Saturday, March 6, 2010

Bridging the Seasons with Lactofermentation

This is the time of year that lactofermented vegetables really taste good to us. The only fresh local veggies are stored, and not too many different kinds: potatoes, onions, turnips, rutabagas, carrots, cabbage, garlic, beets, radishes. But we can have fresh cucumbers, green beans, zucchini, salsa, and many more from our lactofermentation jars. They're great on salads or as a side dish. And they have a lot of health benefits as probiotics.

I have posted an introductory paper I wrote on lactofermentation. Check under Blogs and Websites on the right side.

Lsctofermentation does not require high technology. I use half-gallon glass jars, but you could also use crocks. You need high quality veggies, herbs and spices, and salt. They keep for months, up to a year. If you didn't have refrigeration, they would keep well in a non-freezing but cool place, which should be readily available in temperate climates. Lactoferments go back thousands of years in human cultures.

Today I want to celebrate what we've been eating.

1. Lacto Cucumbers. Think pickle barrel dills. The juice is wonderful too, in salad dressings, deviled eggs, and anywhere you want a flavorful tartness.

2. Sauerkraut. Sauerkraut is great raw as a side dish, or baked as a bed under local pork sausage.

3. Dilly Beans. This year I used wax beans, which work just as well as green. They have a lovely gold color. We're on our second half-gallon.

4. Kim Chee. Yes, you can make your own, at a low cost relative to the very pricey bubbly jars you buy at the natural groceries. I just opened the first of our two jars. Wow! The ginger, garlic and chilis add a real wake-up note to bland winter meals.

5. Tomato salsa. It's great to have a real fresh salsa in the middle of the winter from August tomatoes, onions, peppers and cilantro.

That's what I made this year. Additionally, I get pint jars in my winter CSA shares. This year we got:

6. Pickled beets. Sweet and sour. Nice in chopped winter salads, or as a side dish.

7. Zucchini, onion, and Napa. Nice and tart.

8. Another Kim Chee: a little different flavor, also delicious.

9. Carrot and daikon, sliced.

10. Turnip, onion and chilis. Another Asian-flavored pickle.

That should pep up a tired palate.

You can still make some lactoferments if you have storage roots in good condition. Don't try to use dried-out, shriveled or moldy veggies; they should go into the compost.

And plan to put up some of summer's bounty of fresh beans, tomatoes, cucumbers, summer squash, and other delights, when the season comes.