Giveaway: The Art of Fermentation

Last week, I promised an exciting giveaway was in the hopper. And tell me — do I deliver, or what?

I would enter this giveaway, if I could.

The winner, who unfortunately cannot be me (did I say that already?), will receive a beautiful, brand-spanking-new copy of The Art of Fermentation, by Sandor Katz.

This is the bible of fermentation, friends. This summer I borrowed a copy from Suzanne, just long enough to read up on my beloved half-sour pickles, but returned it before she could hold it against me in our friendship and also before I could read it cover-to-cover (and yes, I would totally do that, on a Friday night — because that’s how exciting or shockingly anti-social my life is, depending on your age and personal obsession level with fermentation).

If you have any interest in making/understanding fermented foods — everything from cultured veggies to kombucha to yogurt to tempeh — seriously, I think he covers EVERY. THING. — then you want this book.

The only caveat is that, if you win, you have to let me borrow it.

(ok, not really — just if you live in Indianapolis)

No, really, I’m totally lying. You don’t have to ever show it to me, you just have to let me call you with all of my fermenting questions.

Enough, seriously — you really don’t have to do anything. Except fill out the form below (for real this time).

I’m rooting for YOU.
……………………………………………………..

To enter this giveaway, simply fill out and submit the following form before Friday, September 21, at noon EST. The information goes directly to Chelsea Green Publishing, and you will automatically be added to their e-newsletter list (unsubscribe any time). One entry per person; the winner will be selected at random by the publisher, notified via email, and the book will be shipped directly from Chelsea Green.

[This giveaway is now closed : ( ]

……………………………………………………

I am super-grateful to the folks at Chelsea Green Publishing for agreeing to and facilitating this giveaway. I’ve received nothing in exchange for hosting, just the burning jealousy joy I’ll feel for the lucky reader that wins! Also, Kaitlin — you rock!

What I did with those 90 pounds of tomatoes

I’ll admit: the first time I canned tomatoes, I felt empowered. Like a woman who could save the world, in a pinch, with her preserved foods.

Save the world, I say — with SIX! QUARTS! of TOMATOES! (picture the recently-awakened Dr. Evil, in one of the Austin Powers movies, making his demand for ONE! MILLION! DOLLARS!). Yes, immediately after that empowerment, I was a little dumbfounded at what a big box of tomatoes actually looks like once canned.

I wondered: was it worth the effort?

But then I spent all of last winter making tomato soup, and spaghetti sauce, and realized that there was a noticeable, even significant difference between the flavor of a soup made with home-canned tomatoes versus store-bought. Add to this the fact that I’d love to avoid BPA-laden cans altogether, and it seemed that the whole canning thing wasn’t such a bad idea after all.

So this year I bought an extra box, bringing my total up to 90 pounds (the jury’s still out on whether I’ll go for yet another 30-pound box — the jury being made up of 75% myself and 25% my husband, who is likely now trained to panic whenever he walks into the house and smells simmering romas, as he knows I will be preoccupied with sloshing tomato juices for the next 12 or so hours).

But it’s just. So. Hard to stop.

To give perspective — you can look at this list and choose to be either impressed/jealous or surprised/disappointed at the yield. From 90# roma tomatoes, I now have:

  • 6 quarts marinara sauce (two have already been eaten, after having not sealed on my and Suzanne’s first attempt at pressure-canning).
  • 6 quarts thin tomato juice/broth (leftover from straining chopped tomatoes before cooking down).
  • 6 quarts stewed Italian-style tomatoes
  • 6 pints tomato salsa
  • 10 quarts diced tomatoes (in the two “dueling canners” above, as diced tomatoes can be either water-bath or pressure-canned — I plan to compare the flavor of both!)

…aaaaaaaand that’s it. Looks nice stacked up in my stockpiling warehouse basement — but the jars are so precious, I wonder if I’ll be afraid to use them.

In other news — I have a super-fun giveaway planned for next week. Be sure and check back, especially if you’re interested in learning more about fermented foods.

…………………………………….

Want to get set-up for canning? This is the water-bath canner I use, pictured above-left (cheaper, and a great intro to canning). For a step up in complexity, or to can lower-acid foods, this is the type of pressure-canner I use (above-right).

 

Tomato-corn pie with grain-free crust

A thing I’ve had to truly mourn this year: Tomato Pie.

It’s like summer in a pie plate. Like someone sat down one day and wondered, How can I fit all of summer into this pie dish? And that is what was born. Garden tomatoes, basil, and really good cheese baked into a delicate pie crust.

However, sadly… there is no tomato pie for the grain-free. And while I hear that really good pie crusts can be made gluten-free, grain-free is an impossibility.

But I refuse to be doomed to a life without my own pie plate full of summer. Just had to think outside the box a bit.

I’ve long heard praises sung for this recipe for a Corn-Tomato Pie over at Smitten Kitchen. And while I still don’t believe it’s as good as the pure unadulterated tomato-ness of my classic, it’s still a darned good pie. A bit richer, with its lemony-mayo and layers of summer corn. And as luck would have it — very adaptable to a grain-free crust.

This pie was loved by all but two of my three children. Which in our household means a winner. I’ll be making it again, likely long after I’ve re-embraced grains in my life. It will just be added as a distant cousin to the first and favorite savory summer pie in my repertoire.

If you are still among the grain-consumptive, definitely check out the original recipe (I’ve made very minor changes to the filling in the version below), which utilizes a double-classic pie crust. Otherwise, there’s still time in these weeks before September 22nd for the grain-less among us to get our fill of sunshine on a plate.

[amd-zlrecipe-recipe:11]

Chickens in da house

Chickens are funny. Funny ha ha.

Don’t they look regal, with their combs and honey-colored eyes? But in reality they are just silly little birds, quietly chatty, with odd household habits and a seeming willingness to dig a hole clear to China if it means getting a fresh bug or worm.

We’ve enjoyed getting to know our little chickies. We “adopted” them, from a woman in our neighborhood who had fifteen (!!!) in her backyard, needing to unload them before an imminent move. We connected via phone, and on a weekend she was out of town, Tim took the kids over and grabbed four. The kids named them that day:

1. Z-Horn
One of our two Plymouth Bard Rock chickens. Named Z-Horn because its feathers look like a zebra, and its comb is more horn-like than its twin. Or so my kids say — I still can’t tell the two chickens apart.

2. Z-Za-Zebra
Suffice it to say that this one was named by our 3-year old. She originally named her “Z-Zebra,” following the lead of her brother’s naming of Z-Horn. We tried to get her to reconsider, considering the fact that stuttering out the name “Z-Zebra” is awkward and confusing. But she stood her ground, and almost to punish our suggestion that her choice was anything but ideal, she retro-actively added an additional syllable — so “Z-Zebra” became “Z-Za-Zebra.” And you might as well add an extra syllable of laughter in there, because none of us can say it without chuckling.

Oh, and in case you think that Z-Horn and Z-Za-Zebra look suspiciously like the same chicken, they could be. I took countless photos of those birds, and when I got them downloaded couldn’t tell them apart. So, who knows. I’m calling them both Z-Horn anyway, here’s hoping they don’t suffer from identity crisis.

3. Fire
Fire is, in my opinion, the prettiest. But we have no idea what breed she is. Any ideas, those of you familiar with chickens?

4. Bullseye
Again, no idea on breed. Bullseye got her name because she was the first one the kids found scratching in the coop, and they thought she looked like a bull. Again, I plead confusion, because every time my kids refer to “Fire” this is the bird I picture. Because, you know, she’s bright gold. Like fire. Duh.

Taking care of these little creatures has been surprisingly, pleasantly easy. Most of the time they stay in their coop/run (details on these to follow in a future post) — but on slow mornings and weekends we close our backyard gate and let them out into the yard to eat grass and bugs. They dig up everything — which matters not to us, since the drought has left our grass brown, our yard full of leaves already fallen from two river birch trees in distress, our garden a bust. Call me cruel, but one of my favorite things is to sit outside and drink my coffee, watching them run in terror when a squirrel scuttles down a tree. Turns out, uselessly-terrified chickens are hilarious, especially first thing in the morning.

And, of course, the eggs. We’re getting an average of 3 a day, which according to many chicken folks is amazing in this heat. Their main diet is feed, but we’re generous with kitchen scraps — and between those and the grass/bugs, their yolks are the biggest, yellowest yolks I’ve ever seen.

Many of you have asked about the investment required for chickens — whether or not they save money on eggs. I’ll try to cover that in the next post, all about the house that Tim built.

 

Zucchini-corn fritters (gluten-free)

I like petite zucchini. There’s just something about the scale of a giant summer squash that seems, I don’t know, wrong. I know it’s not wrong, that this is just some silly subconscious preconceived notion about what should be the limits of squash growth, something probably covered by Freud in one of his texts. But reasoning with myself on this does no good. I will fish out the little guys from the bin at the farmer’s market, loving them for their convenient circumference and polite volume of seeds.

But of course, I also won’t turn down a big specimen, not when offered one from a friend’s garden.

Which is what happened a few weeks ago — my in-laws came through town, and I was handed a large zucchini, fresh from their vegetable patch. I brought it home with gratitude, and within a few hours had it shredded down to the perfect amount for making up a batch of zucchini fritters. I had leftover grilled corn cobs in the fridge to use up, with the challenge of making this batch grain-free. The skillet was heating up as I was stripping the corn of its kernels.

I ended up using the fritters as a base for dinner — one that involved sautéed kale and an over-easy egg on top. But several inspirational recipes included dips of sour cream cut with a little lime juice and spiked with chopped chives, or creme fraiche (easy to make at home). The sweetness of the corn (with a smoky component if you use grilled) perked up the texture and flavor of my usual standby fritter. My kids rejected them outright, so that left me with about 10 fritters all to myself over the next day or two — which I had no problem consuming, they were that good.

Good, and able to clear my conscience of squash discrimination.

………………………………………..

For this recipe, it can help your knuckles if you have a food processor — this one is my favorite. You’ll also do well to have a good pre-seasoned cast-iron pan.

 

[amd-zlrecipe-recipe:4]

………………………………………

This post was linked up to the Seasonal Recipe Roundup: Zucchini at GNOWFGLINS.

 

 

Ferment Friday, no. 1: beets

These days my life seems to revolve around finding various items at the farmer’s market, sticking them in a brine, and watching to see what happens.

You know, when it’s not revolving around sleeping, or finding highly-educational and physically-beneficial activities for my summered children to do all day, or feeding painfully-nourishing foods to those worn-out children, or eating bon-bons.

Because what could be more fun than fermenting random things? And sharing those things on Fridays?

So a mini-series it will be. Ferment Fridays. Not likely to happen every Friday, but you know, when it happens.

What’s with fermentation, anyway? Well, it was the original method of pickling — vegetables were dry-salted or brined, and therefore preserved for longer storage (through winter, in some cases). Meanwhile, as often happens, that preservation made vitamins and minerals more readily available, and increased the levels of lactic acid bacteria (bugs that are good for your gut). While the process doesn’t leave the veggies with the same intense punch of a vinegar (or “fresh”) pickle, they are still sour, sometimes quite pungent.

It took me a while to transition from a taste for fresh pickles to fermented pickles. But I’m there now, and loving it.

Today’s feature: fermented beets.

This is my second attempt at fermenting beets (not to be confused with pickling beets) — the first involved shredding the roots, making a relish. But these slices are crunchier, with the ultra-clean flavors of orange and ginger (see recipe note). I love these on salads, with eggs, or eating straight from the jar.

Only slightly more labor-intensive than other pickles because you shock them in boiling water first. But totally worth that extra five minutes.

Because, really. What’s five minutes in a world where ferments are happening?

 

[amd-zlrecipe-recipe:1]

Fermented Beets with Ginger & Orange on Punk Domestics

Sweet & tart ginger-rhubarb jam (small batch)

chopped rhubarb in pot

Yesterday was a long day in my kitchen, but not one of those blissful, satisfying days where nightfall leaves you with a beautiful layer cake, or a cleaned-out pantry, or 30 sealed jars of something preserved. It was one of those days that happens, one where you’re really just getting caught-up, doing the un-sexy things that simply need to get done (hello, stock-making!), and scattered in there are a couple of botched experiments. By nightfall, after washing the 100th dish, it’s hard not to loathe the very sight of your kitchen.

Everybody has those days, right?

One of my failed experiments wasn’t a total bust — just a disappointment and therefore a lesson learned (optimism! it can be mustered!). I picked up a pound of rhubarb at the Broad Ripple Farmer’s Market last weekend, with hopes of making my first jam of the season — one that skips the sugar. You’d think that the whole no-sugar thing would be the challenge — but the recipe actually came together quite nicely.

It was the aesthetic realm in which I missed the boat. My rhubarb was mostly green, with just a couple inches of bright red at the very bottom of the stalk. I became concerned when I chopped it all up and noticed I had a pot-full of green. And then, when I cooked it, while the flavor was sweet-tart and punchy, the essence of coming summer, the color was a chilly autumn day.

rhubarb jam

I realized very quickly why rhubarb is often paired with strawberries: it’s not only for their sweetness, it’s for their color. When I think rhubarb, I expect pink. When I look at this jar of jam, my tastebuds expect something different, something maybe pear.

But, as is usually the case, we’ll eat it. And enjoy it. And make a note to try and buy the mostly-red rhubarb next time (or add a least a small amount of bright-red berries to punch up the color — this recipe utilizes this trick!).

……………………………………………….

Recipe: Ginger-Rhubarb Jam (small batch, refined-sweetener-free)

: makes about 3/4 pint

Rhubarb is low in pectin, so while this jam with thicken up with cooking & cooling, it won’t set up  like a commercial jam. Feel free to add a little pectin to attain a thicker texture.

Ingredients

  • 1 pound rhubarb, cut into 1/2″ pieces (a heavy four cups, chopped)
  • pinch salt
  • 2 tsp grated or minced fresh ginger
  • 1/2 cup mild honey (can sub sugar)
  • pinch ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Instructions

  1. Place the rhubarb in a medium non-reactive saucepan and add the salt. Over medium heat, cook, stirring occasionally, until juices begin to release (about 5 minutes).
  2. Add the ginger, cover and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until rhubarb is very soft and falling apart (10-15 minutes).
  3. Add the honey and cinnamon, and cook uncovered, mashing up big chunks with a fork. Cook an additional 5-10 minutes, or until thickened to desired consistency (it will thicken a bit once cooled).
  4. Remove from heat, and stir in vanilla. Let cool completely before transferring to a clean jar and storing covered in the refrigerator for 2-3 weeks (freeze for up to a year).

Copyright © Katy Carter, 2012.

[print_link]