"United we bargain, divided we beg."

Sunday, September 11, 2011

The Fermentation Files (Daikon Kim chee and Grape Leaves)

There is a reason I haven't been posting much lately, but I don't care to go into it. Suffice it to say that I have a frustrating, time consuming, but in no way life-and-death situation which is sucking up a lot of my brainpower. Hopefully, this situation will resolve itself one way or the other soon, and life can get back to normal.

In the meantime, Preserving Season waits for no woman. The Great Trade I was going on about last week (Mother of All Trades (?) and Trade Network Update) has morphed into the Pretty Good Trade, but I'm happy about it. Basically, it's a crate of produce, and I get to fill it however I want. That crate isn't here yet, but there is still lots of vegetables coming in the door.

My sister passed me a bag full of daikon radishes and turnips. I like both of those sliced thinly and drizzled with lemon juice and salt, but not in those quantities. So I made kimchee. I have made kimchee a couple of times before, but only cabbage kimchee (detailed instruction can be found here:Kim Chee Situation (Food Storage Update)). Luckily, I save all my old Saveur magazines and I found the one with an enormous section all about kim chee. Basically, daikon kim chee is made the same way as cabbage kim chee, but with sugar added.

My other bonanza of the week was grape leaves. I love grape leaves, both for making dolmas and other wrapped foods (try wrapping fish in them), and also for their high tannin content. Adding grape leaves to kosher pickles will keep them crisp.

My daughter Rowan is babysitting this week for a friend who just so happens to have one of the most amazing small-homesteader type properties in the city of Bellingham, which is saying a lot. She is only renting the property, but whoever originally laid out the half acre did a fantastic job. There are some seven fruit trees - apples, plums, and cherries - sixteen blueberry bushes, a long row of raspberry canes, a truly impressive enormous asparagus bed, four 4x16 foot raised beds for annuals, and two gigantic grapevines.

These are the best grapevines I've seen in a home garden in this area, ever. Not sure of the varieties (alas) but both of them are covered in bunches of large grapes, which are just beginning to turn color and to soften. And did I mention they are huge? Each of them covers an arbor about twenty feet long by twelve or sixteen feet wide. And one of them has grown up into a large maple tree to a quite surprising height. Right away I asked if I could pick some leaves.

"My grapevines are your grapevines," said the gracious friend. So I filled a shopping bag. I decided to pickle them for use further on in the year. You CAN lacto-ferment grape leaves, but I decided to play it safe and vinegar pickle them. Here's how I did it:

Use a sharp knife or scissors to trim the grape leaves of their stems. Set aside leaves that are too small or ripped. You can use these in making fermented pickles, or feed them to your rabbits, if you have any. We do, and they loved them. This is a rather tedious task when you have a shopping bag full of leaves. The glass of wine you see in the middle helped out with that. Stack the leaves to be pickled with their stem-ends together.

Boil up your jars in a big kettle. When jars are sterilized, remove them to a clean towel. Take small stacks of grape leaves - about six or seven - and use tongs to dip them in the boiling water. Hold for about twenty seconds. They will wilt and turn brighter green.

Drain the leaves by holding them up and shaking them slightly. Roll the stack into a cigar shaped bundle and tuck into your sterilized quart jar (you may have to tuck one end under to make them fit). Each jar will fit about five of these bundles. Fill the jars with a basic brine (1/4 cup salt and 1 cup white vinegar to a half gallon of water), leaving 1/4 inch headroom. Add several twists of lemon peel, if desired. Place on sterilized lids and process in a water bath for fifteen minutes.

These make one of the prettier preserves. If I were making them for gifts I would use the quilted pint-sized jelly jars, the ones that always end up as water glasses in our house.


ladybean said...

Your grape leaves are so pretty! I have not been keeping up with food preservation this summer . . .
I have a question for you: what are your thoughts on canning vs. pickling a la sandor katz (wild fermentation)?

Aimee said...

I think there is a place for both. Over the last four years I have been learning more and more about food preservation, and I started with water bath canning. I still do a great deal of water bath canning every year - jams, bread and butter pickles, applesauce - and I'm sure I always will. But just in the last two years I have begun experimenting with fermentation, and I really like what I've done.

Sourdough starter! Kim chee! Sauerkraut! kosher pickles! The possibilites are nearly endless. One of the coolest things about wild fermentation is that it is the only form of preservation that actually increases the nutritional value of food, adding a wide spectrum of B vitamins.

I encourage you to try it. What's the worst that happen? I'll tell you - mold.

Aimee said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
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