My mom made sauerkraut when I was a kid, and it was good. But during the years I lived in Nepal, I discovered a fermented world that went beyond cabbage – daikon radishes, bamboo shoots, gundruk, amla, green mango, lemons. And these new culinary delights included lots of spice.
I now look first to fermentation when trying to preserve my garden abundance. I’ll admit the method appeals to my laziness. I don’t enjoy spending hours sweating over boiling pots in late summer heat. But I also worry about what so much heat does to the food. And I know that all my work will yield vegetables that often loose their distinctive flavors and end up tasting like the vinegar I drown then in.
I prefer the tang of natural fermentation and draw on culinary traditions form around the world to achieve it (for more details, see resources below). This summer, I’ve brewed radishes into Nepali pickles and kakdooki (the all radish version of Korean kim chee). Based on old European recipes, I’ve also brined half-ripe cherry tomatoes and fermented tomato juice (a great addition to soup). My happiest discovery for preserving tomatoes is lacto-fermented salsa. It’s so much better than vinegary canned versions. We’ve almost finished our first gallon and have a second beginning to bubble.
I do have moments when I long for pantry shelves stocked with pretty little jars of sterilized garden color. My odd assortment of jars filled with rotting vegetables won’t win me any domestic diva awards. But when I’m looking for taste, I’ll take a good ferment over beauty any day.
My Current Favorite Pickle Book:
Linda Ziedrich gives clear directions for making pickles from around the world, including many fermented or refrigerated ones. The kakdooki recipe I used is delectable. Her boiling water methods look better than many I’ve seen (though I haven’t tried them). They tend to rely on cider or wine vinegars rather than the harsh distilled white vinegar. The author also provides ideas for interesting variations.
Preserving Food Without Freezing or Canning by the Gardeners and Farmers of Terre Vivante. This small book has lots of interesting ideas, such as the fermented tomato juice that’s been spiking our soup stock. But the directions are pretty vague.
Wild Fermentation by Sandor Katz. I just bought this one and am eager to try it out. Based on his own experiences living with HIV/AIDS, the author makes strong claims for the health benefits of naturally fermented foods.
Food-Nepal and Nepali Cooking have recipes for fermented radish pickle. I’ve tasted many different version of these and usually add roasted and ground cumin, coriander, fenugreek, chili pepper to mine. Spice them to your own taste.
Lacto-Fermented Salsa Recipe. I increased the number of chili peppers (a common theme in my cooking) and added garlic too.
The Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) offers a technical report on fermented foods from around the world.
Cross-posted at Yips and Howls and included in Fight Back Friday at Food Renegade for September 18.
What’s your favorite Nepali pickle? Feel free to comment and share recipes.