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.

Easy Salsa That’s Good for Your Gut

I have already posted my recipe for canned salsa, but I have two others, both using that age-old preservation process I call Probiotic Preservation.  To learn more about it, see my earlier blog post.

The first is a tomato recipe that tastes much like the salsa in the canned recipe.

Red Salsa

  • 5-6 medium tomatoes
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 sweet pepper, small dice
  • 1 jalepeno pepper, sliced (seeds or no seeds – hotness is up to you!)
  • 1 poblano pepper, sliced (see above)
  • 1 stalk celery, small dice
  • 1 T honey or REAL maple syrup
  • 1/3 C sea salt
  • ¼ C whey

Scald and peel the tomatoes.  Cut into bite size pieces and put in a bowl.  Put the onion in a sieve and run under hot water for about a minute.  Add to the bowl.  Sprinkle with the salt and mix and let stand for about three hours.  Drain.  Add the remaining ingredients and mix well.  Pack into jars and close lids.  Leave in at room temperature for 2-3 days.  Transfer to cold storage.

Note:  If you do not have whey available, add 1T of salt  when you add the remaining ingredients.

Green Salsa

  • 1 quart tomatillos, husked and washed and chopped
  • 1 medium onion, rough chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, fine chopped
  • 1 large bunch cilantro, fine chopped, stems included
  • 1 sweet pepper, small dice
  • hot peppers to taste
  • 1/3 C sea salt
  • 1/4 C whey
  1. Combine the tomatillos and onions in a non-reactive bowl and sprinkle with the salt.  Let stand about 20 minutes and then drain.
  2. Add the remaining ingredients.
  3. Pack into jars and close lids.  Leave in a warm place for 2-3 days.  Transfer to cold storage.
  4. When you are ready to eat the salsa, you can serve it as is, or mix it with some fresh chopped red tomatoes, and/or chopped mangos.
    Note:  If you do not have whey available, add 1T of salt  when you add the remaining ingredients.

Another note:  If you put too many hot peppers in the salsa, adding a fruit like mango or apple right before you serve it can cut down the heat with the sweet.

DO NOT ADD THE FRUIT BEFORE YOU FERMENT THIS!  Yes, I tried that once.  The salsa molded halfway down the jar in about two weeks.

I can’t tell you how long these will hold up in cold storage because they doesn’t stick around in our house more than a month or two.  Figure it this way — the tomatoes come in just as football season is starting.

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.

Making Your Own Greek-Style Yogurt

We love yogurt.  We especially love the thick, creamy Greek-style yogurt that has become so popular lately.  And just like everything else we have learned to do, making yogurt was a trial and error process.  The recipe that follows is more of a guideline than a hard and fast recipe.  The conditions in your kitchen will not be the same as the conditions in my kitchen.  Because we do not have air-conditioning at our house, the conditions in my kitchen vary drastically throughout the year, and therefore, so does my yogurt making.  I have one blanket for summer yogurt incubation and another for winter!

I have stopped using reserved yogurt as my starter.  I have found much more consistent results from using the whey that was strained from the last week’s yogurt.  However, you cannot strain commercial yogurt and use that whey as a starter.  That series of experiments was an epic fail!

Homemade Greek-Style Yogurt

3 ½ Cups of whole milk (see note below)

½ C plain yogurt (either commercial with LIVE cultures, or reserved from your last batch) OR 1/2 C whey from your last batch  of yogurt

candy thermometer

Heat the milk on the stove slowly.  If you are using pasteurized milk, heat to 180° F, and let cool to 110° F.  If you are using raw milk, heat to 110° F.   Whisk in the ½ C yogurt or whey.  Transfer to a quart size mason jar and place the jar and a heating pad inside a little cooler.  Turn the heating pad onto Medium.   Incubate for 4-8 hours, depending on how tart you like your yogurt.  After the yogurt has incubated, put it in the refrigerator until it is completely cooled (I usually leave it overnight).   The next morning, place a flour sack towel inside a sieve and place the sieve on a bowl.  If you have used raw milk, scrape the “cream” from the top and reserve in a small bowl.  Put the rest of the yogurt in the sieve.  Add the cream back on the top. Put it back in the fridge and let is strain for two or three hours.  Reserve the whey for lacto-fermenting (it will keep in a jar in the fridge for a couple of months).  Invert the sieve into the bowl and peel the towel off the yogurt and enjoy!  My children LOVE this yogurt salted for dipping vegetables.

NOTE:  I feel that grass-fed raw milk gives the best, most consistent results.  If you cannot get raw milk, try to find grass-fed milk that is not homogenized.  If you can’t find that, then settle for organic milk that has not been ultra-pasteurized.

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.