Tuesday, July 14, 2015

New Ferments

I am thoroughly hooked on fermenting! I mentioned that since so far the only ferments I had made and completed were sauerkraut and picalilli, I had been looking for more things to make and try, adding in more variation to my diet. The sauerkraut is stupendous, and the picalilli is a tie for great flavor, but even alternating them each day, I get a little bored. So, I am trying out new things, since variety is the spice of life.

I first tried some onion relish. I found the recipe online at "Killer Pickles": http://www.killerpickles.com/hot-pink-onions/ and followed the recipe just about exactly, except I cut the recipe in half. Having no idea what this onion relish will taste like, I preferred a smaller amount to start with. Easy enough to put together, for sure.

The recipe uses red onion for the relish and they call the recipe "Hot Pink Onions." Anyone who has used red onion in a food will know that once cooked or in any way soaked or heated, red onions will turn a fairly ugly purple-grey color. Adding in vinegar will perk up that color in no time, giving you some gorgeous pink color. The thing is, in fermenting, vinegar is not used. 
1-day into Pink Onion Relish and Salsa Verde fermenting

To get around this, they used a slice of beet, both for color and also as a disc for pressing down the mixture to submerge. The onions do all the work of releasing juices. I had no trouble at all with them being completely covered with liquid the morning after putting this together. I have become a great fan of using a cabbage leaf to completely cover the tops of the food, so it can be weighted more easily. After placing my slice of beet over the onions, I covered that with a cabbage leaf, and then added some rocks (well washed, bleached, washed, soaked and then boiled!) as the weight to keep things under liquid. 

After this, I went and forged ahead with some Salsa Verde, or Green Sauce. My Salsa Verde is a Guatemalan style recipe, and I have been making it for some time. I absolutely love the flavors. But that is a cooked recipe. This time I wanted to try with basically the same ingredients, but ferment them instead. I have air conditioning running in the house, though I only set it to about 76 degrees, so the kitchen is warm. In order to slow the fermentation process, thereby hopefully giving the ferments enough time to develop plenty of pro-biotics, and also more flavors, I moved these down to the basement, where is is most definitely cooler, though I do not have a thermometer down there (yet!). The amount given for the vegetable ingredients is 'as is' (as they come from store or market), and afterwards in brackets is the weight after peeling/coring/de-seeding or any other prep work to be done. The weight of the actual prepped veggies is needed to determine the amount of salt to use. The salt weight should be 2% of the final weight of the vegetables. Here is my Salsa Verde recipe: 

Fermented Salsa Verde

makes about 1 quart

1 pound tomatillos [15.8 oz.]
Fermenting Salsa Verde
2 stalks celery [2.9 oz]
1 green bell pepper [5.15 oz]
2 serrano chilies [0.85 oz]
3 large scallions, with most of the green parts [2.43 oz]
1 large onion, chopped, charred under broiler [2.26 oz]
2 - 4 cloves garlic, charred under broiler [0.60 oz]
1 bunch cilantro [2.22 oz]
1 bunch parsley [1.87 oz]
2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
1 teaspoon black peppercorns, crushed
3 allspice berries, whole
1 bay leaf
1/4 cup whey*
Total weight of vegetables = 34.13 oz 
2% weight of coarse sea salt = .68 oz (about 1 1/2 tablespoons)

1 cabbage leaf, for covering the food

Chop all the vegetables coarsely, finely or use a food processor. I wanted the vegetables easier to keep submerged, so I chopped them medium. If I want to blend it smooth after fermenting, I can do that.  Having some texture makes it easier to tuck them under a cabbage leaf. As the vegetables are prepped, place them into a large bowl. Add in the spices, whey, if using and salt.

Pound the vegetables with a meal pounder/mallet, or any instrument that is heavy enough to smash into the cell walls of the vegetables, exposing these cell walls to the salt. Mix thoroughly. Once pounded, I ended with a near-perfect quart of very juicy Salsa. I used a 1 1/2 quart container, as ferments can and will grow, during fermentation. At this point I covered the vegetables carefully with a cabbage leaf and topped with some stones, pressing down to ensure the vegetables are completely submerged. I used a jar with a wire bail and clamp, but most any jar, if large enough and without a metal lid, can work. If using a screw top lid, it will need to be left somewhat loose so gases can escape, or be sure to quickly loosen and shot each day for the same reason. 

There are also different schools of thought on how long to ferment at room temperature. Most recipes for salsas call for 2 or 3 days, max. Sandor Ellix Katz, in The Art of Fermentation, suggests up to a month before refrigerating, as flavors continue to develop. In this, it is truly up to taste. Taste the mixture after 2 days, after 5 days or however many you choose. When you love the flavor, refrigerate. Keep lids a little loose, even in the fridge, as fermentation continues.

*The use of whey is controversial. Many people are vegan and will not use an animal product. There are alternatives available, or is you have juice from a previous sauerkraut ferment, this can be substituted. The reason for using whey or any other starter is to get the ferment jump-started. The other school of thought is to allow the vegetables to ferment far more slowly and create far more strains of lactic acids in its fermenting process. The other plus in the slower ferment is deeper, richer final flavors. If omitting the whey (NOT whey powder!), add in additional salt, at least 1/2 times more. This helps to keep the vegetables from gathering bad bacteria or molds before the ferment can start.

My passion is to teach people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and help pass along my love and joy of food, both simple and exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. I would love to hear from you, to help me continue my journey to explore diverse culinary experiences and hopefully to start you on a journey of your own. Join me at A Harmony of Flavors Website and Marketplace, Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.