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.

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.

Peter Piper, Hands off!

DSC_0017Ah, the pickled pepper! For anyone who has grown hot peppers, you know that the plants are extremely prolific, providing more hot peppers that the average person could eat while they are fresh. This is why so many cultures count on dried peppers for heat. All one needs to do to dry a pepper is run a string through it and patiently wait until it is dry. Easy.
Another wonderful way to preserve peppers is to pickle them. I have two methods: a balsamic vinegar, which is better for sweet peppers, and a lacto-fermented that works best with hot peppers.

Pickled Hot Peppers

• 1 sterile canning jar and lid
• hot peppers, washed
• Brine to cover: 2T salt to each cup of non-chlorinated water
1. Stuff the peppers into the jar as tightly as you can without breaking them.
2. Cover with the brine.
3. Put the lid on the jar firmly (but not too tight).
4. Leave on a counter for 2 -3 days, until you see bubbles in the brine.
5. Move to the refrigerator. These will keep in the fridge for a year.

I do not recommend open jar or crock fermentation for these peppers because peppers float and they are hard to weight down below the brine level without breaking the flesh of the pepper.

Depending on the variety of pepper you use, these can get searingly hot. Because they are brined, they can be cut up and added to a variety of recipes to add heat without competing with the flavor palette of the recipe. You can also pull the stems and seeds and stuff them with cheese. Very tasty.


Pickled Sweet Peppers

• 10 lbs. sweet peppers, roasted , skinned, and seeded
• 10 cloves of garlic, peeled
• 2 C balsamic vinegar
• ½ C sugar
• ½ C olive oil
• 2 t salt
• 10 basil leaves, washed
1. Cut the peppers into strips.
2. Cut the garlic cloves in half.
3. Mix the balsamic, sugar, olive oil and salt until the salt and sugar dissolve.
4. Layer the peppers, garlic and basil leaves in a sterile jar.
5. Cover with the vinegar mixture.
6. Press to remove any air pockets. Place the lid on the jar and put it in the refrigerator. Leave for four weeks before eating. These will keep in the fridge for a year.

These are a great addition to any sandwich. Especially delicious on a grilled portabello, or a cheese steak.