Prodded by two amazing women who are committed to eating 100% local foods for a year, I decided to start experimenting along those lines. They were hosting a locavore (love that word) potluck and I needed to come up with something tasty to share. Here’s what I came up with.
One of my favorite things about summer are visits to the bountiful farmers markets, so I started off there and picked up some lovely vegetables, all organic and produced in our county: napa cabbage, carrots, red radishes, jalapeños and garlic. I also raided a friend’s garden for a beautiful onion. The tricky part is that 100% really means 100% and I needed to come up with some salt. Luckily I live on the Pacific Ocean coast so I just needed to find a little of nature’s alchemy in action to transmute all that visual beauty into salt. Off I went to a rocky part of the coast to search above the high tide line and within a couple of minutes found some evaporated pools where I collected a nice small bag full of sea salt crystals. The salt forms in sheets, like thin white ice. I’m also trying out fermenting with actual seawater, but those are still “cooking” so I’ll write about that in a future post.
Before I share my recipe here, I just want to add that I’ll be heading to the Farm to Fermentation festival in Santa Rosa tomorrow to meet other “cultured” friends and see what I can learn.
Update: here’s my post on the Farm to Fermentation festival.
Preparation Time: 20 minutes
Fermentation time: 5 days+ preferably about 10 days – 2 weeks
Yield: 2 quarts
3 tablespoons local sea salt dissolved in 4 cups water (I briefly simmered the salt in a little water just in case there were critters living on the wild-harvested salt)
- rinse and gently clean the vegetables.
- Slice the cabbage into ribbons about 3/8″ wide
- Cut the carrots into slices about 1/16″ thick x 1 1/2″ long x 1/2″ high
- Cut the radishes into small disks, about 1/8″ thick
- Dissolve the salt into the water to make a brine
- Place the cabbage, carrots, and radishes in a large vessel (jar or bowl) and pour in the brine.
- Compress the vegetables until the liquid covers the vegetables completely. It shouldn’t take too long for the salty brine to leach additional liquid from the vegetables to bring the liquid level sufficiently high.
- Let it sit in the brine for a 2-4 hours or overnight if you wish
- Pour the vegetables into a colander to drain but retain the brine in case it’s needed later
- Finely dice the jalapeno, onion, garlic. I’d have loved to have ginger too but local ginger is not common here.
- In a large bowl, mix the diced jalapeno, onion and garlic with the drained vegetables and toss
- Place everything in a wide-mouth glass jar or other fermenting vessel. Put some pressure on it with your fist to encourage compaction and to get the liquid level to rise higher.
- Place a weight of some sort on the veggies to keep pressure on them and to encourage the liquid level to rise above the veggies. I’ve started using a clear plastic produce bag with about 1 quart of water in it as a weight. It’s important when sealing the bag to leave some looseness in the bag rather than filling it tightly with air. The looseness will allow the bag to settle and conform to the shape of the fermenting vessel, thus making a perfect seal which keeps air out but allows gasses to escape. I’ve also used 1/2 gallon bottles filled with water as a weight too.
- Cover with a towel
- Let it sit for 7-14 days tasting regularly as you go to get a feel for how the flavor changes. You should see bubbles formingif it’s a good healthy active ferment. Since the potluck was only 5 days after the farmers market, mine only fermented for 5 days but it was still quite tasty and well received.
- Refrigerate when you like it in order to significantly slow the fermentation
One of the greatest benefits of eating locally is that we become much more interconnected to others as food sources begin to have relationships associated with them – this farmer for that produce, that farmer for this, this person for butter, that person for the salt pool maps, etc. I’ve been living in a sweet cottage on an old farmstead this summer while working on a book project and it’s been a joy to move through the bounty of cherries, on to plums and blackberries, and shortly into a bevy of apples, pears and huckleberries. It’s nice, especially for this city-boy transplant, to get more connected to my community, this earth, and their generosities.