I had thought when my lactofermentation workshop was over that I would be done with the pickling posts for a while. I had thought that I might take a break, work on some other recipes, and give those of you out there who are neither attached to soured foods nor fascinated by edible bacterial processes a turn with some entrees, or desserts, or even some fresh, unfermented vegetable snacks.
But then I got to doing some pickling last weekend. You know — just for me. And I happened to have my camera on hand. You know — like you do. And I happened to take what turned out to be some very pretty pictures of cabbages, and turnips, and attractive jars filled with delicious, fermenting things. And then —
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.”
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.
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.
The satisfaction of growing one’s own food can almost – not quite, but almost – be matched by the satisfaction of finding one’s own food.
For me, it began with the raspberries. Indeed, raspberries are perhaps my rampion: like Rapunzel’s mother, I crave them above all other foods. The first thing we did when we bought a house, before we painted a single wall or moved a single stick of furniture, was to build a raised bed and plant three raspberry canes. They all died by summer’s end, apparently of ennui.
Tiny chocolate cups are for chumps.
All the best tourist guidebooks seem to agree that they’re entirely traditional and absolutely vital when it comes to imbibing ginjinha — that delicious Portuguese sour cherry liqueur — in Lisbon, or Porto, or anywhere else on its Iberian home terrain. But while I have nothing but respect for good old Rick Steves and his globetrotting colleagues who write these things, on this one small point, I must disagree.
Kraut, in the United States, isn’t a very nice word. Dating back to the nineteenth century, the stereotype of the sauerkraut-eating German immigrant was already a thing, and showed up in all the usual places — anecdotes in newspapers, on the minstrel stage, etc. — where one might expect humor at the expense of some racial or ethnic group or another.
During World War I, Kraut became a metonym for German, German became synonymous with wicked, and it became acceptable to use the term as a sneer or a snub, as a way of stirring up enmity and making school-children whose parents derived from Deutchland feel lousy about themselves and about their national heritage.
Here are some helpful rules for heading out to a local farm to pick your own produce:
Always wear sunscreen. And don’t forget dabs for your neck, ears, and the small of your back (plumbers out there, you know what I’m talking about).
Drink lots of water, and take lots of breaks. Fruit season is hot here in the mid-Atlantic, and you wouldn’t want to overdo it.
Don’t pick more than you need. Call this the ‘save some for the fishes’ rule, if you want. The point is that the next group might want some berries / peaches / asparagus, too.
And above all, be nice to the plants.
This may be the shortest, simplest recipe that I’ve ever posted in this space. So short is it that I’ll give you all the ingredients right here: coffee, water, and time. So simple is it that I’d feel a little silly writing about cold brew coffee at all, except that — surprisingly — not a lot of people know you can do it, and lots of folks who do know think that you need some complicated plastic contraption like a Toddy Cold Brew System to make it work.
You can use the Toddy if you want, dear readers, but it’s not necessary. All you need is a mason jar, a coffee grinder, and maybe one or two other items that aren’t vital, but that make filtering and clean-up a wee bit quicker.
It has begun, dear friends, to seem a bit absurd to me that every time I make a pie, tart, or pasty for the blog, I provide instructions for making shortcrust pastry all anew. As I browse back through the last few months’ entries, this habit, it seems to me, is responsible for taking up quite a lot of space.
And so I thought to myself this morning — I thought: why not write a shortcrust primer, instead? Why not work up a master recipe that will recount my shortcrust technique, its major variations, and maybe offer just a couple of tips for making it work?