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Cookbooks: Fiery Ferments

When it comes to cultured pickles and preserved, Fermented Vegetables by Kristen and Christopher Shockey is one of my most-referenced cookbooks. I take a peek at it any time I want guidance on how to put together a new-to-me a batch of fermented veg, and my beloved fermented dilly bean recipe is simply a scaled down version of theirs.

Their second book, called Fiery Ferments, was released a couple weeks ago and it is just as good and useful as their first volume. It opens with an introduction to basic vegetable fermentation and includes a really useful discussion of the many airlocks and fermentation accessories that are out there (as well as advice on how to ferment without investing in any gear beyond a jar and a ziptop bag).

From there, the book shifts to explaining the skills necessary to make the recipes in the book. You get step-by-step guide to building a basic pepper mash, brine-based sauces and pickles, pastes and mustards, and kimchis, relishes, and salads. For those of you looking to build your confidence in these techniques, this part of the book is worth the price of admission alone.

Then, because Fiery Ferments is focused on building pickles, sauces, and condiments that walk on the spicy side, you’ll find an in-depth section on the ingredients that bring the heat. Ginger, galangal, and turmeric get equal billing with peppercorns and chiles.

Then we get to the recipes. They are small batch (smaller than the recipes in Fermented Vegetables, which I appreciate), varied in flavor and construction, and are illustrated with glorious, appealing pictures. Best of all, in addition to lots of ferments, they also included a handful of recipes designed to help you make good use of the things you’ve made (those fermented jalapeno poppers above look darn tasty).

Thanks to the folks at Storey, I have a copy of this book to give away. Follow the instructions below to enter.

  1. Leave a comment on this post and tell me about your fermented food to eat, drink, or share.
  2. Comments will close at 12 noon eastern time on Sunday, June 19, 2017. A winner will be chosen at random and will be posted to the blog later that day.
  3. Giveaway open to US residents only. Void where prohibited.
  4. One comment per person, please. Entries must be left via the comment form on the blog at the bottom of this post.

Disclosure: Storey sent me sent me a review copy of this book and is providing the giveaway unit, both at no cost to me. All opinions expressed here are entirely my own. 

How to Make Apartment-Scale Hard Cider

Our intrepid Food in Jars contributor Alex Jones is back again. This time, she’s telling the tale of her journey to becoming a home hard cider maker. You small batch home brewers are going to love this one! -Marisa

My first flirtation with home brewing happened back in 2010, before my penchant for collecting food-related hobbies and weird old stuff outgrew my life and space.

I was living with six friends in a big renovated West Philadelphia Victorian, complete with servants’ staircase coming up from the kitchen, a substantial back deck, and a south-facing backyard where I made my first attempts at raised bed gardening.

That winter, my job was managing the CSA program at Greensgrow Farms, a longtime local food oasis in Philadelphia’s Kensington neighborhood, and we often had a few crates of leftover local apples that I could buy at cost.

So when I saw a vintage wooden cider press for sale on Craigslist, I jumped at the chance to haul that huge, heavy thing home, got some apples from work, and made my first batch—after a snowstorm, it looks like. (I’m the one in the green boots.)

Since I only used one kind of apple, and a sweet one at that, the cider had an uninteresting, ricelike flavor, almost like a mild, fruity sake. Soon, our little collective house dissolved, and having nowhere to store the ungainly cider press, I passed it along to another urbanite with a love of DIY projects who had more space.

Now, with a small apartment and an already-full preserving schedule and pantry for most of the year, I thought my cider-making days were long gone. But when I was recently given a gift card to Philly Homebrew Outlet, my neighborhood supplier of all things fermentation, I found myself back in the game. (Philly-area readers can visit PHO locations in Southwest Philly and Kensington; others can shop online.)

I picked up this adorably compact cider-making kit, which contains instructions and all the supplies you need but the starter juice and yeast, which I selected with the advice of a helpful staffer. (Cider and mead are good options for the small-space homebrewer, since the fermentation vessel doesn’t need to have as much extra air space as it does for beer.)

For the starter juice, I picked up a gallon of Eden Garden Farm’s excellent fresh apple cider, made at the Bermudian Springs Cider Mill in Dillsburg, PA. It’s UV pasteurized, which helps to preserve the bright, sweet-tart flavor of farmer Lem’s specially selected blend of half a dozen apple varieties.

Using a fresh-pressed cider whose sweet-tart taste you love should yield a well-balanced end product. But any fresh or pasteurized cider or juice will work as long as it doesn’t contain preservatives like sodium benzoate or potassium sorbate. If you do want to select and press or juice your own apples, be sure to use a mix of sweet and tart varieties to get the best flavor.

Before you begin your mini-batch, you’ll want to decide if you’d like to add sugar to the recipe. Additional sugars like honey (which I used), white or brown sugar, or dextrose will boost the alcohol content of the finished product, so be sure to check the alcohol tolerance of the yeast you’re using and calculate how much sugar to add based on that range. Otherwise, a too-boozy brew could kill the yeast and halt fermentation before the full process is completed.

When you’re ready to make your cider, sanitize any equipment that will come into contact with the mixture using a bleach water solution. Add your optional additional sugars, dissolved in a little cider, to the two-gallon bucket that comes with the kit. Dissolve the pectic enzyme, which will make your finished product clear, in a little cider and add that to the bucket.

Next, add the full gallon of cider, sprinkle on the yeast, close up the bucket, pop on the airlock, and stash in a cool, dark place for at least a week and up to three. Calculating how much yeast to add wasn’t something I had discussed with my homebrew guru and online research was inconclusive, so I played it safe and added half the packet. This is something I want to learn more about before I brew my next batch.

That’s primary fermentation. Secondary fermentation is where the fun (and plastic tubing) begins.

Once again, sanitize all vessels, utensils, and other equipment that will come into contact with the cider. You’ll be transferring the cider from the two-gallon bucket into the one-gallon jug. My apartment-size movable dishwasher was the perfect height to be the siphoning surface once I propped up the jug with an apple crate.

Your siphon and tubing, also included in the kit, are the perfect tools to get the cider from vessel A to vessel B without disturbing the yeasts that have settled at the bottom of the bucket, which we want to leave behind.

To move the cider, you’ll pump the auto-siphon, which will move cider from the first vessel to the second one below. It can be a little tricky to do at first without spilling cider all over yourself or the floor; PHO recommends practicing with sanitizer until you get the hang of it. The goal here is to make sure that the tube end stays in the jug and the siphon end doesn’t stir up the yeast at the bottom of the bucket.

Once the cider (minus the sediment) has been siphoned, replace the airlock and stash your jug in a cool, dark place for anywhere from two weeks to up to a month.

After that, you’ll have drinkable, boozy cider—huzzah!

I ended up with two liter bottles and one quart bottle, about ¾ gallon yield after starting with one gallon of fresh cider.

You can stop here and keep your cider still—simply siphon into any bottle with a tight-fitting lid (a growler is great for this, but wine bottles work too) and store in the refrigerator.

At this stage, mine was very light-tasting, slightly sweet and slightly tart. It left the slightest hint of fizz on the tongue and smelled, improbably, of jasmine—a far cry from the unappealing result of my first effort years ago. I’d hoped for something a little drier, with bigger flavors, but I’m pretty pleased with this initial result.

To add carbonation to your hard cider, you’ll need to take one more step and wait a few more weeks. (I’m still in this waiting stage as I write this—but I’ll be back in a few days with an update on my sparkling cider results.)

Additional carbonation requires a little more sugar; a bottle priming calculator can help you determine how much sugar to add based on the volumes of carbon dioxide typical for the style of beer or cider you’re making and the amount of cider you’re working with.

Rather than siphoning from the jug directly into bottles, as you would with still cider, dissolve the amount of sugar you need in a little water and add to your sanitized brewing bucket. Siphon the cider (minus any sediment at the bottom of the jug, of course) into the bucket.

Then, siphon the cider-sugar mixture into sanitized bottles appropriate for carbonation. (PHO’s kit recommends doing this with the siphon; I admit I simply poured my still cider, pretty sediment-free and mixed with sugar, through a sanitized funnel into the bottles.) You can use swing-top bottles, cappable beer bottles, or plastic soda bottles to carbonate. Be sure to leave one inch of headspace between the top of the liquid and the bottle stopper.

When using glass bottles, I like to play it safe and keep them in a plastic cooler with a tight-fitting lid in case of any freak explosions while this last stage of fermentation is taking place. Let your bottles carbonate for two weeks at room temperature, then chill and enjoy.

There you have it—a way to make your own cider that won’t take up more room in your kitchen than, say, your food processor or crock pot.

Have you tried making your own hard cider before? What about other small-scale boozy projects? How did it go? Share your hopes, fears, and experiences in the comments!

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Krauty the Vampire Slayer from Ferment Your Vegetables

One of the things I’m enjoying about the Mastery Challenge is that it’s motivating me to try new recipes and different preserving techniques right along with you all. This month, in addition to doing a batch of garlic herb salt and some preserved lemons, I pulled down my copy of Amanda Feifer‘s Ferment Your Vegetables in search of something new to try that would meet the perimeters of the February project.

There’s so much to love in Ferment Your Vegetables, but nothing delights me more about this book than the fact that so many of the krauts and kimchis are scaled to make just one quart’s worth. It means that you can explore flavors and styles without overwhelming your kitchen with bubbling crocks.

I settled on Amanda’s recipe for Krauty the Vampire Slayer, because it sounded delicious and also felt like it served as a useful reminder that kraut is essentially a blank slate. You can always combine just cabbage and salt for a traditional batch, but why not mix it up with shredded beets, macadamia nuts, or as you do in this recipe, a whole head of roasted garlic cloves?

The recipe is simple. You cut a head of garlic in half across the equator, tuck it into an oven-safe dish, and roast until caramelized and tender. Once it is cool, shred two pounds of green cabbage and massage it with a tablespoon of salt (keep squeezing and kneading until there’s a goodly bit of liquid in the bottom of the bowl. Pack the garlicky cabbage into a wide mouth quart jar, weigh it down, cover the jar, set it on a small plate or saucer and let it ferment until you like the flavor.

My batch has been humming along since Wednesday afternoon and already smells deliciously funky (I’m going to let it go until at least the two week mark). I’m so happy to have been reminded of the world of krauts that exist out there beyond my beloved carrot and cabbage variety and plan on exploring more of Amanda’s single quart creations in the coming weeks!

If you’re looking for one more project for this month’s challenge, I highly recommend this kraut!

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Quart Jar Cabbage and Carrot Kraut

Three ingredient cabbage and carrot kraut is an easy and delicious ferment for beginners and seasoned picklers alike. Try it with scrambled eggs!

finished cabbage and carrot kraut

I learned to make sauerkraut nearly a decade ago on a episode of Fork You (an online cooking show that my husband and I used to make. The website still lives, but after a long-ago hack, there’s not much there). Since then, it’s rare that I don’t have a jar in the fridge or bubbling away on the countertop (often, I have both).

shredded cabbage and carrots for kraut

Back in my early kraut making days, I made lots of different kinds. I’d use spices. I’d add fresh herbs. But there was always one variety I came back to. Cabbage and carrot kraut.

massaged cabbage and carrots for kraut

A couple of years ago, I gave up on the fancy krauts and accepted the fact that this is my house version. It’s the one that I like best and happily eat with eggs, tucked into sandwiches, and with turkey kielbasa.

top of cabbage and carrot kraut

I make one quart jar at a time, because I don’t want to devote my whole fridge to the endeavor. I combine three parts shredded cabbage with one part grated carrot, add a bit of salt, massage it until it releases a bunch of liquid, and pack it into a jar.

cabbage and carrot kraut in a jar

Weigh it down with one of these glass pickle pebbles from Masontops, set the jar on a saucer and cover it with a small kitchen cloth, held in place with a rubber band. Then I wait about a week, until it’s tangy and bright. Into the fridge the jar goes, ready to be eaten.

top of finished cabbage and carrot kraut

Occasionally, I do make a plain batch or one threaded with fennel fronds, but this particular version forever has my heart.

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The Agricola Cookbook and a Kimchi Recipe

finished kimchi - Food in Jars

I am a relative newcomer to kimchi. It wasn’t part of my family’s pickle culture (we leaned Jewish and Japanese) when I was growing up and I don’t think I had even so much as a taste of it until college. After that first bite, spent about a decade feeling kimchi-neutral. I’d eat a bite or two at Korean restaurants, but it wasn’t something I sought out.

Agricola - Food in Jars

Then something shifted. I became someone who always had a jar of kimchi (whether homemade or store bought) in the fridge. These days, I eat it with eggs, layered into quesadillas, on top of avocado toast, or even just out of the jar when nothing else appeals. It is one of my favorite ways to add flavor and texture to just about everything.

kimchi recipe - Food in Jars

Over the years, I’ve tried a number of different recipes for kimchi, and oddly, the proportions for my favorite version don’t come from a specialized fermentation book or one devoted to Korean cuisine. Instead, the foundational recipe comes from the Agricola Cookbook, a book born from a farm and restaurant in the Princeton, NJ area.

napa cabbage - Food in Jars

The essentials of basic kimchi (and what I mean by basic is that this is the kimchi most commonly found in the US) are the same. They are napa cabbage, daikon, green onion, garlic, ginger, salt, and chile powder. Some recipes have you add rice flour (for thickening the spice paste), shrimp paste or fish sauce (to increase the funky umami), apple or asian pear (for sweetness), or carrot (for more crunch and color).

salted napa cabbage - Food in Jars

For my uses, I find that the simpler approach is best. The most exotic ingredient you’ll find in my batch is the Korean chili powder called gochugaru that gives kimchi its trademark color and spice. You can get it at most large Asian grocery stores, though I typically buy it a pound at a time from Amazon.

kimchi close - Food in Jars

The process takes about a week. I start by salting the cabbage and letting it rest overnight. The next day, I rinse and drain it, add the julienned daikon (made using one of these peelers), and lengths of green onion. I make a spice paste with garlic, ginger, and sugar, add the gochugaru and then rub it into the vegetables. Then I pack it into a jar or crock where it can ferment for five or six days. When it’s done, I transfer it into a jar for the fridge and start eating down the batch. Easy and delicious.

I’ll be taking some of this kimchi with me to the next Philly Food Swap. It’s on Monday, November 9 and there are still spots available, if you want to join us!

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CSA Cooking: Single Quart Fermented Dilly Beans

Philly Food Works September share

Last Thursday, the nice folks from Philly Foodworks dropped off my September share of goodies. The box contained a little bag of spring mix, 12 ounces of perfect green beans, one hefty eggplant, a tiny watermelon, both hot and sweet peppers, half a dozen ears of corn, a bundle of sweet corn, one giant heirloom tomato, six multigrain bagels from Metropolitan, and a bottle of sweet and spicy hot sauce.

bean close-up

Despite the utter chaos of the weekend (a family wedding, loads of visiting cousins, my mom in town, and my mother-in-law’s on-going health issues), I managed to cook, process, and preserve a goodly amount of the bounty in the box and I can feel how my future self is already appreciative.

12 ounces green beans

I combined the sweet and hot peppers with a head of garlic, some ginger, and a salt brine and it’s on the countertop turning into hot sauce as I type. I made a trio of easy salads with the corn, spring mix, eggplant, and tomato.

My mom and I split the watermelon, each taking a half and digging in with spoons (though I did save the rind for pickling). And with three people in the apartment, the bagels certainly didn’t last long.

beans in a jar

That leaves us with the hot sauce, swiss chard and the beans. I’ve been dribbling the hot sauce on scrambled eggs. The chard leaves are destined for a pot of soup, while the stems will make more of these pickles. And the beans are also on their way to becoming pickles. One of my favorite pickles, in fact.

beans in a jar side

I hinted at these pickles last fall when I gave away a short stack of preserving books. The bones of the recipe comes from the wonderful book Fermented Vegetables, though I’ve scaled it down (as I so often do). It ends up being an easy, adaptable pickle that stays super crisp, is effervescently tart, and just happen to have all those gut-friendly bacteria swimming about.

Make as big or as small a batch as you want. Just make them! And look for the hot sauce recipe next week!

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