Fiery Ferments

We won’t even try to say we didn’t already love our friends Kirsten and Christopher Shockey of ferment.works (National Tour Dates) but getting this book has been the best thing that has happened in the last year.

This is a really good basic cookbook and primer on fermentation for professional chefs, cooks, farmers, fermenters, and institutions like libraries, schools, and community centers that would greatly benefit from what this book includes. It’s way more than about hot sauce.

Kirsten and Christopher Shockey bring something that makes this book a real treasure for professional chefs, cooks and food lovers whether they are working from a home or local farm community: they have actually made the things in this book before and they detail every step that takes place. In some cases that can be up to a year! Fear not, though, They and the people that created this work know us well enough to provide some quick recipes and some clever workarounds.

The introduction by one of our long time heroines Darra Goldstein is enough for us to snap any book up. But we already loved the Shockey’s last book as much as we loved Professor Goldstein’s books (obviously the ones on Russian and Georgian foods as well as Cured. We love that this book includes reference to some of the lactofermented foods we’ll include in our in progress book, Sour Russian (2019), but that’s just a few of some truly unique recipes.

Kirsten’s Banana Story following a recipe for fried bananas with a pineapple habanero syrup tells you where she comes from, and the underlying celebration of culture and living that is as wonderful and bracing for multiple reasons in the recipes for hot ferments, pepper facts, and spice lore.

If you don’t like fire you could substitute any hot pepper with a sweet one, or even a semi-dried cucumber or zucchini when your garden demands you do so. The fact that the book brings a probiotic, lactofermented approach to many classics and some really cool inventions at the same time demonstrates a belief we chefs, fermenters, and health conscious people believe. Eat locally, sustainably and real food with nutrient rich quality whenever you can.

Fermentation as preservation is one of the ways that can be accomplished. It’s the ultimate lagniappe of eating great tasting food! Want some great ideas on how to make tempeh, tofu, grains, toast and even homemade sausages explode with flavor? It’s in this book that is also available a a paperback or Kindle book at Amazon and all these places!

The peppers and spice background and technique sections would have made this book indispensable without a single recipe. But if spicy food is your thing the Extinguishing the Fire in the Sauces chapter – another brilliant reference section for any chef or fermenter – is the most useful thing you’ll read on the subject. Because unless you are in a professional, well equipped kitchen you won’t be able to stick you head in a vat of frozen, syrupy vodka in a walk in freezer.

This also seems to be the year of rhubarb the vegetable and super pickle especially chutney ingredient. Their rhubarb or cucumber achar recipes are absolutely thrilling. The absolute best step by step recipe on how to make gochujang we’ve ever read – a riff on Emily Kim’s @maangchi recipe from her book – as well as a clever 2 to 3 week hot fix very similar to an old style Chinese fermented wheat paste based sauce.

There is so much more. It’s just the right time of the year in the US to get ready to eat and enjoy! Buy this book now! It’s truly one of those rare books that chefs and home cooks will have on hand and at hand for years to come.

Reviewed by Chef Ken Fornataro of culturesgroup.net

Winter Ferment – Fennel KimChi

Fennel

Spying some really great looking fennel in the organic section of the market we decided to make a few types of kimchi this week. In the first one we cut the long stems off of the fennel and set them aside. We then mixed the fronds and the 6 fennel bulbs and a big yellow onion with lots of salt to draw out the brine and get it ready to suck up the the other seasonings. In less than 30 minutes it was already smelling really goodand lots of brine was being released.

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So we proceeded to chop up some carrots, scrubbed but unpeeled daikon radish and several really big fat scallions into big chunks.

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We mixed them lightly with a little of the salty fennel and onion brine, omitting the sugar that is often used when doing a ferment with daikon. That started producing brine very quickly.

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We made a purée of garlic cloves, lots of fresh, organic, unpeeled ginger, some red pepper flakes another yellow onion and a small amount of cooked steel cut oats (instead of a traditional rice paste).

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The fennel and onion mixture was well drained (but not rinsed) and the brine was saved. We threw the fennel and onions in with the carrot, daikon, scallions in their brine. It was pressed down overnight by putting another bowl into the bowl the mix was in and covering it to prevent any flies, insects or an overwhelming smell. By 24 hours it was already a little bubbly and tasted great so we packed it in jars and put a parchment top on it with a rubber band because it was going to stay out at room temperature for a few days.  Of course we checked the pan that we put the jars in and at 48 hours both large jars had lost fluid. This is why we always take the leftover brine when we first make a ferment it and let that ferment separately.

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Then we packed the vegetable part of the ferment down very well to remove air and make it look pretty. Each jar got a pretty heavy (about one pound) glass disk directly on top of the brine covered vegetables which kept the kimchi very well packed and wet but not swimming in brine. We the screwed wide mouth mason jar lids with plastic washers tightly on them and let them sit out another day.

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Just a tiny bit of leakage so we threw a few big crystals of sea salt on top after pushing everything down again and sealed them tightly. They hung out in the refrigerator for about 10 days. We then tasted them again. Perfect. So we packed them back up and in about a month we’ll just start going at them! What did we do with all the saved, released and extra brine? Tell you in a little. The next huge crock vegetable ferment couldn’t wait: a root vegetable extravaganza that we thought we just would never be to our liking. We were so wrong!