Review: Fermented Vegetables By Kirsten and Christopher Shockey

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Fermented Vegetables by Kirsten and Christopher Shockey came in the mail to me, thanks to Storey Publishing, at a perfect time. The ferments I made in late summer are almost finished and I have room for new batches. Fermenting vegetables is such an easy thing, right? Add salt and let it sit! Well, even simple things are complicated, just more subtly so. So many little questions pop up that it’s nice to have someone there who’s done all the experimenting for you, which is just what the Shockeys have done. Many years of experimenting with their own business selling local vegetable ferments led to the making of this book. You can check out their website and hear more at The Fermentista’s Kitchen.

The book is laid out in an orderly fashion: the basics and mastering techniques followed by recipes according to vegetables alphabetically, then recipes that use up those ferments. I’m particularly interested in the flavor-packed fermented pastes, like Thai basil paste. I also like that the authors note vegetables you really don’t want to ferment. The tone is always informed and never condescending. The book is seasoned with great quotes, personal stories and sidebars about admirable fellow fermenting peers who run small businesses. The section on recipes that incorporate ferments is very creative and well thought out. There are several things I already have bookmarked, among them a savory sauerkraut quiche. One of my first experiments using this book as a guideline is a sunchoke ferment that I have started. We’ll see how it goes–I’ll keep you posted!

(Disclosure: I received this book from Storey Publishing to review. All of the opinions here are my own.)

Grape and Fig Mostarda

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There’s something about preparing for guests that’s truly in my blood. Was it all the years I worked in restaurants and catering? Or digging even deeper, transferred from my parent’s love of throwing elaborate dinner parties? I recall very early on in life, waking up while my parents still slept, to find the table covered with dishes and wine glasses, and being utterly entranced by this adult otherworld that I was not privy to. It was like an archeological dig–trying to place what conspired by piecing together artifacts I had very little information about.

I love placing silverware down on napkins, I love letting cheese sit out all day to get soft, I love shining wine glasses with a cloth. I know there is this romantic notion of the host cooking while everyone watches, laughing and drinking wine, but frankly that makes me a bit nervous– although I’m always impressed by people who can do it. I prefer having everything ready so when the guests come I can pour myself a glass of wine and sit down and talk.

Last week, I had some friends over to celebrate recent nuptials, the season, and general friendship and camaraderie, and although I wanted it to be special (and I worked the two days before) I still relied on my preserving know-how to carry me through. To start we had burrata with an heirloom tomato confit that I had made the week prior. Some duck liver paté was paired with pickled figs. Bread and bubbly was all that was needed to while away the afternoon while we sat outside in the unseasonably warm weather.

For dinner, I had a roasting pan filled with some winter savory chicken and lamb sausages, onions, shallots, and potatoes. On another tray I had thin slices of Japanese kuri squash drizzled with olive oil, rosemary and sea salt. Both went in the oven at the same time, and all I had to do was pop them in. They looked great on a large platter in the middle of the table with serving utensils. On the side were some leeks with vinaigrette. A full dinner for six with a modicum of work.

Dessert was an apple frangipane tart I bought (gasp!) and which we didn’t even dent. I served it with a few cheeses, and a platter of grapes and figs. We finished the cake for breakfast the next morning, and the fruit sat for a day or two until I turned them into this mostarda, which came out amazingly delicious. A few days later, I served it with some blu mauri, an Italian goat and cow gorgonzola when a new batch of friends stopped by. And so it goes: preserving saves the day! Make some mostarda this fall, and make sure to have friends by to enjoy it.

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Mostardas are great on meats, go well with cheese, and are happy just on a piece of bread. Be creative and don’t worry if your fruit isn’t perfect. This recipe is a guide–use your taste to figure out what you like best. The mostarda will also mellow a bit after a few days in the fridge, so keep that in mind.

Grape and Fig Mostarda

1 pound fruit, mixed grapes (Concord and Niagara) and fresh black mission figs

2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

1/3 cup sugar (although 1/4 cup of honey would be great)

1 cup fruity white wine, like an off-dry riesling

2 tablespoons of whole grain mustard

Cook the grapes in a pan with the vinegar until soft. Pass through food mill to remove the seeds and break down the skin. Return grape puree to pot, add quartered figs, the wine and mustard. Boil down till you reach a jammy consistency, about 30-45 minutes because it’s a nice small batch (some recipes will have the time at a few hours). Store in the fridge. Serve with savory items–a bold cheese, cured meats, etc.

The End of the Tomatoes

IMG_8572There are so many fall preserving projects on the horizon–all the fall goodies: apples, pears, quinces, winter squash, jerusalem artichokes–but I still need to finish up summer! There are still tomatoes to be dealt with, and it’s grueling, but everybody knows it will be worthwhile in the winter. So, without further ado, this is what I’m doing to get those long-awaited tomatoes out of my kitchen! I’m sure I will be pining for them once again in the not too distant future.

Fermented Tomato Conserve – I have never tried this but as soon as I saw this I was completely intrigued. See this post also, which is slightly different, and uses a recipe from (obviously) Wild Fermentation by Sandor Katz. The author discusses how he used the excess liquid in a Bloody Mary. I am choosing to use this liquid for a soup stock, but I love the cocktail mix idea! I’m not sure I squeezed as much liquid out of my pulp as I could have. I started with 10 pounds of tomatoes, and ended up with 12 ounces of pulp to which I added 2 ounces of kosher salt. It is quite salty!  The seeds and skins were tossed, and the liquid is now in the fridge waiting to be used up. How does one use this, you may ask? I see it as a tomato paste that can be added to soups, stews and sauces for a salty, umami jolt.

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Salt added to the finished pulp.

The easiest thing I do to tomatoes? Fill my crock pot with tomatoes–I even leave them whole, in the case of tiny plum tomatoes–and just put them on the 12 hour low mode. They will break down and release their water. Then, when cool, I puree them in my Vitamix. (This is how I fell in love with my Vitamix, processing tomatoes.) I return them to the crock pot to become ketchup or tomato paste. The very last of the tomatoes are in there right now because I just couldn’t bear to keep them on the counter any longer.

Some more ideas:

How about oven-dried tomatoes in oil? Tip of the hat to Sean Timberlake, new head honcho at the About.com’s preserving page, for bringing attention to this method from UC Davis.

 Or this TOMATO sauce from Raisin & A Porpoise?

Is this really goodbye?

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Hard to turn down an opportunity to glean!