Tag Archives: pickles

Alewife’s Birthday toys

6 Sep

So what does a brooklyn alewife get for her birthday?  Fermentation toys! I have a few new toys to show and tell about.  The two big pieces of equipment are definitely unnecessary for a beginner fermenter– I’ve gotten along without them for a few years now.

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My birthday crock! That thing on the left is a weight to hold the veggies under the brine.

Recently I wrote about a failed moldy cucumber pickle recipe, and in response to that experiment, my love answered my desires and got me a birthday crock! No more moldy pickles!  Mine’s 5 L, which is as big as I think I’ll ever need, unless I start selling pickled things commercially.

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Woohoo! The Kimchi Cookbook: written by a fellow Brooklyner. Her kkakdugi recipe is a little different than mine. Probably more sophisticated.

Along with that, he bought me the pretty new kimchi cookbook. I have some playing to do!  I’ve already learned a few things about kimchi.  Chun’s brining process begins the fermentation for generally an hour to overnight, then she rinses all the salt off the veggies and adds her spice mix, and lets them ferment longer in that.  The only salt in the spice mix tends to be in some anchovy sauce, from what I can see, and then there is sugar added for the ferment.  Interesting.  My kkakdugi kimchi was brined and stayed in brine…  so this is a new approach for me, which is probably a bit lower in sodium.

 

 

A self-gift that I got in early summer (for my, errr, 3/4 birthday?) is an oak barrel for brewing kombucha in, from a company that custom-makes them down in Texas. The company sites this model of upright barrel for either vinegar making or kombucha. The barrel method is my first attempt at a continuous brew batch.  It seemed like the best idea in the world when I got it, and it does impart a nice oaky flavor to my brew that I quite like. What I don’t like is that it’s much harder to see what’s going on deep in the container, which makes me in general a bit less attentive to my brew. It’s not something you can fully clean out so well either, as the wood is porous, so after a year or so it’s supposed to expire. I’m not sure I would go with it again. My 5 L barrel was $70, and you can decide whether that investment is worth it in your own experimentation. I was very happy with the service from the company I ordered from: Oak Barrels Ltd.

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5L oak barrel that I have a continuous kombucha ferment in, since  June.

Pickle Fail (with a decent recipe)

24 Aug

After experimenting with pickling projects like sauerkraut, kimchi, and chutneys, I finally attempted the classic pickle this month.  I bought a bunch of Kirby cucumbers at my local farmer’s market, and on August 10 I put them in a brine with spices, left to sit until the 22nd. The result of my rather improvised recipe could have been perfect, ingredient-wise, but  what I ended up with was a moldy mess. The problem was my mediocre way of keeping the Kirbys under the brine. So sad. I had thought my method quite ingenious too: I filled a plastic bag with water, and put that inside my glass fermenting jar to weight and seal the top, with the lid on above that. In the course of 12 days, however, both cucumbers and garlic managed to weasel their way around the bag and protrude into air, leaving themselves vulnerable to molding.  I may have been able to avoid problems if I had checked on the pickles more often.

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Mold on my pickles and garlic. 

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Here’s my water-filled bag acting as a weight. Notice all the schmutz along the edges. Yuck.

Mold is not always a calamity. It’s often possible to skim mold off the top of a pickling ferment and save the layers underneath. Unfortunately, these pickles had enough mold per capita that I decided to recall the whole lot. My birthday is next week, so perhaps a real pickling crock is in my near future….

Anyway, I decided to take a chomp on one non-moldy pickle-end, and it was quite delicious. If you can keep your cukes under water, I think this recipe will serve quite well.  The mustard takes them to the spicy side:

Cucumber Pickles

6 Kirby cucumbers
6 cloves garlic, peeled but whole
1T mustard seeds
2 sprigs of dill with seeds
1/2c yogurt whey
2T sea salt
Filtered water to cover

Combine all ingredients in a jar or crock.  Use a plate with a water filled jar on top it or your crock- top to push the pickles below the water. Leave them for about 2 weeks (mine seemed ready at 12 days), or until pickles are the consistency of your liking.  The longer you go, the softer they will become. Refrigerate your pickles when they are ready, and eat!  I hope you have better luck than I.  

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One of my fermenting shelves.   Notice that early in the ferment when I took this picture, my pickles were behaving.  Neither the plastic bag nor Bruce Lee managed to weight my pickles down in the long run, though. The pickle jar is on the far left, accompanied by a cherry spirits infusion that I will write about soon, and a 5 gallon carboy of T’ej in the back.

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.

Basic Kraut

23 May

My latest completed project is a batch of saurkraut:  just in time for Memorial Day barbecues.  It’s a no-fool recipe, but a rather labor-intensive processs.  The finished product can last for months, so it’s a good investment.  This recipe makes a quart.

Shred 1 head of cabbage.  You can use a mandoline or food processor:  I just use a knife.

Sprinkle 4 t salt over the shreds, let it sit for about an hour so the salt starts to break down the cabbage.

Massage the cabbage thoroughly, then pound it.  This is the laborious part.  It might take a good 45 minutes to pound down.  Thus, sauerkraut is a good way to work out any pent-up anger you’ve been holding onto….

Pounding the kraut: I go back and forth between a pestle, a wooden spoon, and a potato masher.  This is not the whole batch you are seeing:  much of the cabbage has already been added to a jar.

When it gets really wet, stuff some of the cabbage in a quart-sized wide-mouthed jar.  Keep pounding it until the juices from the cabbage start to rise above the vegetable mass.  I recommend wearing an apron, as this can get a little sloppy.  As you have more juice, keep layering more cabbage into the jar.  Continue to pound until you have fit all the cabbage in.  Press the cabbage down below the brine you’ve created, and use a water-filled jar as a weight to hold it down.

Here the cabbage has been pushed below the brine. For this recipe, I used two pint sized jars instead of a quart sized jar. I added a tsp of caraway seeds to one of the jars for me, and left the other jar plain for my caraway-phobic boyfriend.  Those are caraway seeds you see floating on the brine.

You may want to cover this, as fruit flies find it very interesting.  Let kraut sit at room temperature for at least a week, making sure that the liquid stays above the level of the cabbage.  You may see some bubbly action on top.  This is normal.  After the week is over, taste it, see how you like it.  If it’s too tough or not sour enough, let it stay out longer.   Cover your jar and refrigerate when the kraut is fermented to your liking.

Variations:  Red cabbage makes a beautiful and more colorful sauerkraut.  You can also add things like shredded carrots or beets, though beets will turn it Very red.  Caraways seeds, dill, or other spices could also be added.

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