Tuesday, March 22, 2005

A crock of...

Last week

Nice weather last week, and I celebrated by walking to/from work, instead of taking the bus. I haven't really done any exercise since the weather turned wet in the fall, so my body needs this.

I stopped at the Uwajimaya to look at fermenting stuff. What a find. They have all kinds of asian vegetables that will be great for fermenting. Kimchi goes on the todo list.

They also have raw fish for making sashimi. I bought a 1oz strip of tuna (only $26 / pound!) and ate it on the walk home. It feels really odd to be gnawing on a strip of raw flesh while walking in the suburbs. I’m sure I’ll get used to it…

There’s always a small risk of getting sick from eating raw food. If it’s clean, fresh, and carefully prepared, and your body is health, the risk is pretty small. Just to be on the safe side, I drank a tall glass of Kefir when I got home. (The good bacteria in the Kefir will compete with any bad bacteria elsewhere.)


Saturday we went to a super-thrift-store. It's an odd beast, the cross between a Walmart and a flea market. You never know what you'll find, and it will take a couple hours to really browse the whole store.

Since I got in to fermenting, I've been looking for ceramic crocks. I prefer to keep live foods in ceramic or glass, avoiding plastic and metal. But I hadn't found a real crock until now. Most of what google finds are small and decorative, not for cooking. I did find that the Harsch fermenting crock starts at only $110!

So I was excited to see crocks at the thrift store. They had at least 8, for under $10 each. Jackpot! I bought 3. They didn't even charge for all the dust that had collected in them!

I also picked up a set of 4 glass plates to use as lids, a meat pounder, and an old-fashioned hand blender.

We then went to the local gourmet natural grocery store. It's expensive, but because of St. Patrick's Day they had organic cabbage on sale for $0.79 / pound. I bought 4 cabbages to supplement that cabbage that was already in the fridge.

At home, I thoroughly washed all the new stuff & cleaned the kitchen. Then I cut up 3 heads of cabbage for sauerkraut. I salted as I went, loaded it into a crock a bit at a time, and beat the crap out of it. The idea is to pack it down enough that the juices come out of the cabbage & cover it. This will keep mold and aerobic bacteria from growing on the cabbage. (The salt also helps, keeping the bad bacteria from growing, only allowing Lactobacillus to grow).

While pushing down pretty hard with my fist, some cabbage slipped & I twisted my wrist. It hurt, but wasn’t strained. 10 minutes later I did it again. (2 days later, one of the muscles in my forearm is sore, but I’m ok.) I did break the crock, however. A crack down one side & across the bottom. Oh, well. For $6, I can let it go.

We had been low on milk for a while, so I paused the kefir production by putting it in the fridge. We bought 5 bottles of milk (1/2 gallon each) at the store. This milk is really tasty, and non-homogenized.

I used 1 quart to start a new batch of yogurt. Left it sitting in the oven with the light on overnight.

Kefir grains go dormant if they sit in the fridge too long, so I brought out all of my grains, even the backup grains I was keeping. I used them to start 5 batches of Kefir in various jars. I figured I had run up a “kefir debt”, and needed to pay it off.

The kefir I strained that night was mixed with flour for fermented pancakes. Combine 1 cup flour & 1 cup kefir. Let sit 7-24 hours, to predigest the wheat. Use in your regular pancake recipe.

I finished at 1:30am, too tired to make the other 2 heads of cabbage in to anything.


Sunday afternoon we stopped at Uwajimaya to get dinner. I bought supplies for miso (a tub of raw miso, koji, soy beans). I also picked up two 8oz strips of raw tuna. One I cut up and dipped in soy sauce to eat. Yum! The whole family liked it.

I brought out some of the just-decanted sauerkraut from last week. My wife says she likes it, which is wonderful. My son isn’t so interested, however.

I took a bunch of the freshly-made yogurt & hung it up to drain. I had a few false starts, where it just poured straight through the cheesecloth. Ended up using a linen napkin. The result could be called cream cheese, but we call it lebne. It’s awesome spread on bread.

After dinner I prepared 8 tomatoes for salsa. We also had a box of cherry tomatoes that I halved. Add to that 8 or so sweet chilis – the flavor of red, yellow, and green bell peppers, but they look more like a hot chili pepper. Then 4 small hot chilis. Ideally I would blanch, peel, seed, and dice them all. But I just didn’t have the energy, so I just diced them. I split into two batches – the hot chilis + 1 head of garlic, diced went into only one batch, since my son doesn’t like spicy food. Add whey from the lebne, salt, oregano, and lime juice. (Wanted to add onion, but didn’t have any). This is packed in to a jar & is currently sitting on the counter. My instructions say 3 days, but I’m tempted to go longer.


Work day today, not as much time or energy to ferment stuff. Walked home and picked up a strip of yellowtail from Uwajimaya. Wasn’t as nice to eat as the other fishes. Salmon was my favorite, but they add artificial color.

Came up with a big list of things to make tonight. There’s 2 heads of cabbage for sauerkraut, kefir to strain, the other strip of tuna from last night (to ferment), Arabic bread to go with the lebne, a “ginger bug”, a wild sourdough starter. Not enough time for all of it.

I found that the koji had been sitting unrefrigerated. I’m thinking that 24 hours isn’t a problem. But since my miso will probably take 18 months, I don’t want to take any chances.

The kitchen was a mess (which is fine) but the dishwasher was full of dirty dishes. Can’t do much with that. Started it up, but it takes so long that I can’t reload tonight.

Found that the yeast in the fridge was 3 months past the “use by” date. There’s a way to test the yeast for activity, but I’ll need to look that up first.

The series of disappointments put my in a crappy mood, so I did the minimum & got out of there. Kefir & fish. Chilling out in front of the PC with a fresh kefir in hand.

It’s 1am now. Should I go back to the kitchen, or call it a night?

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