Tag Archives: food

Sauerkraut with Carrots and Burdock

30 Jun

Summer is really here. July 4th is this week, and people are lighting up their grills all around. Today I stopped by Brooklyn Kitchen.  I was looking for one thing, and fell upon another: CHEESE DOGS. My grandma Baba used to make a microwave cheese dog for me when I was a kid. She’d slice open an Oscar Meyer wiener, filling it with American Cheese, and nuke the puppy for a minute.  In contrast, the dogs I got today are a little more sophisticated, pre-stuffed, a lot more natural, and I prepared mine on a cast iron skillet.  At this point in my life, eating a hotdog is really a thinly disguised excuse for me to eat a grand amount of sauerkraut. As if I need an excuse….

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A couple of dogs with my sauerkraut (and sauteed purslane)

Some time ago, I wrote up a master recipe for sauerkraut. My recent creation is a little more embellished, although the basics remain the same.

Sauerkraut with Carrots and Burdock

Finely slice 1 head of cabbage

Scrub clean 1 carrot and 1-2 burdock roots. You don’t need to peel them.

Grate the carrot and the roots. I use a box grater on one of the courser settings.

Mix all the ingredients together with 1T sea salt. Let them sit for an hour or more, so that the salt starts to help the veggies release their juices. After an hour, massage and pound your kraut, and then stuff it tightly into a jar. A quart sized mason jar should be large enough. Your kraut needs to be macerated enough that the juices rise above the salad.  Let it sit, covered for 3 days to a month.  The kraut is ready when you think it tastes right.  Mine sat for about 5 days so far, and  it’s good enough to use, but I’m still going to let it stay out a little longer to continue it’s fermentation.  During the fermentation time, you should check the sauerkraut every day or two for done-ness.  This is also helpful because as gasses build up from the fermenting process, the container needs to be “burped.”

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The Kraut is in the jar

On Mold

Kraut can last a long time in the refrigerator once it is done fermenting.  I made a large batch last year that took me about 6 months to finish, and it was none the worse for wear.  The one problem you might come into contact with is mold.  I made a batch of my basic kraut, only using red cabbage, back in March, and somehow it hasn’t had much luck.  I’m not sure why, except that maybe it’s always been a little low on fluid.  The good news is that mold only grows where your veggies are exposed to air.  The stuff under the brine is just fine.  I’ve kept eating this one, carefully skimming off the mold when it grows.  White mold, according to other fermenters I’ve talked to, is pretty innocuous.  If you have blue mold, that’s a case to throw it out.  The stuff below looks blue in the picture, but that’s just because my camera is picking up the hues of the purple cabbage underneath.

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mold growing on red sauerkraut

Ancestral technology: sourdough.

3 Mar

Fermentation exists because at one point in time, there were no refrigerators: it is a way to preserve food without the need of cooling devices. Happily, the process of fermentation also makes us hardier creatures because it reinforces the good bacterial population in our guts. Since the advent of preservatives, canning, freezing and other modern technologies, our mainstream society has lost the gist of why we fermented in the first place: even most pickles you can buy commercially are not fermented: they have been sterilized in hot vinegar and placed into jars.

National brand commercial breads have added preservatives in them to maintain their shelf life, and fresh, yeast leavened breads from local bakeries only last a day or two before they go stale and then moldy. Sourdough, however, is a fresh bread that has its own natural preservatives, by virtue of the additional fermentation process that it goes through. I was tickled recently to come across an article in Science Daily entitled Why sourdough bread resists mold.  I’m happy to see that occasionally, modern science remembers that our ancestors had some important technology of their own.

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Daikon Kimchi: Kkakdugi

21 Feb

I’ve been meaning to make kimchi for some time. I love it, I buy it, but then I hear stories about how you are supposed to bury it in the back yard for years before you eat it, and I think that this kind of lore intimidated me: especially as I don’t have a backyard to dig a hole in, and in Greenpoint, I don’t think I’d want to do that anyway, thanks to the noxious stuff under our ground due to the Newton Creek oil spill so many years ago, not to mention what other industrial junk gets into the ground….

Last week we went out to a Korean restaurant and got a wonderful array of traditional kimchi appetizers. My favorite of all of these is always the daikon kimchi, also called Kkakdugi. This variety of kimchi is much harder to find in the stores: the ones I shop in, at least, and so my desire for more Kkakdugi brought me to finally overcome my fear of kimchi and make some. After searching my fermentation books and a few recipes online, I decided on my method. Here’s what I did–

 

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Kkakdugi (Daikon Kimchi):

Cut off the green tops of a bunch of daikon radishes— about 1 and 1/2 lbs. Save the tops for putting in a soup or stir fry. Radish greens are delicious! Wash, peel, and chop the radish roots into 1/2 inch cubes.

In a large bowl, place the radishes and add 1 1/2 T salt, 1 T sugar.  Let the radishes sit for at least an hour.  I think I waited 3 hours.  You could even let it sit overnight.

After they have sat for some time, the salt and sugar will have caused the radishes to release their juices.  Keep this juice!

Add to the mix:

5-6 cloves minced garlic

2 inches of ginger, peeled and grated

2 T fish sauce

3 T hot pepper flakes

4 or five scallions, with their greens, finely chopped.

Mix the ingredients well until the seasonings coat the radish evenly.  Taste it.  If  you want more spice, add more ginger or pepper and mix again.  Put everything into a quart-sized jar.  Press the radishes gently down.  The radish juice should rise up to cover the radishes.  If it doesn’t, add enough filtered water to cover the radishes.

Recipes that I’ve seen say that you should let the daikon sit for 2-3 days before it’s fermented.  At 2-3 days, mine tasted lacking, so I let it ferment a good week– then it tasted “done” to me– until then there was a top note missing.  So, ferment until you think it’s done.  Check the radishes every day or so, tasting as you see fit, making sure that they remain under the brine.  When your kimchi is ready, eat immediately, or refrigerate until you’re ready to chow down!

Easy Cheesy: making chèvre.

3 Jul

Cheese making seems like it should be some kind of fancy, convoluted process.  Chèvre is amazingly simple to make.  The most difficult part of the proces is probably finding a supplier to get the culture from.  I get cheese cultures at Brooklyn Kitchen in Williamsburg.  The packets come with the directions right on them:

The day I made my cheese, it was about 86 degrees in my kitchen, so I let the gallon of goat milk warm to room temperature, added my packet of C2OG, let it sit for a couple minutes, stirred it in, and left the covered pot in a cooler room all day while I went to a picnic.  I don’t have butter muslin, but later I put the curds into a kitchen towel lined colander, tied the corners of the towel to a wooden spoon which I placed over the top of my big stock pot.  The towel of curd hung in the stockpot over night and then I scooped up the dried curds into a container.

If you want to be fancy, you can shape your chèvre into crottins and then flavor them.  “Crottin” literally means poop.  This time around, I made a little poop of chèvre and rolled it in some fresh tarragon, and dill from my fire-escape garden, and black pepper.

I would guess that the wonderfulness of goat cheese has mostly to do with the quality of your goat milk.  Get the best quality milk that you can find.  Mine is made with a raw milk, so you can’t get this stuff in the stores– they can only legally sell raw cheeses that have been aged at least 60 days.  Here’s an interesting article about cheese protocall:  http://hartkeisonline.com/raw-milk-cheese-2/raw-milk-cheese-vs-heat-treated-cheese/.

Here’s a finished crottin of chèvre, rolled in fresh herbs from my fire-escape garden.

Beet Kvass and Lacto-Fermentation Basics

21 Jun

Beet kvass, a traditional drink from Russia, is one of my favorite (okay, they are all my favorite) lacto-ferments.    Another traditional kvass is made with sourdough bread and raisins or other fruits.  I haven’t made that particular recipe yet.

Beet kvass is sited as a healthy tonic:  good for liver, as a blood tonic, for general digestion, and even kidney stones.  I got this recipe from Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon, one of my food bibles, and I’ve been making it for years.

Put 2-3 beets, peeled and coarsley chopped in a 2 quart glass jar:  Not grated.  Grating will create too much juice and the rapid fermentation that results is apt to create alcohols instead of lactic acid.

Add 1/4 c whey (see my post on curds and whey) , 1T sea salt, and fill the rest of the jar with filtered water.

The newly combined ingredients

Stir, cover with a lid, and keep at room temp for 2 days.  After two days, the mixture will be beautifully red and have a salty-sour taste.  Put it in the fridge to drink at will.  You can re-use the same beets to make a second batch, but this one will be considerably weaker.  You can also eat the beets– they are now pickled beets.   Also, for the second batch, you can use 1/4 c of leftover kvass instead of whey as your liquid starter.  Occasionally, as with any pickling process, mold can grow on the top.  Originally I was afraid of this mold, but I have since come to understand that you can skim off the mold– it is only growing where the mixture comes into contact with the air.  Beware:  after you drink this, you may be in for a surprise on the toilet.  You are not bleeding to death.  It’s the pigment from the beets.

What is Lacto-Fermentation?

Lacto-fermentation is a traditional method of preserving vegetables and fruits.  It also increases their digestibility and vitamin levels.  It is so-called not because of the addition of dairy to the mix (although we are using whey in the above recipe), but because the fermentation process results in lactic acid as a byproduct, and encourages the growth of the lactobacilli bacteria– a beneficial microbe.  This is one of the microbes you might find in supplemental probiotic solutions.   Lactic acid is what preserves the veggies, and also what promotes the growth of healthy intestinal flora.  Kimchi, sauerkraut, and umeboshi plums are some of the things you can create from lacto-fermentation.

Anything that you find on the grocery shelf that is canned or jarred and not refrigerated comes from a slightly different process, generally involving the use of vinegar.   Canning involves using heat to kill all resident bacteria, whereas fermentation creates an environment for the correct bacteria to thrive.

Unpasteurized fermented foods will continue to ferment and become more sour if not slowed down by refrigeration.  Salt is used in the fermentation process because it inhibits bacterial growth that can cause rancidity while the lactic acid is being formed from the foods.  Once enough lactic acid is present, the environment for lactobacilli is prime and this beneficial organism will crowd out any of the bugs you don’t want.  Adding whey to the ferment helps to reduce the need for salt because it is rich in lactic acid, thus acting as an inoculent for your culture.

Here is the top of the kvass after 48 hours.  At the end of the fermentation process, you probably will see a healthy “scum” on top of your ferment. Sometimes this scum includes mold. This is normal. Skim off the scum from the top and drink the rest.

Why filtered water?  

1.  Tap water is often treated with chlorine and other chemicals.  These chemicals are present in your tap to kill microorganisms.  We want to create an environment that microorganisms can thrive.

2.  Sometimes tap water still has microorganisms in it that could compete with the population that you are trying to grow.

I’m sure there are other good reasons.  These are the two that occur to me immediately.

Why sea salt?

Table salt is highly processed.  It’s like salt’s equivalent to fortified white flour.  To keep salt dry, producers use additives, including aluminum compounds (can’t be good for you).  They also add iodine to replace some of the naturally occurring mineral content that is eradicated from industrial processing.  Dextrose must be added then to stabilize the iodine– this turns the salt purplish, so then they have to bleach it also.  Hmph.  Salt is often sited today as the cause for a variety of health problems.  Partly this is because so many processed foods on the market contain an excess of salt, and it’s not natural sea salt.

Salt extracted from dried seawater is a whole food as opposed to an engineered derivative.  It is usually grey in color and is high in trace minerals, particularly magnesium.  It is a little bit clumpier than the commercial stuff you might be used to, but it is nutritionally so0o much better.

Salt is an important nutrient:  in my college dance training experience, I suffered from grueling calf-cramps.  I would wake up screaming in the night from a charlie horse.   One of my teachers asked if I was getting enough salt in my diet.  After I increased my salt intake, my cramps went away.  Many pregnant women that I work with in yoga class also suffer from the same type of cramps.  I always suggest that they add sea salt to their diet.  On the subject of cramps, coconut water seems to be a great cure too.

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