Exploration in Fermentation

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Chopping and grating,

Cabbage, radish, and spices –

For making Kimchi !!

 

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Remember when I posted about the sauerkraut-making workshop back in the fall?

Well, two evenings ago was the next workshop in the series – still focusing on fermented foods – and it featured the making of kimchi. Primarily known with Korean cuisine these days, but it originated in China.

There are more ingredients that go into a kimchi recipe; everything gets grated and chopped up, and with the addition of dried or fresh peppers and fresh daikon radish, the end result is a somewhat spicier food.

The fermentation process is similar to sauerkraut…..letting it sit for a number of days where it can then also produce those beneficial bacteria.

Yummers!

Once again we had a keen group of about 25 participants, and in teams of four, we busily chopped and mixed and hand-mashed our way through a fine sampling of kimchi. Everyone gets a share to bring home to take it through the next steps.

COOL!

Both of these workshops were so well received that there was talk about what would be covered at the next one – KOMBUCHA !! Moving into fermented drinks. Sweet!

And here’s a photo of my finished jar…

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The Culture of Cabbage

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Keeping it simple,

Natural fermentation;

Sauerkraut…..kimchi?

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Cabbage is one of those vegetables that pops up in various cultures and their cuisines, notably, as it is so versatile and can be incorporated in so many dishes.  It is also a hardy vegetable that can handle lengthy storage.  Added to that, cabbage has a list of beneficial nutrients, so our global ancestors living in the northern climates, in their efforts to extend the storage and consumption of this fine vegetable, came up with a smart and simple way to preserve it.  Fermentation.  In regional areas across Europe cabbage was preserved as well as in parts of China and Korea.  These days the two more common names  are sauerkraut and kimchi.  The traditional way was quite simple….using fresh cabbage and a bit of salt, along with a herb or spices.  A brine is created with the finely sliced cabbage and the salt, leading to the natural fermentation phase during storage in crocks for a specified amount of time.

Now for the personal connection.  I was born and grew up in Canada. My heritage is German, and so, for the first half of my life, it’s the German cuisine I was mostly familiar with and learned to cook.  And yes, I grew up with an appreciation for sauerkraut.  Both my grandmother and my mother did their share of preserving foods, but generally that was with fruits, so any sauerkraut dishes we ate was made with the store-bought kind.  They were always delicious!  Happily, I managed to pass along that sauerkraut enjoyment to my husband and kids.

So….are you still wondering about the photo (above) with the jars of sauerkraut in them?

Well, in mid-November of last year – it doesn’t feel all that long since it’s only been two months!  haha! – I received an e-mail from one of our local health food stores in town, highlighting one of their periodical workshops.  This one, you guessed it, was intending to tackle the fun in preparing one’s own batch of sauerkraut, using the natural fermentation process.  No doubt you can imagine how eagerly I grabbed my phone and called to find out if there was still room for me at the workshop!  Every participant was only asked to bring in two clean 500 ml jars (with lids) and a cutting board and sharp knife.  The cabbage, salt, caraway seeds, and juniper berries (for the featured recipe) would be provided for us there; covered in the workshop fee.

We were approximately 20 participants.  After a brief introduction on the benefits and process of natural fermentation of foods, specifically cabbage, then we all got busy working together in groups of four……slicing our cabbages up fine, then placing all that into big mixing bowls, adding in the required amounts of salt…..and just having a fun time together.  Everyone was handed some light plastic gloves for the “scrunching” part of the task, and we all took turns again and again….scooping and squeezing and pushing down, until the cabbage in the bowls visibly started breaking down and getting softer and, well, juicier ie. the brine was being created. The final touches of the caraway seeds and juniper berries was added once the “scrunched” cabbage had achieved the desired consistency.  Then everyone’s jars were filled.  With an accompanying sheet of instructions on the daily minor “scrunching” procedure to be done with our jars, all of us piled out of the store and headed for our homes with our much-anticipated future sauerkraut.

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During a little break at the workshop, before the heavy “physical” work was about to commence, the organizers put out some sample foods for us to nibble on….to see for ourselves what this type of sauerkraut would taste like; there were also samples of kimchi for us to try.  Along with a selection of natural crackers and some other finger foods, everyone had a little plateful of tasty food!

I am pleased and happy to say  that I thoroughly enjoyed those 7-10 days of daily “scrunching” in my two jars and seeing the development of the fermented sauerkraut.  Since then, one of my sons and I added “my” sauerkraut to sandwiches mostly, so it wouldn’t run out too soon!  But now my supply is gone, and I need to make a new batch.

It’ll be a bigger batch this time!

 

The Turkey “Experiment”

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First there is thawing.

Then comes the fun soak – the brine!

Stuffing and Roasting….

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I’m feeling a sense of anticipation!
Since we are having Christmas at our place this year (after MANY years of travelling elsewhere), I have also been put in charge of the turkey roasting.
It’s been a LONG time since I last did a turkey. My first plan was to do something similar to the roast chicken I sometimes make – with garlic and citrus and herbs on the inside and outside and hope for the best…..hahaha! I always find roast turkey to be on the dryer side….and so not really much of a favourite for me.
But THEN…..a chance comment made by my friend, Moira, yesterday…… “brining”…..as in she was going to go home after work, take her turkey out of the freezer, get it thawing and then let it sit in a herby brine for another day before the final roasting.
That word perked up my ears….and immediately it crossed my mind that this method – entirely new to me! – sounded like it would be a cool way to add extra flavour…..and moisture?…..to a roast turkey.
Moira, indeed, confirmed to me that I was on the right track. so, as soon as I got home, I googled – I’m just so google-savvy these days, eh? (hey, if your kids prod you often enough, you take the plunge…..what can I say….) – and found a goodly number of potential sites that offered up some tasty brine recipes as well as directions on how to accomplish this task.
And well, Martha Stewart’s version sounded the most tempting to me…….no, the bottle of dry riesling was NOT the determining factor! Hahaha!
Nah…she puts in juniper berries and coriander seeds and bay leaves and more good things. Yes, well, I figured that bottle of wine would only just ENHANCE the whole thing even more.

In case you’re wondering, the turkey is chillaxing in a brine-filled bag inside a clean bucket (bought expressly for that purpose) in a cooler filled with water and ice.
So…..happy to say that our humanely raised turkey is enjoying its brine bath since this evening and into tomorrow morning.  🙂

That’s when the stuffing gets made and the next steps are followed…..

Oh what will the final results reveal about this turkey experiment?

A Week of Inactivity? Not so….entirely.

Hello, Friends!

Yes, it’s been at least one week, since I posted last.  And yes, I have missed writing haiku and little stories.

It wasn’t that I chose to have a break.  You see, my body decided to make that decision.  I caught that heavy cold thing that’s been making its rounds hereabouts – although I had no intention of doing so – and it threw that wrench into my blogging routine.

It started to make an appearance in my throat area on Monday night, soon after I had shared that post about Leah, my senior lady friend.  Tuesday and Wednesday were spent mostly curled up under warm bed covers…..sleeping.  And more sleeping.  Not even hungry.  Just feeling feverish and weak.  And I cancelled all extra activities….even though I didn’t want to….

By Thursday I mustered up enough energy to do my usual work for Thursdays, because I needed to get back on track as there was more work scheduled coming up, including a somewhat busy weekend.  And I depend on the income to help pay for some of those activities.

Things continue to improve, even though I am still not quite over it; however, I can get on with things again and enjoy them.  I just need to make sure I have my trusty bottle of water and enough kleenex on hand, wherever I go.  Hahaha!

So, I see at this time – with joy and curiosity – that other blogging friends have posted comments to which I need to respond.  And apparently, there are some awards to devote some time and energy to as well.  🙂  Bear with me – I WILL get to them in time!

Oh yeah, and as a side note, it seems that I inadvertently shared my cold germs with my boys, as each and every one of them, strangely starting on the same day (Monday), is now “wrestling” with a runny nose and other symptoms and asking for a pot of soothing herbal tea to share with me…..as well as other of our home remedies.

It was in that spirit that I decided to make a pot of home-made chicken noodle soup – I doubled my usual batch – as that dependably soothing and  warming food eases the discomfort in our noses and tummies.

 

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It was well received and much appreciated!  With seconds and thirds had by all.  🙂

 

When the Boys Cook!

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No matter how much you love to cook, it IS a special treat when on occasion someone else in your family will do the cooking.

So, naturally, when every so often my boys will offer to cook supper, my face breaks into a smile and I give up the kitchen space for them to create something delicious.

As I was heading back home earlier this evening – after a quick stop at the grocery store in which I purchased some sweet peppers, hot peppers, mushrooms, and alfredo sauce at a good price – I wondered whether I could entice Conrad and Stephen to put together what has become a specialty of theirs – Lightly Spiced Alfredo Noodles with Veggies.

I didn’t have to twist their arms…..haha!  And they immediately got busy with chopping up veggies and getting noodles boiled, etc.

Conrad has developed a strong liking for spicyness in his foods and will often add a goodly amount of hot sauce – different kinds – into his dishes.  In the past there have been those sessions where we had to say to him that the sauce amount he had used was so overpowering, we couldn’t taste anything else!  Haha!  But as with everything, over time, practice helps improve one’s skills.  Spice amounts are adjusted….new herbs are tried out, and then more and more the dish gets perfected.

Well, tonight’s version was exactly that – a perfect blend of sauciness, veggie crunchyness, garlic undertones, herbal flavouring, and JUST the right amount of zingy spice to enhance the overall taste.  YUMMY!

Well done, lads!

Yes….we had seconds and thirds.

And one more, please, Mom!

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My family’s favourite: Buttermilk Oatmeal Pancakes!

We had them for supper tonight – Woohoo! With lovely maple syrup, these are welcome anytime. Everyone was digging in – hahaha! I love it when they do.

Made from scratch and a modified version of a recipe I found some 20 years ago, so I guess you could say it’s become a legit family recipe….??

I fry up pancakes in butter. Margarine was tried years ago, but it lost hands-down to butter. Hahaha!

As some of you may have experienced, once a recipe gets used so often that you can pull it out of your head at will, then also the original measurements don’t all stay the same; some things get eyeballed for how the mix looks, for example, the dry ingredients being well blended with flours and oat flakes.  And then once dry and wet ingredients have been mixed together, I like the batter to have a somewhat heavier consistency, so it doesn’t make runny pancakes but the kind that hold their shape in the hot pan….and yet flowing enough to create a thicker crèpe feel.  And then on some occasions those “secret” ingredients get added in just to change things up!  Like adding in chopped up fresh seasonal fruit.

Enchiladas Revisited

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I had been having a hankering for making up some enchiladas again – it’s been a good length of time since I last made some. And so, I started looking for ideas…..and then the thought of seafood enchiladas grabbed a hold of me. So, that’s what I made for the guys last night for dinner. Cream cheesy sauce on the inside, and the salsa on top added some nicely balanced zip. I found a recipe and modified it to suit what I had on hand. There were enthusiastic “Mmmmm’s!” and “Tastes delish, Mom!” in response. And I also even got one comment that the presentation looked restaurant-level. Awwww…..bunch of charmers, aren’t they? Hahahaha! Ah well, they give me added enjoyment to my cooking efforts. 🙂

Soothing Soup for a Sinus Cold

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Having a bit of a sinus infection.  Started late night on Sunday….got worse Tuesday evening. Been getting lots of rest.  And on Wednesday there was a bit of relief and the hour spent outside in the early evening fresh air did some good.  Then my tummy nudged me with requests for a bowl of soup that would hit the spot…..both nasally and digestively. Haha.

So…..sautéing of the essential chopped onions and celery in olive oil, followed by some chopped fresh garlic and a slice of fresh ginger, also chopped.  Mmm….the smell of ginger for the nose!  Yes.  Oh, and for something different, I added in some tiny button mushrooms.  They always look so cute!  The broth was a mixture of chicken stock, water, and light miso paste.  This time I decided to go with lighter noodle fare and picked Asian rice noodles.  Didn’t have tofu, so I sliced up a couple of weiners (keeps the lads happy, too).  Let all that simmer.  I found a handful of frozen veggies (carrots and broccoli) in the freezer and put them in for some added colour.  Near the end some salt, pepper, and italian herbs with chopped up fresh kale….just until it softened.  And it was ready for the eating!  Everyone got a bowlful along with a slice of buttered fresh-baked bread. It was a big hit with my boys AND my eager-for-soothing-soul-food tummy.  Yep….and we all went up for seconds!

Food Stories

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Okay…..so I didn’t pay close attention to the stove dial – getting re-acquainted with this stove (that’s my story and I’m sticking to it!)  And what I thought was the simmer indicator was only high on the smaller element. Eek! Yep, you guessed it….I burst the weiners for supper. On the bright side though, there’s more surface area for dipping into the mustard!!  And well, the steamed asparagus still turned out tender-crisp and tasty. That’s ‘cuz I was paying more attention to them….than the weiners.

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Since I’m on the subject of food, what do you do, when you have good intentions of making a chicken goulash, only to find out mid-way – with the requisite staples of chopped onions, garlic, celery, and green pepper having softened nicely in the pot and awaiting the much loved generous sprinklings of paprika? Well, on account of there must still be a bin somewhere…unopened….with the remaining jars of herbs and spices. But I haven’t got time to LOOK for that! My veggies cannot wait a moment longer. So, I rummage through my spice jars and grab some cajun spices – ooooohhhh! Hmmmm…..let’s see what I can come up with now…..
Generous sprinklings of cajun spice then leads to…..found the ground chipotle in the cupboard up top – oh yeah! Gotta add some of that! And then in the pantry I find a jar of salsa. So, then a few drops of red wine (emptied the bottle used for the cacciatore of two days ago) – literally, a few drops, almost negligible – some stock….and it all goes to simmer into a flavourful saucy chicken dish with a really nice spicy bite to it! I think it makes up for the wieners I burst…..even though the order is reversed – hahaha! Chicken yesterday, weiners today!

Note:  The paprika in the photo is the new batch I picked up at the natural food store the next day.

Note2: Felt like digressing from poetry to food….haha!