Elephant Journal- DIY Fermentation

on May 11, 2012

Create Your Own Culture. ~ Willow King

 

The Power of Fermented Foods.

About a year ago my partner Mara and I started a company that makes cultured vegetables. No, not beets and carrots that regularly attend the opera, but live, raw, probiotic, naturally fermented veggies.

We started out just making these goodies for our families and friends and nobody could get enough. It turns out that many people crave the zingy buzz of live food and that lacto-fermented foods, that used to be staple in many places in the world, are making a comeback.

Fermenting is an age-old way to preserve food.

It was a way to use all the access produce from the summer and keep eating it all year round. This in itself is a great process to connect to us to seasonality and keep the strength of the food intact.

Fermentation also makes food easier to digest, and creates new nutrients such as B vitamins—folic acid, niacin, riboflavin, thiamin and biotin.

Some ferments have antioxidants principles and also create omega-3 fatty acids- which we know are key to a healthy immune system.

Basically, fermented foods help supply your digestive tract with cultures that are necessary to break down and assimilate nutrients. These cultures, lactobacilli chief among them, are like little invisible friends that help us stay healthy and happy through the ups and downs of the year.

If you are interested in experimenting we recommend starting with simple sauerkraut and then expand from there.

This is great activity to do with kids (or your dog) as it is a bit of funky food science experiment.

To begin you will need a ball jar, one medium cabbage, sea salt, and a starter like whey, or for a vegan option you can use kombucha.Each starter produces different results and flavors, so you can try a few and find the one you like best.Core and shred the cabbage and then spread on a tray or work surface. Add the sea salt—a good ratio is generally one or two  tablespoons salt to one three lb cabbage. Then pound the cabbage and salt with a wooden hammer (or a rolling pin can work) until the juices start to release and the cabbage softens. You can add a bit of starter at this point, or you can just do the cabbage juice and salt, which usually makes a fine ferment.Place the cabbage shreds into a wide mouth ball jar and press down with a fist (you can use a cabbage leaf as a top and the press on that) until the vegetable is submerged in liquid.

Cover this combination and leave it in a cool but not cold space (ideally 65 to 70 degrees) for about 3 days. You may like it stronger, in which case you could let it go for a few more days.

When you are satisfied with the taste, transfer to cold storage, where it will last for up to 6 months.

Now you can enjoy the benefits of your own homemade culture—monocle and all.

 

“Red” Rice- Easy Way to Get Kids to Enjoy Beets!

There is a Bhutanese red rice.  This recipe starts with plain white rice and stains it red with beets. My Daughter Kailee would never let a beet near her lips in any other way.  Red Rice is all the rage at my house these days.  Start with butter melting in a pan.  Add a full jar (you heard me!) of our Beets. Sizzle for a bit then add cooked rice. Stir over medium heat until it is all incorporated.  Add finely minced garlic and drizzle with toasted sesame oil.  We love to serve this rice with an egg on top and some sprouts or baby kales on the side.  You’ll definitely enjoy the bright red pearly grains juxstaposed with a vivid white of eggs and the greens.  It’s such an attractive plate and you can always snazz this up with another kind of protein and call it dinner.  Make this one time and I promise your family will start harassing you for more and more beets.  Enjoy 🙂

Clarifying Butter

In honor of simplicity I chose to make my own Ghee this week. I’ve often bought ghee from the store before and even though I have a middling tolerance for dairy products I seem to have no problem digesting butter or ghee.  The smell of ghee on the frying pan is simply delightful and I’ve recently enjoyed using rendered fats in my cooking, saving chicken fat from the last roast that we did inspired a round of excellent chopped liver (onions cooking in chicken fat illicit an awe inspiring drool worthy smell), and saving lard from a recent pork roast made some of the most beautifully textured oven roast potatoes.  One of these days I want to do some lard and flour baking.  That is what they would use when I was a kid to make Dan Tarts (chinese style puff pastry with egg custard), the smell of warm lard is a sure fire flashback to my youth, I am quite sure that pork fat is one of the cornerstones of traditional Cantonese cooking. There’s been much written recently on the undue vilification of saturated animal fats. All I can really add to that conversation is that I was extremely relieved to hear that fat free milk is bad for you.  I have always been drawn to fats, seared fish sends happy shivers down my spine, avocados make me smile and along with strawberries they were a very rare childhood treat (berries and avocados were very hard to find in Hong Kong in the eighties). As long as I can remember I had a deep love affair with fat.  I’m the weirdo that will cut a slab of fat off my steak and eat it first before diving into the lean meat and one time age ten when I got in trouble for fighting with my mom I went to the store and I bought her a gorgeous rib eye steak to express my deep remorse and future good will.  As far as minimally processed foods, fats and rendered fats are perfect…  butter is made of the following emulsion:  the two dissimilar substances are butterfat (roughly 80%) and water (roughly 17%) along with about 3% milk solids. The emulsion breaks on being heated and the components separate. Clarified butter is nothing more than pure butterfat. Fats will keep you full for longer, they help to balance moods, provide essential fatty acids for cell development and body processes and we cannot generate these fatty acids ourselves, they must be received from an external source.

So now that I have prayed for a sufficient amount of time at the temple of tummy I’ll post that recipe 🙂 Clarified butter is so simple to make and a superior tool to cook with as it resists high heat sauteeing and has a mellow and comforting flavour.

Ingredients

1lb Unsalted Butter

Method:

Melt butter on medium heat until it comes to a boil.  Skim off the first foam that forms on the butter’s surface.  Reduce heat and continue to let butter simmer.  You will see the liquids separate from the butterfat as the butter boils.  Its quite pretty – roiling and rolling globules of golden emulsified liquid. After the butter has bubbled away for about seven to ten minutes a second foam will form.  Take butter off heat and let it cool for fifteen minutes.  Strain through a fine mesh strainer with cheese cloth.  Make sure to stop before straining liquids at the bottom of the pan. Note, you will see those three distinct parts in separation: milk solids you skim off the top, butterfat in the middle and water settles to the bottom.

Store in a sealed glass jar.  You can keep it at room temperature for up to a month.

 

 

Bloody Maria meets Dear Leader

 

Holiday hangover? Cure it quick with Pete Gugni’s morning reviver.

We started serving brunch about four months ago, which gave me a great excuse to experiment with breakfast cocktails. When I paired tomato juice with kimchi, a spicy Korean side dish that mostly consists of fermented Napa cabbage, the flavors just harmonized. This is kind of like a cross between a Bloody Mary, which is made with vodka, and a Bloody Maria, which uses tequila. But instead of tequila, I use a barrel-aged version of its smokier cousin, mezcal. The finishing touch is a little bit of Edmund Fitzgerald Porter, a beer from Great Lakes Brewing Company that has a strong coffee flavor. So even if you start your day with a cocktail, you can say you’ve had your morning coffee too. Pete Gugni is the chief mixologist at The Bedford <http://www.bedfordchicago.com>  in Chicago. 

Ingredients:

1½ ounces vodka

½ ounce Don Amado reposado mezcal

5 ounces kimchi tomato juice*

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

1 teaspoon hot sauce

1 dash pepper

1 dash celery salt

1 ounce Edmund Fitzgerald Porter

celery stalk

lemon wedge

Directions:

1. Combine ingredients in an ice-filled mixing glass. Shake, then strain into a 14-ounce glass over ice.

2. Stir in the beer, then garnish with a celery stalk and lemon wedge.

*In a blender, purée 3 parts tomato juice with 1 part kimchi.

A word about brussels sprouts and salt

Not only do brussels sprouts come on a stalk that inspires the imagination and look like teeny tiny cabbages but they also contain many of the good things that are found in other members of the Brassicaceae family. Yes, we have pickled them (Mara made a wonderful, very spicy brussels kim chi last winter) but tonight they were cooked in brown butter and yakima applewood smoked salt. My eldest son peeled them leaf by leaf and ate them like Peter Rabbit.

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These veggies are enjoying a sort of hip revival lately and I would venture a guess that they will be on many holiday tables. Try them boiled in dark beer or crispy fried in  a little grapeseed oil or ghee. Happy almost Thanksgiving y’all.

Jook

secondjook

Our recent trip to Honolulu found Desmond, my four and a half month old son ready for food.  He was so absorbed in what everyone else was eating, no wonder, our family reunions are serious food experiences.  My Grandfather’s 95th birthday celebration brought Wong family relations together from all over the globe.  Large round tables of raucous conversation and group cheers for each new course as it was brought to the table, all this focus on community and flavor my baby boy started yelling for attention.  I think once you discover how great eating is it’s hard to just watch from the sidelines.  He would literally holler until someone put something in his mouth.  Little man doesn’t have any teeth yet and most of what the grownups were eating was too rich, greasy and/or chewy for a brand new eater to handle. Good thing almost every Chinese restaurant has some Jook bubbling away somewhere in the house.  Jook is a thin rice porridge that is often served with peanuts and shavings of sweet pork jerky on top. (I would much prefer to have Porkfloss on top of jook than these doughnuts I found on an incredulous expatriate’s indiosyncratic Mainland China blog.)

porkfloss on doughnuts?!

It has long been used as a food for infants and convalescent adults and is pretty much ubiquitous throughout Asia.  Known as congee in India and Cambodia, as Jook in South East Asia and Korea, and Zhou in Putonghua speaking China.  Common ingredients mixed in this simple rice and water porridge include lean pork and preserved duck egg, chicken, squid, kimchi, green onions, ginger and just plain for little ones or for troubled digestion.

I used the opportunity of having so many aunties in one place to ask for tips on how to make the perfect Jook.  My attempts at home seemed to differ quite dramatically from the smooth perfectly seasoned offerings one finds in restaurants.  It takes a little bit of practice and filtering to understand what five sisters have to say across an enormous table speaking in very close and overlapping proximity and cancelling one another out with volume and hand gestures.  It’s always a good time watching my mom and her brothers and sisters in action. I imagine all nine of them as young adults, calling on one another (unabashedly) to pull their own weight and heartily creating fun at every given opportunity. Gravesweeping is a common family gathering.  Food and drink are put out for the hungry ghosts and the general area is cleaned up, weeded and tidied.  Our family doesn’t just light incense, we take our expression to a whole new level – Auntie Lo did an interpretive dance on my Grandmother’s grave (she studies ballroom dance) and Uncle Tony put a lit cigarette in the ground near the headstone. My grandmother was pretty much pregnant between the ages of nineteen and thirty three, you’ve got to figure that she was always alive to the possibility to have a little party whenever she could.

So what I could discern from the kerfuffle that followed my question – great jook can be made following these guidelines.  Mix a little salt and oil with your rice.  Add 12 cups of water per one cup of rice.  Restaurants and Jook Joints use broken rice for a finer texture, one can always duplicate this by running rice through a food processor very quickly before use. Add rice, oil, salt mix to already boiling water.  Cook as slowly as possible.  Use broth for a deeper flavor or when making chicken or turkey jook.

I added some Konbu (kelp) to my version for extra mineral goodness, and a teaspoon of flax seed for some of those good omega fatty acids.  I also used the crock pot to make the whole endeavor easier than pie.

Dessie’s Chow

FEED ME!

1 cup Brown Rice; 12 cups Water; piece of konbu rinsed in the sink; 2 tsp Ghee; 1/2 tsp Sea Salt; 1 tsp flax seeds.

Mix all ingredients except water, add water.  Put on High in crockpot til bubbling (1hr) then turn down to low.  Let it go for at least 4 hours.  I let it cook overnight.  Salt to taste.

Some great serving suggestions…  chopped up leftover meats.  Zuké :), furikake (seaweed, salt and sesame seeds), you can even make a sweet cereal by adding dried fruit, cinnamon and maple syrup.

Come Thanksgiving I assure you this is what I’ll be doing with the leftovers, boiling turkey carcass broth then making some slowcooked brown rice goodness.  Sleepytime happy turkey triptomine jook has got my name all over it.

Haute Brats

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Today was just one of those days. Locked the keys in the car etc. etc.  There was work and school and soccer and by the time we got to dinner we wanted it FAST. So: Brats (if you are brave enough to make your own, here is a little tutorial) buns, our Ozuké dill,caraway and fennel kraut, some pickled peppers, mustard and done. Dinner was a hit, the probiotics even out the white buns and everybody goes to bed full and happy. You can make your own mustard too- fun and easy (on a day when you don’t have much else going on.)
Homemade mustard:
* 1/4 cup yellow mustard seed
* 2 Tbsp. black or brown mustard seed, heaping
* 1/4 cup dry mustard powder
* 1/2 cup water
* 1 1/2 cups apple cider vinegar
* 1 small onion chopped
* 1 tsp. salt
* 2 garlic gloves, minced or pressed
* 1/4 tsp. ground allspice (optional)
* 1/4 tsp. dried tarragon leaves
* 1/8 tsp. turmeric

Preparation:
In a small bowl, combine mustard seed and dry mustard. In a 1- to 2-quart stainless steel or nonreactive saucepan, combine remaining ingredients. Simmer, uncovered, on medium heat until reduced by half, 10-15 minutes. Pour the mixture into the mustard mixture. Let mixture stand, covered, at room temperature for 24 hours, adding additional vinegar if necessary in order to maintain enough liquid to cover seeds. Process the seeds and mixture in a blender or food processor until pureed to the texture you like –this can take at least 3 or 4 minutes. Some prefer whole seeds remaining, others a smooth paste. The mixture will continue to thicken. If it gets too thick after a few days, stir in additional vinegar. Scrape mustard into clean, dry jars; cover tightly and age at least 3 days in the refrigerator before using.
Makes about 1 1/2 -2 cups.