pickles

Making beet-kraut

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Packing jars full of delicious beet-kraut
Packing jars full of delicious beet-kraut

It’s a well-understood phenomena of growing your own vegetables that you’ll inevitably end up with gluts of produce throughout the year. This season, it was beetroots.

The small ones we baked in the oven with olive oil and thyme, but that still left us with some monster beetroots.

The book Fermented Vegetables provided an easy solution. Organised by vegetable, this great book provides a heap of basic (and more exotic) ways of fermenting, plus recipes that make use of the results.

In this case, I created a straightforward “beet-kraut”. Four big beetroots were grated in minutes, using my food processor. To that, I added half a red cabbage, to introduce the vital lactic acid bacteria.

Combined with a small amount of salt, the bright red mix was packed into tall Mason jars, with airlocks. As the bacteria bubble away they produce carbon dioxide, which forces the air out of the airlock, keeping the vegetables protected against moulds.

About a month later, I decanted the vegetable mix into smaller jars, for final storage in the fridge.

The end result has a sharp sauerkraut hit at the front of the palette, finishing with a strong lingering taste of fresh beetroot. Delicious!

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Fermented chilli and garlic paste

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One jar of chilli and garlic, ready to be fermented for a full month.
One jar of chilli and garlic, ready to be fermented for a full month.

If there’s one challenge about chilli plants it’s how abundant they are. A single plant can produce 100+ chillis, easily overwhelming the capacity of our household, all our friends, and fellow workmates.

The obvious solution is to preserve the chillis, so they can be used throughout the rest of the year.

Following my first fermented vegetables, I took the plunge, and created a jar of fermented chilli and garlic.

Just a few of the chillies our one plant has produced.
Just a few of the chillies our one plant has produced.

Wearing gloves, I finely diced approx. 275g of chillis and garlic. I measured out 2% salt, and then crushed the lot by hand until the liquid started to come out.

Finely chopped, ready to be crushed by hand (wearing gloves!).
Finely chopped, ready to be crushed by hand (wearing gloves!).

Unlike the previous quick pickle, Sandor Katz recommended fermenting it for a full month, before storing in the fridge. Which we did.

The result is a single jar, shown above, of serious chilli-ness! It’s very hot indeed, and should keep our stir-fries and other meals lively for at least a full year…

 

My first fermented pickle

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Two jars of pickles - ready to eat!
Two jars of pickles – ready to eat!

A few weeks ago I attended a workshop on fermenting vegetables, presented by Sandor Katz (organised by the always-wonderful Milkwood Permaculture).

This covered a range of different approaches to using lactic acid fermentation to preserve vegetables.

The first and simplest technique is the one that most took my fancy (it was also the one Sandor recommended the most).

It goes like this:

The food processor made light work of even hard vegetables.
The food processor made light work of even hard vegetables.

Start with a mix of hard vegetables, in our case:

  • beetroots (red and yellow)
  • daikon (white radish)

Slice them into small pieces, by hand or by food processor. With the slicer attachment of our food processor, this took mere minutes.

The vegetables, crushed by hand with salt.
The vegetables, crushed by hand with salt.

Put everything in a large bowl, and add salt to taste. (I tried 3% salt as a first test, but next time I’ll use a little less.)

Crush and squeeze it by hand, until as Sandor put it, “you can wring water out of a handful like you would out of a sponge”. This only took about 5mins of easy work.

Ready to ferment!
Ready to ferment!

Squeeze the vegetables into jars, and pack down until the water level rises above the vegetables.

Put the lids on, and then watch and wait! Because I was doing a very quick pickle, I didn’t worry too much about keeping air out (there are a heap of techniques for doing this).

Each day I checked the pickles, as well as getting Priscilla to taste test. After just 3 days, the vegetables were soft enough (and not too sour) for Priscilla’s taste. Into the fridge they go!

This is a super-simple preserving technique, and I’ll definitely be doing more of this.

Some footnotes for future reference:

  • 1kg of vegetables, which made approx 1L of pickles (as Sandor had predicted)
  • 3% of salt (use less next time, a bit too salty for our salt-reduced diet)
  • 3 days pickling

Summer crop of pickles and chutneys

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Our summer harvest, converted into jars of pickles and chutneys.
Our summer harvest, converted into jars of pickles and chutneys.

It’s been a hot summer in Sydney, with some much-needed rain after an extended dry period. So as usual, the summer glut of produce overwhelmed our immediate needs.

One of my favourite activities is converting what we grow into jars of pickles, chutneys and the like. This is what we produced this summer:

  • Australia Day chutney
  • cucumber relish (two ways)
  • pickled beetroot
  • pickled bur gherkins
  • pickled cherries (two ways)
  • tomato chilli pickle
  • tomato & onion relish
  • tomato passata
  • tomato & tamarind chutney

By my count, that’s 42 jars, not including the half-dozen we’ve already given away or used. That’s not bad considering that half of our main raised beds were attacked by roots, and therefore struggling to produce anything…

Pickled bur gherkins

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Fifty-five bur gherkins, all in a pile
Fifty-five bur gherkins, all in a pile

There is a great love in gherkins in the household, for adding to burgers and the like. So when I saw that Digger’s Club had seeds for “West Indian Gherkins”, I jumped at the chance.

The plants grew very vigorously, taking over a whole garden bed. But the fruit was odd to the say the least. Some head-scratching and Googling revealed that they weren’t the typical French gherkins, but something called a bur gherkin (also known as West Indian Gherkin or West Indian Gourd).

Native to Africa, these sure are strange looking things, and spiky to boot! Even odder, if you leave them too long on the vine, they suddenly grow out to become something that looks like a WWI grenade:

Oops, left some of the gherkins on the vine too long!
Oops, left some of the gherkins on the vine too long!

Apparently they taste and pickle just like a normal gherkin. So with 55 picked in a single session, we’ve prepared three jars of “Kosher Pickles”. We’re going to let them steep for a month or so, and then we’ll report back on the taste! 😉

Three jars of pickled bur gherkins
Three jars of pickled bur gherkins

PS. the keen-eyed reader will have spotted our new jar labels, with our brand-new Lewisham House logo. More on this in a future post, and we’ll get the logo added to the website when we have a chance.

Saving our tomatoes

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Some of our tomato-based produce

The warm, wet weather has meant a glut of tomatoes this summer. We’ve also had few fruit fly (although an invasion of moths and caterpillars). The result has been dozens of kilos of tomatoes, far more than we can eat.

This was, however, the plan. With the bounty of tomatoes, I filled many jars. The photo above is what’s left, after giving quite a lot of it away.

By my rough count, this is what we produced:

  • 13 x roast tomato pasatta
  • 8 x cherry tomato & onion relish
  • 5 x tomato chilli pickle
  • 1 x tomato ketchup
  • 1 x semi-dried tomato

Plus tomato soup, pasta sauce, and a dozen other recipes using fresh tomatoes. Oh, and I took piles into work to give to my staff…

Not bad out of 7 square metres of space (plus the jungle at the back).