Category Archives: Ingredients

Spring Workshop: Pickling Without Pasteur, Part II

Spring Workshop: Pickling Without Pasteur, Part II

People! Philadelphia People, especially! Pay attention!

I am pleased to announce that, because it was such a hoot in the fall, I will be rerunning my pickling workshop — Pickling Without Pasteur — this spring. Thanks to the Mount Airy Learning Tree, on Saturday May 3rd from 10am to noon, we will be gathering in the Unitarian Society of Germantown’s kitchen to talk about the biology and methodology of lacto-pickling, and then to make copious quantities of delicious pickles which participants will get to take home in jars.

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Madeira, Wine, and The Sea

Madeira, Wine, and The Sea

There’s a moment in Edith Wharton’s piercingly funny, devastatingly beautiful novel, The Age of Innocence, when Mr. Sillerton Jackson — consummate dinner-guest and even more consummate gossip — weighs the relative burdens and benefits of dining in the home of the Archer family. The food, he muses, is inevitably far from good. But the conversation is sure to be fascinating. And at least — luckily, he thinks — the Archer Madeira had gone round the Cape.

I’ve read The Age of Innocence many times over the years, and even taught it. But that comment — that at least the Madeira had gone round the Cape — has always confused me. Because what I’ve always known about Madeira wine is that it is very sweet (sort of like port), and that it is either very bad or very expensive (neither of which holds a whole lot of appeal). And nothing else about it has seemed particularly relevant to my life, or to my tastes.

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Blue Hubbard Squash Purée

Blue Hubbard Squash Purée

Pumpkin pie, dear readers, is one of my favorite autumn treats. But suspect squash purée, excavated from a sealed tin can labelled with a happy turkey, or a beaming grandmotherly face, or some other graphic designed to distract from the disturbing vagueness and small print of the tin’s actual ingredient list is a thing I find somewhat less agreeable. I’ve mentioned here before that dairy — like sweetened condensed milk — that is designed to be stored at room temperature disturbs me. And pumpkin glop is another one of those things that fits into the same general category in my mind.

Luckily, there is a way to produce squash purée that does not involve a can opener. And while it admittedly takes more time, it is hardly an arduous task.

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Fermented Red Hot Pepper Sauce

Fermented Red Hot Pepper Sauce, like tuong ot toi

I have to admit: I have an ulterior motive in making this particular post at this particular moment. Red hot pepper sauce is yet another pickle — one last ferment in what, one month ago, I called a systematic exploration of the nutritionally rich, biologically diverse, sometimes slightly stinky genre of fermented foods.

I said then that the series was part of the run-up to my pickling workshop. And my pickling workshop, dear readers, is this Saturday, September 28.

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Roasted Butternut Squash Rings with Marinated Onions

Roasted Butternut Squash Rings with Marinated Onions

Riddle me this, dear readers: what’s the worst thing about making a butternut squash?

It’s not the taste, obviously. Butternut squash is sweet and savory, and delicious. It caramelizes in the oven, lending it a complex smoky flavor that’s a little bit pumpkin on the surface, with a bubbling current of applewood smoked bacon — and maybe maple — somewhere down below. I’d venture to assert that many of the best pumpkin pies are in fact done in butternut squash. And the best pumpkin soups, too. The only problem with them is … is …

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Mak Kimchi

Mak Kimchi

Kimchi is extraordinary and complicated and vast, and it would be no less than hubris to imagine that I could do justice to so rich a tradition in one post, or in a whole blog’s worth of posts. When I started thinking about kimchi — quite a while ago, now — I assumed that it would be a little like making sauerkraut — possibly based on something that Sandor Katz had written in The Art of Fermentation (a book I highly recommend!):

“Kraut-chi is a word I made up, a hybrid of sauerkraut and kimchi, the German and Korean words for fermented vegetables that we have adopted into the English language. The English language does not have its own word for fermented vegetables. It would not be inaccurate to describe fermented vegetables as “pickled,” but pickling covers much ground beyond fermentation.”

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Herby Lactofermented Daikons

Lactofermented Daikons, Peppers, and Cherry Tomatoes

In the run-up to my pickling workshop, next month, it seems only appropriate that I should do a series of posts about some particularly tasty examples of that nutritionally rich, biologically diverse, sometimes slightly stinky genre of fermented foods. For the past year or so, I’ve scattered lacto-pickles here and there across the blog, with posts about fermented greens, full sours, krauts, and the like. But there’s nothing in my intermittent exploration that has been anything resembling systematic. And if we few, elite culinary pedagogues know anything at all, it’s that without systematicity — without the sort of enforced rigor that drains the brine of joy and fun out of the enterprise entirely — it can hardly be called an education at all.

I kid.

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Goat Moussaka

Moussaka meat

In which I mostly make it up as I go

I was a great reader as a child. (Also, as one might expect, a maker of mudpies. But principally a reader.) Most of my introductions to the world came through books, and thus the first goats I met were Schwanli and Baerli, the goats kept by the Alm-Uncle in the book Heidi. They were kept for their milk. Through the lens of a novel written “for children and those who love children”, the goats seemed more like pets than livestock, and thus goats have always been to me, the most personable and most pet-like of farm animals.

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Fall Workshop: Pickling Without Pasteur

Fall Workshop: Pickling Without Pasteur

People in Philadelphia! People who might have occasion to visit Philadelphia! You should all come out to this:

Saturday, September 28th, from 10 am to noon, I’ll be teaching a workshop on lacto-pickling and lacto-fermented vegetables, through the Mount Airy Learning Tree, at the Unitarian Society of Germantown on Lincoln Drive in Philadelphia. Participants will get a short presentation on the microbiology of fermentation. And then we’ll get our hands into the brine, and the shredded vegetables, and all the tasty spices, such that you’ll come away (dear readers!) not just with new knowledge and rich experience, but with one to two quarts of tasty living souvenir.

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Foraging the Edible, Collectible World

New York's Central Park

The urge to collect attractive natural things has always been part of my psyche. Pine cones, interesting seeds and leaves, and unusual rocks often make their way into my pockets. Even though I live in Manhattan, I am constantly finding things to collect — especially edible things.

I have had great luck in the city with mushrooms and berries. Greens (mustard, mint, herbs, etc.) tend to grow in places where dogs pee, and there is always a question of what pesticides may have been sprayed. Roots (burdock, carrot) are often not large enough to be worth digging and can be contaminated with pesticides or other soil pollution, too. Digging also can draw attention to an activity that is technically illegal in New York City.

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