The authors of the best-selling Fermented Vegetables are back, and this time they’ve brought the heat with them. Whet your appetite with more than 60 recipes for hot sauces, mustards, pickles, chutneys, relishes, and kimchis from around the globe. Chiles take the spotlight, with recipes such as Thai Pepper Mint Cilantro Paste, Aleppo Za’atar Pomegranate Sauce, and Mango Plantain Habañero Ferment, but other traditional spices like horseradish, ginger, and peppercorns also make cameo appearances. Dozens of additional recipes for breakfast foods, snacks, entrées, and beverages highlight the many uses for hot ferments.
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About the Author
Kirsten K. Shockey and Christopher Shockey are the coauthors of the best-selling Fermented Vegetables. They got their start in fermenting foods with their farmstead food company, where they created more than 40 varieties of cultured vegetables and krauts. Their current focus is on teaching the art of fermenting vegetables to others through classes and workshops at their farm. They live on a 40-acre hillside homestead in the Applegate Valley of southern Oregon.
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Tools and Tips
Fermentation is as humble as this formula. We humans have been processing our vegetables this way for more than a few years — we've been doing it for so long, in fact, that our first vessels were probably animal bladders and crude clay pots. In this chapter we will touch on the many ways to house and care for your ferment. We'll also go over the key elements of lacto-fermentation — salt and unchlorinated water, brine, and time — and how each affects our friends in the lactobacillus family. With a few management strategies, you'll find it an easy process, and your hot ferments will turn out delicious.
Be a Good Host
Let's talk quickly about how lacto-fermentation works. It starts with making the friendly bacteria comfortable — we want them to settle in, enjoy the ambiance, and (unlike most houseguests) to reproduce. They don't need much — just an anaerobic saline pool to swim in and plenty of fresh veggies to eat.
The key here is that lactic-acid bacteria are anaerobic — they don't need oxygen — but many of their competitors are not. The most important thing to remember, therefore, is this: keep everything under the brine, which keeps the process anaerobic. The good guys thrive in these conditions, and when they thrive they multiply and consume (or convert, if you will) the carbohydrates to create an increasingly acidic environment — the death toll for the bad bacteria. Spores, molds, and yeast simply cannot live in the conditions that provide us with preserved, safe, live, tasty food. How cool is that?
The Perfect Vessel
In the last few years, folks have come up with ingenious ways to manage the process of fermentation, not to mention stunning pieces of functional art. So what you need for a vessel is more a question of what will make this process enjoyable and successful for you. For some, that means having a crock that is a piece of art gracing their countertop; for others it means a hermetically sealed jar that discourages alien invaders in the form of yeasts or molds. The beauty is that with the wide range of possibilities available, you will surely find a fermentation vessel that works for you — your environment, your lifestyle, and your style of cooking.
When you're fermenting, all the bits of your fermentation mixture must be kept submerged in the (anaerobic) brine. While there are a lot of ways to do this, it is really very simple. (This process was perfected a long time before we could peer through a lens at the workings of microbes.) Must the entire inner environment of the vessel be anaerobic? It doesn't have to be — lots of the old-school crocks or pots used in fermentation have an open top and are meant to be used with just a weight (to keep the mixture submerged) and a towel (to keep out dust).
However, fermenting in a big crock can be daunting and unwieldy, and since most of the recipes in this book are for very small amounts (after all, a gallon of habanero sauce may be more than you could eat in a lifetime), you will likely be using jars. Fermenting in a jar is great for a number of reasons beyond the approachable size. The biggest benefit is you can see what is going on with your ferment, which is especially handy when you are first learning. For example, you may see a huge layer of brine on top of your veggies and think, "Cool, my ferment is making brine." However, if you look into your glass jar, you can see that what is actually happening is that the brine is getting pushed out due to the trapped carbon dioxide (CO2); this is called a "heave" or a "surge." You'll be able to see the air pockets in the ferment where the brine used to be. If you are using an open fermentation method, it is critical that you press on your ferment to release the air and allow the brine to sink back down, submerging the vegetables.
Though crocks, jars, and other open vessels work great, many people prefer not to deal with the yeasts and molds that can take up residence on that exposed top layer of brine — hence the invention of "closed" systems and airlock systems that let the CO2 push the oxygen out and don't allow new air back in. (Getting the oxygen out of the picture also helps retain the color of your ferment because it can't oxidize.) The first of these inventions was the water-seal crock, which has a moat in the rim that holds a bit of water and the lid; air can bubble up and escape but can't come back in. Many of the systems you will see still use water as the seal, including jar lids with the traditional brewer's airlock. The Ferment'n cap is essentially the same idea but has been redesigned to be less unwieldy on the counter and comes with a weight to keep your ferment under the brine. Kraut Source designed a trough system not unlike the water-seal crock; the stainless steel lid has a moat and a plunger to hold the ferment down.
Also gaining popularity are the waterless "one-way valves" or "expansion valves," which release air only when the pressure has built up enough to open the valve in one direction. The Pickle Pipe and the Sterilock are examples of lids that function this way. However, we have found that a Weck jar also works on this principle: the lid and rubber gasket are held in place by clamps that have enough give to allow built-up pressure to break the seal; the gas escapes and then the lid immediately reseals.
Because the pockets that form in a ferment within a closed system are generally just CO2 and not oxygen, it is less crucial to press down on the ferment to eliminate them as you do with an open system. That said, the flavor can still be affected if the vegetables are not completely submerged in brine, so it is best to press everything back down regardless of the system.
As far as equipment goes, the simplest closed system is a jar with a lid. You pack your jar with the ferment (or, in the case of brine pickles, pour in the brine), leave an inch or so of headspace, and screw the lid down tightly. This does not allow the CO2 to escape on its own, though, so you have to burp your jar manually during the fermentation process so that the CO2 molecules have someplace to go. When the pressure is released and those molecules shake free, you actually get a burst of energy in the form of a fizzing sound as the millions of CO2 molecules rush to get out the door. If you burp your jar regularly you will simply hear a hiss with the release. If you wait too long, you may have quite an eruption. Do you remember shaking a soda can as a kid? Same idea.
Remember, however, that not all ferments are made alike. Some will require more frequent burping — one or two times a day — while others may require little or none.
Fermentation works in many environments, which is part of what makes it so incredible. New choices in small home fermentation systems continue to appear on the market. In the chartwe look at various kinds to help you understand how each system works and decide which one is right for you.
The instructions in this book assume you are using a basic jar method, but you can use any vessel or lid type you like, as long as you follow the instructions for that system.
Babysitting Small-Batch Ferments
Most of the recipes within these pages have mighty flavor and therefore are made in small quantities and require special attention during the fermentation, or curing, time. Let's just say they need babysitting. Because small-batch ferments have less brine, it is often impossible to weight them down enough to keep the CO2 from creating air pockets. And remember, this whole thing needs to stay anaerobic. (Some of the new jar lid systems can help.) To keep your ferment covered in brine, you will find yourself pressing gently on it or the weight often — even daily.
Slicing, Shredding, Chopping, Grating, and More
Vegetable fermentation depends on brine, and in most ferments this brine is created by breaking down the cell structure of the veggie and drawing out its water with salt. This requires slicing, shredding, chopping, and grating. Here are some helpful tools and gadgets.
CUTTING BOARD AND KNIFE
Don't underestimate how much can be done with a roomy cutting board and a few good-quality sharp knives. We do most everything with an 8-inch chef's knife. It's perfect for general chopping, slicing, dicing, and mincing.
Many of the recipes in this book call for finely grated ingredients. We have found a microplane grater/zester to be invaluable for ginger, turmeric, and galangal root, as well as for garlic and citrus peels. For larger pieces, regular tower hand graters and slicers can be useful.
Mandoline slicers have a series of intimidating super-sharp blades. However, most come with a hand guard that, when used properly, makes them safer to use than a knife. If you have a mandoline without a hand guard, find a sturdy slash-resistant glove, available in kitchen stores.
When processing peppers, you can end up in a whole lot of pain if you don't take precautions to keep the spicy capsaicin off your hands.
Spices are so much more flavorful when they are lightly toasted and freshly ground. (See our guide to getting the most flavor from spices.) A coffee grinder is a wonderful tool for turning your whole spices into a fine powder. For years we used the same one that we use for coffee, carefully wiping it out before and after each use, which worked well. (Worked well, that is, until our youngest son caught us — he believes that mustard or coriander in the coffee grinder is a kitchen foul. The next Christmas there was a new grinder under the tree, just for spices.)
Hand-operated vegetable choppers, also called onion choppers, are satisfying to use and can give you the same small chop as a food processor, which is handy when you are working with small amounts.
A blender is useful for the final step of turning your pepper pastes into smooth sauces.
A medium to large, fine-mesh, stainless steel strainer is important because some of the pastes have pepper skins that won't fully break down in a blender. You'll want a good-quality one, because it is going to take some abuse as you press the mashes through it.
MORTAR AND PESTLE
Thai pepper pastes, Indian chutneys and spice mixes, Indonesian sambals, Mexican salsas and moles, Andean hot sauces like Bolivian llajwa — all are traditionally made by grinding the spices and other ingredients between two stones. Whether you call it a mortar and pestle, molcajete y tejolote, or any other name, this tool was the first food processor. You can find mortars and pestles in a variety of textures and materials. Molcajetes are often made of porous basalt stone, and you must season a new one to fill in some of the gaps. Do this by grinding something like rice in it and then wiping it out with a dry towel.
For many of the recipes in the book, we find a food processor to be invaluable for finely chopping the ingredients that become pastes and sauces.
A small funnel is very handy for getting your newly created hot sauce into a hot sauce bottle.
SILICONE LID LINERS
These lid liners by Mason Jar Lifestyle are a great new find for preventing corrosion to your metal lids from salt and acid. We have even used them without the lid, clamped down by the ring. They also fit under Ball plastic storage caps, making them leak-proof.
Some of the fermentation systems we talk about use weights; some do not. We, personally, like weights. You can get thick, heavy rounds of pottery or glass that fit right inside a canning jar. If we were to choose one luxury to invest in for simple jar fermenting, it would probably be some easy-to-use weights. In crocks, weights are not optional but a required part of the set-up.
Salt is pretty great. How cool is it that a little salt can preserve fresh vegetables, vitamins intact, for months or even years? This mineral is also important for flavor and for the health of our bodies. Our ancestors went to great lengths to get salt as well as many spices. In fact, some of the earliest armies marched across landscapes far from home just to be paid in salt (the word salary actually comes from the word for salt). There were times when salt was only for the aristocracy — ironic, considering that with the industrialization of salt mining and food systems, it now dominates our cheapest processed foods.
The first purpose of salt in fermentation is to give the lactic-acid bacteria the advantage they need over the forces that rot. Salt isn't the preservative — the acid created by fermentation is what keeps everything safe (that's right, there's no benefit to tossing in a little extra salt for good measure). However, a correct saline environment, while not inhibiting the lactobacilli, makes it uncomfortable for many other kinds of bacteria to set up housekeeping and reproduce. Salt also affects the cells of vegetables. It hardens the pectins (keeping the veggies crisp) and draws out the vegetable's water, which becomes the brine.
Salt inhibits the yeasts that break down sugars into alcohol (not the yummy kind) instead of lactic acid. A mere 0.8 percent ratio of salt weight to vegetable weight will prevent the type of decomposition you don't want. Standard ferments use anywhere from 1.5 to 3 percent, and sometimes more for commercial products. The recipes in this book tend to stay in the 1.5 to 2 percent range.
Another purpose of the salt is to keep fermentation moving along at a steady rate by slowing it down a bit. This can be particularly important when fermenting in hot climates, to keep the process and the flavors in check. If you live in a warm environment (and it is warm inside as well as out), you may have to add a bit more salt, bringing the ratio up to 2 to 3 percent by weight.
We prefer to use natural salts with trace minerals and lower sodium chloride content, such as Redmond Real Salt, a fine rock salt, or the gray Celtic sea salts. But as long as you stay away from salts with additives (most notably table salt and kosher pickling salt), any choice is acceptable.
We have always told folks to add salt slowly and taste often to avoid an oversalted ferment. Oversalting can happen so quickly and is often a new kraut maker's first fail (oh, the disappointment!). We stand by that advice, but with the powerful little condiments in this book, you may not be able to taste the subtleties of the salt over the heat. Therefore, it is not crucial that you taste for the salt. Condiments are potent and less overwhelmed by salt, and since they are used to enhance flavor, they are saltier by nature. Also, because of the bold flavor of the ingredients in most of the recipes, the measurements tend to be more precise than "one head of cabbage," which leaves less wiggle room when it comes to salt. In sum, just go ahead and use the amount of salt called for in these recipes.
Can I Use Iodized Salts?
In refined salt, the amount of added iodine can be up to 300 percent more than the amount that occurs naturally in unrefined salt. Because iodine is antimicrobial, it is possible that using salt with added iodine could inhibit fermentation and cause discoloration. For this reason, we avoid using iodized salt in our ferments. We have never had a problem with natural salts containing trace amounts of naturally occurring iodine.
Some of the recipes in this book call for water — specifically, unchlorinated water. Be sure that it is, in fact, unchlorinated, as chlorine can inhibit fermentation.
The advice for removing chlorine from water used to be to let the water sit out overnight, or to boil it, which would cause chlorine to dissipate. You could also use a simple charcoal filter on your tap or in a pitcher system. However, increasingly, municipal water systems are using a combination of chlorine and ammonia, called chloramine, that does not evaporate and is not removed by simple charcoal filters. To remove chloramine from water requires a more comprehensive system that uses first a carbon filter to remove the chlorine in the chloramine molecule and then a reverse-osmosis filter to remove the remaining ammonia.
Time and Temperature
Unlike so many of the culinary arts in which timing is clear — bake at 350°F for 30 minutes, simmer for 2 hours, marinate for 1 hour, chill for 45 minutes — fermentation calls for a murky zone of whatever timing is right for your conditions. If your home is warm, the ferment will go faster than the recipes indicate; if you live in a tropical climate where it is mostly too warm, you have to come up with strategies to keep your ferment cooler (like adding more salt and sticking the ferment in a cooler with rotating ice packs). Conversely, if your home is in the frigid north, perhaps you can hardly keep the bacteria awake (boy, do you need hot sauce!).
Excerpted from "Fiery Ferments"
Copyright © 2017 Kirsten Shockey and Christopher Shockey.
Excerpted by permission of Storey Publishing.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Foreword by Darra Goldstein IntroductionPart 1: Getting Started 1 Tools and Tips 2 Master the Techniques 3 The Hot Stuff: Your IngredientsPart 2: Fiery Ferments 4 Spicy Pre-Chile Recipes 5 Sauces 6 Salsas, Relishes, and Chutneys ... Oh My! 7 Flavor Pastes 8 Kimchis and Fermented Salads 9 Hot PicklesPart 3: On the Plate 10 Blazing Plates 11 Spirited Sips and Racy Desserts Fermentation Doctor Acknowledgments Index