Eat Local Day 2 – Fermentation Fun

My focus for today was on preparing for my fermentation class at Basics.  After all, local eating ends with the change of seasons unless we know how to safely preserve our food.   We had a great turn – out for the class and tons of fun.  I was excited to see people that I had met yesterday at the farmer’s market.  (Every time someone bought a cabbage, I told them about my class.)  I brought some samples of fermented foods and drinks for tasting.  We had fermented veggies made with the Body Ecology culture starter, beet kvass and home-made pickles.  I was most excited about the pickles.  Previous attempts at making pickles by lactofermentation have resulted in mushy pickles that tasted fine but were no fun to eat.  This year I added horseradish leaves to help the cukes stay crunchy.  I was very happy with the results.  I sliced up a couple of them and shared them with the class. 

I believe that fermenting vegetables is best learned by doing.  In fact, recipes often fail to capture the subtle nuances and skills involved in fermentation, which can vary greatly depending on the quality of your ingredients.  Don’t let these sentences scare you off.  Fermentation is easier done than said.  If you jump right in and start making your own ferments, you will have successes and failures.  You may have successes that are slightly different each time.  You will find that your veggies ferment faster in warm weather.  You may find that your veggies are more or less juicy depending on where you bought them.  In my class tonight, everything was freshly picked and everyone got to make their own jar of veggies to take home.

I washed everything and peeled the beets and turnips ahead of time.  I took along my food processor for quick chopping.  I also showed examples of other ways to chop the vegetables if they didn’t want them so pulverized.  I went ahead and chopped a large bowl of cabbage and two smaller bowls of carrots and turnips.  I also put out cutting boards and tools for using onions, beets and garlic.  I chopped kale to order in the food processor after we got started.  Each participant or each couple got a medium bowl.  I had them put three cups of veggies in the bowl and between 1 1/2 and 3 teaspoons of sea salt.  Then they got to pound their veggies with tools or by hand until everything was very juicy.  It was so fun to see everyone’s creations.  I wish I had taken a picture of all of the colorful jars.  I gave them instructions for completing the fermentation several times, so hopefully everybody’s veggies will turn out yummy.  I told them to take their jars home and make sure everything is pressed down and submerged beneath the liquid.  Put the jar on a plate on the kitchen counter.  Then turn the lid very slightly so that liquid can escape if necessary.  (The veggies were so fresh that I knew this would be important.)  Let the jar ferment for three days before tasting and transferring to the fridge.  Fermented vegetables can be stored in a cool place for six months and even up to a year.  They continue to ferment slowly in the refrigerator and will change slightly over time.

Day 2 Meals

Breakfast: Local duck eggs, local toast, local butter, local cheese, home-grown lettuce

Lunch: Home-grown/ home-made beet kvass, brown rice pasta (non-local) with local butter and local cheese, home-grown artichoke, home-grown green beans, home-grown zucchini

Snack: Peach Cobbler from Grandma Betty, local ice cream

Supper: meatloaf made with local beef and veggies, home-grown potatoes, home-grown sweet corn, local butter, home-made lacto-fermented pickles and veggies

Snack: local milk, locally distributed graham crackers (Back to Nature)

Notes: I think I might have to have more local grains on hand so that I can make my own local snacks.  Back to Nature graham crackers are not the best example of local food.  Also, I could not turn down Grandma’s fresh-baked peach cobbler, even though peaches are not local at this time of year.  Still, the challenge has been fairly painless so far.  I’m definitely eating lots of veggies!  An added bonus today was the discovery that my daughter likes the taste of artichokes.  On a side note, artichokes contain a chemical that makes everything taste sweet.  If you drink water after eating a steamed artichoke, the water will taste sweet.  Try it!  Of course, not very many people are growing artichokes in Wisconsin.  I really lucked out that my artichoke plant survived the winter.  They are not usually perennials in this climate.

This hardy artichoke plant popped up in the middle of our corn this year! I hadn't expected it to survive the winter.

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