guess is that my share will include bunches of greens, maybe some spring onions (scallions), and hopefully some “s-berries”! So what do I do with the abundance of greens? I start making Kim Chee, a spicy Korean ferment. It is an easy way to stretch the life of your greens. While most people think of Kim Chee that is made with Napa Cabbage, I have found that just about any firm green works well.

Kim Chee
Napa Cabbage, or other firm green (such as bok choy or mustard or collard greens), shredded
3-6 cloves garlic, chopped
3-4 T fresh ginger, grated
1-3 T Korean red pepper (or crushed red pepper flakes)
2-3 scallions, sliced
2 T salt (non-iodized), or 1 T salt and ¼ C whey

1. Put all of the ingredients in a large, sturdy, non-reactive bowl and mis thoroughly. Pound for 10 minutes. When I first started fermenting vegetables, I pounded with an old potato masher. You can use a boiled rock, or wooden block. I have a plunger from my Squeezo that works very well.
2. In a sterile quart canning jar, tightly pack the pounded ingredients. It is VERY important to leave one inch of space at the top of the jar. Do not try and squeeze in more than that. If you have too much to fit in the jar, use a second jar.
3. Secure the lid firmly, but not super tight.
4. Leave in a warm spot for 2 or 3 days, until bubbles start to form. Move to cold storage. This will keep in your refrigerator for months, if it lasts that long!

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)

Pickles, Pickles, Pickles

I didn’t always love pickles.

I do now.  But I didn’t always. And the first pickles I made were horrible.  The cucumbers got mushy in the processing.  I tried dills, garlic and bread-n-butters, but they all tasted terrible because the consistency was awful.  I will never forget opening the first jar of pickles that I made and biting into one.  It was the worst thing I ever put in my mouth.  And I was a little kid once.  A little kid who was a younger sister, who actually took a bite of the mud pies my sister made.  Trust me, the mud pie was better than the pickle.

I gave up on pickles for a long time, until I got married, actually, and received the Winch Family Pickle Recipe.  It’s a secret, so I can’t share that one.  However, I have figured out all kinds of pickles since my first successes with the Family Recipe.

I think the most intimidating thing about making pickles is batch size.  We tend to think in larger batches because it is such a pain in the neck to pull out all of the canning equipment. Who wants to do that for two quarts of pickles, right?  Well, you don’t need canning equipment for these pickles.  And they aren’t those refrigerator dills, either.  These are garlic pickles, like from the big barrel in the deli. My husband, a native Minnesotan, was dubious about a pickle that had no dill in the brine.  But he is a convert to the strange and mysterious ways of the east: lacto-fermentation (Probiotic Preservation) and a ton of garlic!

Garlic Pickles

  • a clean wide mouth canning jar with lid
  • enough cucumbers to fill the jar
  • horseradish or grape leaf (optional)
  • 1 small head of garlic peeled
  • 1 t peppercorns
  • 2 T salt dissolved in 2 C filtered water (or 1 T salt, 1/4 C whey, and 1 3/4 C filtered water)
  1. Push the horseradish or grape leaf into the bottom of the jar (this helps the cucumbers retain their crispness, but it is not necessary).
  2. Pierce the garlic cloves and add them to the jar.  Drop in the peppercorns.
  3. Push the cucumbers into the jar tightly, but try not to bruise them as they go in.  If they are too long for the jar, cut them to fit.
  4. Cover with the salt water (or salt-whey water), leaving about 1 inch of space at the top.  Be sure the cucumbers are completely under the solution.
  5. Put the lid on the jar and let is sit on a counter for 2 or 3 days, until you see bubbles forming.  You should also notice that the color of the cucumber skin has changed.
  6. Move the cukes to cold storage.  They are ready to eat at any time, but the longer they sit around, the more garlicky and sour they become. The consistency will change over time.  hey may get a little soft.  They are still ok to eat.

What is Probiotic Preservation?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAProbiotic preservation, also known as Lacto-fermentation, is probably one of the oldest forms of preservation. All of the research I have done has led me to believe that Probiotic preservation precedes even oral history. As soon as someone figured out that the cabbage that got splashed with seawater tasted good for a long time after most cabbage was a moldy mess, Probiotic preservation was practiced! No matter which corner of the world you choose, if you look into the culinary history, you find a form of fermentation. Besides preserving the food, the process of Probiotic preservation changes the chemical structure of the food so that it is actually more nutritious. It delivers more vitamins to the body and an abundance of good flora to the intestines.

My own interest in Probiotic preservation was sparked by what to do with the whey I had left from straining yogurt, and was then furthered by Sally Fallon and Sandor Ellix Katz. I did extensive research on the web and I want to encourage you to try fermenting your own vegetables. I was not really much of a sauerkraut fan before I started making my own kraut. If you worry that you won’t like the flavor of lacto-fermented foods, start by eating them “young, “ when they have just finished the initial fermentation. The foods are less sour.

Probiotic preservation requires the use of salt. I recommend Celtic Sea Salt, because it dissolves readily and does not make the brine cloudy. If you want to cut back on the salt, you can use whey as an inoculant to get the fermentation process started. Where does one get whey? Well, while you can get it form many sources on the web, I do not recommend that. It is VERY easy to make your own whey as a by-product of making homemade Greek style yogurt.