I love our weekly delivery of local fruits and vegetables from Saanich Organics, through their box program. As a consumer, I love that it’s an easy way to access healthy food… And I appreciate being able to support regional agriculture and contribute to the both the environmental and economic health of my community. I’m also a former employee of a couple of the farms involved, so I know from first hand experience that I’m buying high quality produce.
What don’t I like about receiving the box? Well, the way it works, I get what I get (and I don’t get upset). And frankly, I just am not a huge fan of some veg. I’ll eat them anyway, because most things can taste okay when roasted with a bit of olive oil, salt, and garlic (or scape salt!)… But would likely never go out of my way to buy endive or escarole.
Or, for that matter, fennel.
So sometimes, there are bits that linger in the fridge for a week or three. And if more of that vegetable shows up in the next box, it joins its friends, and eventually I have four wilting fennel bulbs.
What to do? Fermentation experimentation, of course! I liked the look of the first recipe that I found when searching online for what others have done with fermenting fennel, from MoonBrine Pickles in Portland, Oregon… So that’s what I’ve played with here. I didn’t have any celery or “nice” onions, but this pickle still tasted great when I was mixing it up… I can’t wait to see how it is in several weeks.
Fermented Fennel and Lemon Pickle
yields ~ 1.5 litres
473 g fennel bulbs (I had 2 small, 2 tiny)
273 g onion (1 medium)
1 lemon (medium, organic)
5 small garlic cloves
230 g carrots (3 medium)
1 tbsp black peppercorns
50 g coarse pickling salt*
approx. 2 cups water
Thinly slice the fennel, onion, lemon, and garlic. For the carrot, I decided to try out the wavy blade on a kitchen tool my parents brought me back from Vietnam; you could just thinly slice that too.
Add the salt and stir to combine. You’ll see that the salt dissolves a bit, and pulls juices out of the vegetables… Neat!
Pack loosely into a large jar or crock. I’m using a 1.9 L wide mouth canning jar.
Add water just to cover, put a solid lid on jar, and shake to distribute water and help the remaining salt to dissolve to make the brine. Turn upright and tap jar gently on a surface so that the vegetables settle.
Replace solid lid with airlock lid, or follow your preferred fermentation set-up.
I ended up needing 2 cups of water; you may need more or less, to ensure your vegetables are submerged. This isn’t as crucial if you’re using an airlock lid or fermenting in a Fido-style container, as the jar is sealed from outside bacteria/yeasts/air. However, if you’re doing a open ferment (ie. not sealed), it’s crucial you have enough brine so that when you add a weight, the vegetables are submerged below the surface.
Let ferment at room temperature for a few weeks. It’s pretty cold in my house most the time right now, so I’ll probably taste this in 3 weeks.
* I weighed all the vegetables and it came to around 1000 g. As I’ve problems with lemons turning mouldy in the past, I decided I’d like a stronger salt brine than I usually use, and went with 5%. Multiplying 1000 g by 0.05 gives me 50g of salt… And when I used a teaspoon to measure this out onto the scale, it turned out to be 8 teaspoons, which is exactly what the original MoonBrine recipe called for! Go figure.
This is the jar that I topped with a thick layer of salt, which has turned into a crust; the other jar has instead a smaller jar tucked inside the lid, pushing down on the miso. I have yet to open that one, but it looks much the same as this.
I noticed a strange slimy film sort of growth on the surface of the carrots… And opened it today to check it out:
So, lesson learned: Carrots plus lemon plus salt isn’t the yummy idea I thought it’d be… Or if it is, I did it wrong! Glad I only tried this out with a micro-batch; the compost will do well with this donation of some extra active bacteria.
Look at the layers in this head of red cabbage! Like contour lines on a map… So perfect… Almost as perfect as a good kraut!
Micro-Batch Mustard Ruby Kraut
2 Cups finely sliced red cabbage (I used about 1⁄8 of a head)
1 teaspoon pickling salt
1 teaspoon red mustard seeds
A few splashes of dechlorinated water
Now THAT is some kahm yeast! And a lesson learned: Do not open and stir a ferment that is otherwise quite happy…
It is pretty, though. Love the 3D outlines of those bubbles.
(These are dill pickle slices; I had removed the airlock lid from this jar last week to taste the pickles and photograph them, giving it all a good stir in the process. After I took this photo today, above, I skimmed off the yeast and removed the yeastiest of the slices, then re-packaged the rest of the pickles into small clean sealed jars and tucked them into the cold cellar. The yeastiest of slices I rinsed off and ate with dinner; they tasted great! And yes, yeastiest is a word.)
I’m usually pretty minimalist when it comes to my food preserving tools… My favourites are multipurpose. That’s why I ferment in canning jars instead of crocks or Fidos: I already have many (many, many, many) canning jars, and would prefer to diversify their utility rather than add more stuff to my small home.
Having said that… Sometimes, something comes along that’s useful, and while it may not be totally necessary, it sure is cute!
What I’m talking about are these chalkboard label stickers: I love the way they look on my jars of active ferments.
Now, I’m big on labeling all my preserves… I like to put the date, the type of food, and perhaps even the name of the recipe or batch #, on every jar (or bag) of jam, jelly, sauce, chutney, pickle, dried/frozen fruit or vegetable, fruit leather, soup, etc. that fills my cold storage and freezer. This is important for maintaining quality and ensuring I eat the oldest things first, and also for keeping track of the odd product that really didn’t quite work out (I’m looking at you, inexplicably moldy pickled beets!).
It used to be I’d take a sharpie (permanent marker) to each jar or bag, and just write on the glass or plastic. Then I found a self-inking custom text printing kit at a thrift store, and began using that to stamp out all my labels (and, incidentally, my wedding invitations). For fermentation experiments, however, I was still just writing on the jars with a marker. Until! Until I saw these stickers, and was smitten. They’re large enough to scrawl on the name of the ferment and the date, easy to wipe off when the fermenting is done, and so far seem to fair well in being carefully peeled off and re-applied to a new jar when necessary.
And… They really are cute, aren’t they?