Spring Cleaning

Sauerkraut Frittata garnished with chives and dandelion petals

     Every fermentista I know has a batch of kraut that languishes in the back of the refrigerator—the place where the orange marmalade jar (a gift from Aunt Zelda who visited Great Britain a few years ago), prickly pear pickles (she went to Arizona last year), and the unloved krauts reside. Sometimes the rotation in the back of the fridge is longer than anyone of us would care to admit and we don’t have to.

     So this kraut, stepchild that it is, is technically good—as in, it isn’t rotten.  It tastes fine, creamy even—as in too soft.

     We could go into the why is my kraut soft? But this post isn’t about the why. It is about solving the dilemma of a kraut that you don’t want to throw out and don’t want to eat. This is normal. Many of us get very attached to our batches of live food and we feel terrible, like we have let them down, by sending them into the compost pile.

     There is help. It is Springtime, time to purge the old krauts to make way for all the delicious fermentation that you will be doing with the spring vegetables that are bursting forth from the waking ground. While I have no tricks for the marmalade or cactus pickles, I can share some ideas for the soft kraut.

     Use soft textured krauts in dishes where a soft texture is appropriate and pleasing to the palate.  A scoop of the kraut cooked in a stew is one example.  Because eggs are also so abundant this time of year one idea is a frittata. (Should I admit there are 16 dozen duck and chicken eggs in our refrigerator as I write this?)

     A frittata is essentially a flat omelet that has the stuffing baked into it. It has the flamboyance of a quiche without the work or the gluten of the crust.

     The beauty of this recipe is that it can be varied easily just by changing the type of kraut. And it is important to say—this is delicious with perfectly crisp kraut as well. Please feel free to play with this recipe; change up the kraut flavors or the herbs.  For a richer dish, add smoked salmon or Italian sausage.

Sauerkraut Frittata

1 ½ cups raw sauerkraut, drained

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 medium onion, thinly sliced

6 eggs

pinch of salt and pepper

a scant ¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

3 cloves of garlic, minced

2 tablespoons butter

optional: 2 tablespoons parmesan cheese

     Preheat oven to 350ºF.

     Sauté the onion in 1 tablespoon of the olive oil until caramelized, set aside.

 

     Crack the eggs into a large mixing bowl.  Add salt and pepper, nutmeg, the second tablespoon of oil and the garlic. Beat lightly.

 

     Gently squeeze the kraut to remove most, but not all, of the liquid. Stir the kraut and the cooled caramelized onions into the egg mixture. This is also the point to add the optional salmon or sausage.

 

     Preheat a well-oiled 10-inch heavy skillet on medium-low heat.  Melt the butter in the skillet and pour in the egg-kraut mixture.  This will set the bottom nicely. Immediately transfer to the preheated oven.

 

     Bake 20 - 25 minutes or until set.

 

     Remove from oven and sprinkle optional parmesan on top.

 

Spring Tonic—Radish Fennel Ferment

Radish Fennel Ferment

 

     I wanted to come up with a recipe that welcomed Spring.  I desired a flavor that was cool and crisp just like the season. I fancied a ferment that was light—both in taste and in color. I imagined a pastel-colored ferment to compliment the light pink and white blossoms of early spring.

 

     I wanted to use radishes for two reasons. The first is that red radishes are quick growing in cool temperatures. They are one earliest available local vegetables in a temperate climate. The second is that radishes are a food we should be eating to help our bodies come out of winter. In Traditional Chinese Medicine radishes are a wonderful tonic for the liver and gall bladder. Radishes break up fat and phlegm, and regulate bile flow—in a sense consuming radishes get your juices going.

 

     I decided to keep this ferment unpretentious. I chose fresh fennel to combine with the radish. I thought the light aromatic flavor would compliment the more watery, spicy radish. Nutritionally, I also knew that fennel is great for digestion. Fennel is also rich in vitamin K2 which works in the circulation system by breaking up "debris" in blood vessels. Vitamin K2 is also important in your diet if you are taking oral vitamin D. Here is a link for more information on fennel and fermentation.

 

      This ferment is very simple. You can start it today and in 3 or 4 days you can enjoy it. It is tasty sprinkled on a green salad or alongside protein rich foods such as hard-boiled eggs.

 

 

 

Makes 1 pint

1 bunch small radishes, such as Cherry Belle or French Breakfast

1 medium fresh fennel bulb

1 ½ teaspoons salt

 

     Remove the stems and wash the radishes. Slice very thin, using the slicing blade on a hand grater or food processor. Place in a bowl. Cut the thick root end off the fennel bulb and also slice it as thinly as possible. Put this in the bowl with the radishes.  Chop any fennel frond and put it into the bowl as well. Save the thick fennel stocks for something else. Add the salt slowly. Massage it in and taste after about half the salt has been added. Keep adding the salt until you just taste it. You should be able to taste the salt, but the salt should not dominate the flavor.

 

     It will produce enough brine without much time or effort.  Press the mixture in a quart jar. Weight it down, making sure all the vegetables are under the brine. Allow to ripen for 3 – 4 days in a cool out of the way spot on your counter.

 

 

 

Fermenting Sweet Potatoes

Pressing sweet potatoes to create brine

     It was a simple question. My son asked, “Are these sweet potatoes or yams?”

      I confidently answered, “they are sweet potatoes.” My mind however was exhibiting some doubt; I visualized standing in the produce section in front of the sweet potato display—Jewell yams. I had brought home Jewell yams but I also knew I had identified Jewell yams, Garnet yams, Japanese sweet potatoes, and Beauregard, all as sweet potatoes. Uh-Oh, I thought, what is the difference? My first pass of “asking google” left me more confused than enlightened.  The important thing I came away with was that sweet potatoes and yams are not related botanically, the nutritional content is very different and that sweet potatoes are soft and sweet while yams are starchy.  I read posts that referred to the yam as white and the high beta-carotene content of the yellow and orange-fleshed sweet potato. This did not map to my experience in the grocery store. The tubers that were labeled as sweet potatoes had white flesh and the tubers labeled as yams had rich orange flesh.

     It was getting late; I am a morning person and I was realizing this was a bigger project. The next morning I went and talked to the produce manager. He told me about the orange-fleshed yams and the white or creamy-colored sweet potatoes.  I realized the confusion was bigger than my own. It was in the markets and marketing. 

     All my supposed “sweet potato” ferments had been with the orange-fleshed “yams” for no other reason than they are my personal favorite and the color is beautiful. I bought 10 pounds of a creamy pale variety of sweet potato thinking I had not even begun to try to ferment sweet potatoes.  I shared my confusion with Christopher; “I bought sweet potatoes for an emergency ferment."

     He said, “I wonder if the phrase ‘I bought sweet potatoes for an emergency ferment’ has ever been uttered in human history.”  I wasn’t sure he got the gravity of the situation.

     I went back to researching the difference, it turns out most tubers in the grocery stores in this country are indeed sweet potatoes even when labeled yams. I had been fermenting sweet potatoes along.  True yams are grown in Africa and in the Caribbean and very few ever end up in our US grocery stores—especially not in rural southern Oregon. If you happen to find a true yam you will not be confused. They are larger, they have rounded ends, their skin is tough—almost bark-like, and the flesh is sticky.

     So why all the confusion?

     I did learn there has been confusion for many years. Here is the beginning of the second chapter of a book written on sweet potatoes in 1896: “Since the little word “Yam” is the cause of great confusion in the nomenclature of sweet potatoes, especially in the Southern States, it may be well to give some space here to the discussion of the vegetable of which the word is more properly the name.  The word Yam…is of African origin and means “to eat” in several dialects…”

     It is believed that when orange-fleshed, softer-textured sweet potatoes were introduced in the southern United States, growers wanted to differentiate them from the more traditional, white-fleshed types.  The African word nyami was used by the slaves to describe the southern sweet potato as it reminded them of the starchy, edible root from lily family of plants that they knew from their homeland. It was adopted as yam for these softer sweet potatoes, which incidentally are in the morning glory family and most likely native to the Americas.

     Now that we know the difference let’s talk about fermenting them.

“Lactic-acid fermentation also has some other distinct advantages, e.g., the food becomes resistant to microbial spoilage and to development of toxins (Kalantzopoulos 1997). Sweet potato, in tropical regions, is consumed in the households of small farmers and poor people. Night blindness is a major physiological disorder among these people due to vitamin A deficiency, which can be alleviated by regular consumption of orange-flesh (b-carotene-rich) sweet potato either fresh, boiled and as lacto-pickles.”–S.H. PANDA, M. PARMANICK and R.C. RAY

 

     Sweet potatoes are considered the world’s seventh most important food crop. A study was done in India in 2006 to see if lactic acid sweet potato pickle would be viable for small-scale industries. They deemed lactic-acid fermentation as “an important technology” in developing nations. They were interested not only in the nutritional benefits but also the “hygienic” potential because it is a safe way to process food. The study concluded that sweet potatoes could be pickled and that the flavor was pleasing.

 

     We are going to say the flavor is more than pleasing. It is amazing.

 

     Use sweet potatoes as you would carrots. They respond and look quite similar in a ferment.

Sweet Potato Ferment

Makes 2 quarts

5 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced

1 medium onion, diced

1 green bell pepper, diced

5 cloves garlic, finely minced

3–4 dried tomatoes, thinly sliced

1 tablespoon fresh ginger root, grated

1 tablespoons whole coriander seeds

2 teaspoons cayenne powder

1–2 tablespoons salt

In this ferment there is no shredding. Instead we are slicing the sweet potatoes quite fine. This is best done with the slicer side of a grater or the slicing blade in your food processor.

Add the rest of the ingredients, then it is the same—salt and submerge.

Allow to ferment for about 2 weeks.

Creative Fermentation Technology

Mail Attachment.jpeg

Fermentation technology has adapted itself to social demands. During the survival food age, fermentation was used mainly for food preservation and condiments production. In the convenience food age, it was used for flavor production and other ingredients for industrial mass production of food. The 21st century is called the era of tailor made goods satisfying personal demands, and together with the health benefit demands, fermentation technology finds new challenges…

Creative Fermentation Technology for the Future, Cherl-Ho Lee
Graduate School of Biotechnology, Korea University

This quote speaks to a lot of what I have been thinking about fermentation, specifically vegetable fermentation, with its current coming-out an artisan food in its own right. I see these new challenges more aptly termed new opportunities, ones that stretch what we know about the behavior of vegetables with lactic-acid fermentation.  The new food artists – the fermentistas – are pushing the limits of this time-honored process by trying vegetables beyond cabbages, thereby unleashing flavors we didn’t know existed.

 

For some it's flu shots, for others kraut shots...

Briny Lemonade

Briny Lemonade

The brine from pickling shredded vegetables is pure vegetable juice. Remember, this liquid is achieved by shredding your vegetables, often cabbage, and through the further breaking down of the cells with salt and pressing. When these concentrated vegetable juices undergo fermentation they become a rich cloudy elixir containing not only the properties of the vegetable but an increase in vitamins C and B along with the additional beneficial bacteria (probiotics), enzymes, and minerals produced by the process. Kraut juice is also high in electrolytes. Folk remedies in many cultures have found healing in fermented vegetables and the resulting brines.

Brine was a precious commodity when we made small batches of kraut with only a tablespoon or so left over at the bottom of an empty jar, but when our kraut making became commercial, with 10-gallon batches of kraut or kimchi, we were faced with a huge surplus and very little space to store it. It seemed wrong to send it down the drain, so we purchased a couple dozen glass, USA-made shot glasses and took a few bottles of brine to market to see what would happen. Turns out people loved it and it became a mainstay. We happily made a dent in our surplus, 1.5 ounces at a time.

Christopher usually took on the job of bartender and identified four types of shot drinkers.

The Natives

Usually Eastern Europeans who grew up depending upon sauerkraut brine after a late night at the discos.  Given our market was on Saturday, we provided relief to more than a few.

The Drinkers

Often it would be the woman of a couple that ventured to taste the kraut, with the man hanging back just at the edge of the canopy, out of the sun but not close enough to commit to tasting anything.  Our small chalk written sign that read “Brine Shots $1” proved a siren’s song to these men, eventually pulling them in with a crumpled dollar bill in hand.

The Believers

Some folks do their homework and understand gut biota.  For them a shot of brine is an inoculation, a quick infusion of the healthy microbes. They were the  regulars, coming every Saturday and leaving a little lighter.

The Naughty Ones

There are people that want to knock back a shot glass in the middle of the street in the middle of a market. They would often giggle or make a dramatic play of it, convinced they were somehow being mischievous.

This blog is about flavor and the enjoyment of fermented foods, so if your first reaction is still–ick, yuck, no way, really? –or if you simply don’t like brine straight up, try making plain sauerkraut brine into “lemonade”.

Brine-ade

1 cup sauerkraut brine
3/4 – 1 cup unrefined sugar or honey
one whole lemon thinly sliced
1 cup warm water
3 – 4 cups cold water
optional variation: grate in a little bit of fresh ginger to taste

Make a simple syrup with 3/4 cup unrefined sugar or honey and 1 cup warm water. Mix until your sweetener is completely dissolved.

Place your syrup into a pitcher and add the sauerkraut brine, cold water and lemon slices. Give the lemon slices a twist to release some of the lemon juice as you are putting them into the pitcher. Add optional ginger at this point.

Let this sit for about a half hour to allow the flavors to mingle.

Serve over ice for a refreshing summer beverage, or serve room temperature for a cozy healing beverage.

Lastly if you are interested in some of the science behind cabbages and their anti-microbial and anti-fungal properties you might want to check these links out.

The Journal of Food Protection in September 2006 published a study that found that the juice from brassica oleracea leaves (members of the cabbage family) was effective in inhibiting the growth of Salmonella Enteritidis, verotoxigenic Escherichia coli O157:H7, E. coli HB producing thermolabile toxin, nontoxigenic E. coli, and Listeria monocytogenes.

Food Chemistry Toxicology published a study in October 2010, wherein researchers found that a “bio-converted product of cabbage” (fermented kraut brine) displayed potential anti-candida effects. It concluded that fermented cabbage juice (kraut brine) has potential therapeutic value of medicinal significance to control Candida species including clinical isolates.

The Year of the Ferment

“Last year, we canned. This year, we ferment." Bonnie Wolf told NPR listeners this morning as part of her commentary on what to expect on your plate in 2013. Kimchi and fermented vegetables are trending up.

We thought it would be fun to share some recipes that will put you ahead of the trend.  Whether you are going to a New Year's Eve cocktail party or you're simply staying at home playing games and munching on snacks while trying to stay up until midnight, these snacks and perhaps a "crocktail" will add fun to your evening.

 Pickle in a Blanket

Pickle in a Blanket

  • 3–4 whole fermented dill pickles, your own or a brand such as Bubbies
  • 2–3 oz chevre or cream cheese, room temperature
  • 3–4 slices of a naturally cured pastrami

Lay out the slices of pastrami (the blankets) on a cutting board. Spread a thin layer of chevre across one half of the pastrami.  Lay a pickle on the edge of each “blanket” and roll the pickle in it.  Slice into rounds.

Smokey Dates

This hors d’oeuvre speaks for itself.  Sweet, smoky, tangy!

  •  6 medjool dates
  •  Smokey kraut (plain kraut works nicely as well)
  •  Optional: 12 small thin slices of a flavorful aged hard cheese

Slice the dates lengthwise. Remove pit, if needed. If using cheese slice to fit inside the date. Stuff dates with cheese and top with kraut, first squeezing out any excess brine; otherwise omit the cheese and tuck a bit of kraut in each date.

Kimchi Mary

This is quite delicious, especially when made with a brine from a hot and spicy kimchi.

  • Kimchi brine
  • Fresh lemon
  • Vodka
  • Salt
  • Pickled  veggie skewer

Mix kimchi brine, juice of one lemon, vodka.

Rub lemon round rim of glass, then dip rim of glass in salt.  Pour in kimchi vodka mix.  Garnish with skewered fermented veggies.

 

 

Ignored Ferment--Surprises!

Fermented Eggplant Baba Ganoush

Fermented Eggplant Baba Ganoush

For the last year a two-quart jar has sat silently in our refrigerator–waiting. It has remained in its place while hands reached past it for many other jars of fermented vegetables; onions, peppers, kimchi, sauerkraut of all flavors. I am pretty sure nobody else in my family noticed it, even though two-quarts takes up a lot of real estate in our crammed refrigerator.  They all tend to look past unknown things in jars, as they are wary of their mother’s experiments. I would look at this ferment, a slightly grey color, and think "maybe tomorrow" as I reached for anything but the eggplant.

I have to admit, I had never even tasted the lacto-fermented eggplant. Last summer I peeled and sliced a small box of Japanese style eggplants, added basil leaf and salt. I let it ferment for a week and when it was done I tucked it in and proceeded to play this game of “maybe tomorrow” with myself.  A confession -  I have a fragile relationship with eggplant. When it is cooked just right, I love it. When it is not, well, I feel like I am five again moving it around my plate trying to figure out how to find a place for it that is not my mouth. I especially  don’t like it  when it is not fully cooked, so my insecurity was well-founded in that the fermented eggplant was indeed raw.

Yesterday I spent the day with a friend roasting eggplants. I was feeling friendly with eggplant so the day had come:  I had the appetite for eggplant. I reached into the refrigerator and pulled out the patient jar of fermented eggplant. I tasted it, and was surprised. I liked it. The fermented taste had taken on a lemony flavor. I immediately shared it with my friend and her young son. They both shared my enthusiasm.

Inspired, I made a baba ganoush, the Middle Eastern eggplant spread. No roasting, just tahini, a bit of garlic and parsley, and a food processor. Done. Yumm.

A Cranberry a Day...

Relish this chevre log

Cranberry relish might just be more American than Apple pie. (Gasp!) Let me tell you why I think so. Cranberries, Vaccinium macrocarpon and Vaccinium oxycoccus L., are one of the three commercial fruit crops that are indigenous to the North American continent. Wild cranberries are found from Maine to Wisconsin, along the Appalachians to North Carolina. Cranberries are now an introduced crop in the Northwest–Oregon, Washington and British Columbia. The Native Americans used the cranberry extensively. This tart berry that is found growing in bogs and marshes was a significant food source and a strong medicine.  The native peoples ate them raw, they used the berries as an ingredient in pemmican, and they made a poultice for blood poisoning. They also prepared them in a way we might recognize today–sweetened with maple syrup.  It is widely agreed upon that cranberries were on the first Thanksgiving table, as the colonists had begun to incorporate cranberries into their diet.

We should also be including cranberries in our diet on a regular basis. Cranberries have a long list of health benefits; they are full of antioxidants, they are anti-inflammatory, they are thought to protect against food poisoning and various cancers. By fermenting them you will get all these benefits unadulterated by the sugar and other juice additives.

With fermentation you also have the advantage of buying them now, while they are fresh, in season, and regularly on sale because of their prominent spot on our holiday tables.  Once fermented they are preserved and you can continue to enjoy this tasty condiment throughout the year. 

I had fun creating these recipes, which debuted this year on our Thanksgiving table. The positive reception and the empty bowl at the end of the meal assures they will be back.

The first recipe is a  simple conversion of the traditional cooked cranberries with oranges to a raw fresh fermented recipe. I did not want to ferment with sugar and  found that adding juice-sweetened dried cranberries balanced out the tartness of the fresh ones. If this is not sweet enough, simply splash a bit of maple syrup or honey into the relish before serving.

For a festive holiday cheese log ladle the relish over log of plain chevre.

Cranberry Orange Relish

Makes a little more than a quart

2–8 oz. packages fresh cranberries

1 cup fruit-sweetened dried cranberries

2 oranges–zest of one orange, and sliced sections of both

½ teaspoon salt

Wash the cranberries. Place in food processor and pulse a few times until they are slightly chopped. Put these in a bowl and mix in the rest of the ingredients.

Press this into a small crock or jar, making sure all of the air pockets are pressed out. The brine will be a little thick from the oranges; this is okay. Follow it with plastic wrap and the weights from your crock, or water-filled jar that fits in your jar.  Allow to sit at room temperature for 5–7 days. Refrigerate when done.

 

Another variation of this recipe is to add: 1 tablespoon chopped candied ginger.

Chopped cranberries ready for fermentation

The second relish is a surprise if you are used to the spiced citrus cranberries. It is bold; the cranberries and horseradish work together to make a relish fit for pulled pork or prime rib.

In the first attempt at this recipe I thought I would sweetened it with apple slices. I thought the apple would soften and the sweetness would balance the tart of the cranberry. The apples stayed crispy, which was nice, but they soaked up all the tartness of the cranberry, which was a little overwhelming.  I salvaged that batch for consumption by drizzling a few tablespoons of honey into it, but I won’t be repeating it. I made a second batch with fruit juice-sweetened cranberries. It was perfect.

Cranberry Horseradish Relish

Makes a little more than a quart

 

2–8 oz. packages fresh cranberries

1 cup fruit-sweetened dried cranberries

2 tablespoons peeled and grated fresh horseradish root

(note: if you have never worked with horseradish root, work quickly, as the volatile compounds released can make you cry)

½ teaspoon salt

 

Follow the same procedure as above.

See previous post for:

Pickled Whole Cranberries

Pumkins in the Pantry

Lacto-fermentation Pumpkin Trials

It is the day after Halloween and the valley around me is waking up. The sun is just peeping over the ridge. It is reflecting off the gold and orange that is briefly dominating our landscape. Because we are in predominately conifer forest, this time of year the deciduous trees have just a few weeks to sing out their presence. As I look across the valley it appears as if there are many small bonfires scattered through the forest where the individual maples or oaks flame in their autumn color. The winding creek that rushes through the center of the valley is a ribbon of saffron yellow, and the female madrone trees are heavy with their small orange fruit. We string these like beads, they drape the windows were they will dry and decorate the view in the coming grey days.

Orange is considered a color that embodies the warmth of the sun and that is how is exactly how it feels to me. I have the sense that we are soaking up all that warmth to last us through the winter. This is especially happening in the pantry; the sweet meat winter squash and cinderella pumpkins are tucked on the slatted shelves and waiting to feed us slowly in the coming months. In the crocks there are squash krauts and pumpkin chutneys curing; they will add spice and comfort when served with hearty soups.

The photo I have chosen is from the squash and pumpkin trials I conducted a few years ago. From left to right: The chipotle squash kraut was amazing. The holiday kraut with pickled cranberries was also delicious. The squash chutney--definitely nice. The beautiful pumpkin pickles with cranberries--a disaster. The flavor was fine, the squishy chunks--well not so much.

I thought I would share our Holiday Kraut on this entry. It is a fun change to add to the Thanksgiving table.  Any winter squash will work though I prefer the sweet meat types of  squash. The first time I made it I began with whole cranberries that I had previously pickled. Now I make both ferments at the same time, and mix them together after they have both cured.

Pickled Cranberries

makes about a quart (assuming two 8-oz packages of cranberries

1 - 2 packages fresh cranberries (one is enough, two will give you extra)
a few slices fresh ginger, or candied ginger
2 cinnamon sticks
1 tablespoon whole cloves
brine: 1/4 cup salt to 1/2 gallon spring water
Place all of the ingredients into a crock or jar. Cover with the prepared brine. Be sure to use a weight that will keep all of the cranberries submerged. They really want to float, which makes sense since they are harvested by water that fills the bogs where they grow.
Ferment for 1 - 2 weeks.

Squash Kraut

makes approximately 2 quarts

1 - 2 medium heads cabbage
1 medium sized winter squash
3 - 4 tablespoons salt

Peel and grate the squash. Remove the outer leaves and core of the cabbage. Thinly slice or shred the cabbage.  The goal is to have roughly equal amounts of each.


In a large bowl mix together. Sprinkle in half of the salt and massage until the vegetables start to sweat. Taste. This is to make sure that you do not over salt the kraut. If you cannot taste salt slowly add more.  The goal is to taste the salt in a pleasant salty way, but never to be overwhelmed by the salt. If is good raw, it will be excellent fermented.

Massage the kraut mixture by kneading it with your hands until it is juicy.  Press into a crock or jar.  Make sure all of the vegetable is submerged under the resultant brine. Add weight and cover. On a counter this will ferment in about a week. It will be ready when it is still crunchy and pleasingly acidic.

To serve, mix cranberries into the kraut in a 1:4 ratio -- or whatever pleases you.

Lacto-fermented Cilantro

Pickled Green Coriander Seed

On the risk of upsetting those out there in cyberspace that hate cilantro, I have to say I love cilantro. There is some talk that there is a genetic component to the taste of cilantro that insights hatred. If this is you, you will not be interested in this entry. Instead you might want check out the website out there for cilantro haters.

Since I love cilantro, I am always disappointed when my cilantro plants begin to bolt. The leaves get thin as the plant reaches up to flower and go to seed. When this happens I can no longer snip the leaves adding to recipes at will.  This happens even when I grow an abundant amount,which means I have extra leaves that I could preserve. I have to face that the sensitive aromatic oils that give cilantro its flavor, disappear when dried. There is no sense in saving the extra.

My latest culinary experiments with lactic acid fermentation include pot herbs and aromatics, not in sauerkraut but by themselves. I have a collection of concentrated herb and spice pastes in my refrigerator that add instant fresh flavor to many meals.
In the last few weeks I discovered two things: a way to preserve the leaf and the aromatic flavor of green coriander seed.

Harvest these seeds while they are undeveloped and verdant. They are still soft, unlike coriander and the flavor lingers somewhere between the coriander it is becoming and the green fresh flavor of the cilantro it was.The seeds are only in this magical state for a few days, as they keep marching towards the mature coriander seed.

This is a new favorite. Unfortunately you need access to a nice bed of cilantro that is going to seed. You will want as many green coriander seeds as you can pick.  I was able to pick about a 1/2 a cup. You can also pick and save the green seeds in the refrigerator for a day or two while more mature.

Lacto-fermented Cilantro Paste

As much as you can pick, or 2 - 3 bunches of cilantro leaf. Finely chop the leaves. Put into a bowl and sprinkle with about a 1/2 teaspoon good salt, such as Redmond Real Salt. Mix in the salt and the leaves will immediately start to sweat. Press this into a small jar, until this brine is over the top of the leaves. Place a small piece of plastic wrap on this to keep this from evaporating. Use a brine-filled zip style bag to weight it down. Ferment on the counter for 3 days.

Pickled Green Coriander Seed

Pluck just the little green seeds off of the seed heads. Simply place whatever amount you can in a jar. Submerge this is small amount of a simple pickle brine. I have some made up and ready this time of year, as I am pickling almost daily. I use 3/4 cup salt to a gallon of water.

No Tears Shed

slicing onions

I felt overwhelmed planning for last week’s Fermented Condiments class, mostly because there were so many directions I could take. Dressings, relishes, chutneys, salsas, and my new favorite concentrated seasonings, any of these could take up the whole time. I didn’t know how many of the students where completely new to fermentation, so I wanted the hands-on project to be one with a guaranteed success rate.  I chose one of my favorites.  Fermented Onion Relish which is as simple as it is delicious.

When my eldest son, who worked in the commercial kitchen producing this in 200 pound batches, heard my plan he immediately said, “Are you kidding? Your going to have a room full of people chop onions?” I remembered the swimming goggles that fogged our vision and did not keep the crying sting from our eyes.  “Oh that is bad.” I said. I thought about it a lot. I decided there would be a few other vegetables to slice so that nobody would have to slice onions. We would make fennel chutney as well.  And, I justified to myself, we were talking about 10 onions over a class of 8.

Fast forward to Thursday evening. We have talked about fermentation, we have tasted a colorful array of fermented condiments; from salsa’s to spice pastes. The participants are happy, one woman tells me, “It is my goal to have in my refrigerator all of these varieties of condiments.”

It is now time for the hands-on portion of the class. We start with the onions. After a few minutes I am standing in front of my students who are dutifully slicing these onions.  The room started to fill with that familiar smell, I look around the room and we are only half way through.  I start to fret, maybe my son was right.

We endured, there was a huge hood fan in the kitchen and we took the onion ends to sit outside of the room. As the salt was added and the onions began to weep themselves the intensity cleared and we made it through.  Soon we where packing jars, talking about the fermentation time, and everyone went home smiling.  Whew.

Simple Onion Relish
4 -5 Onions
1 tsp. mustard seed
1 tsp cumin
1 – 2 tsps salt
1 TBLS Sauerkraut brine (or raw whey)

In this relish the fermenting process is the same as in basic sauerkraut, shred, salt, submerge.

Note: Onions lack inherent Lactic acid bacteria (LAB), when combined in the sauerkraut crock, kimchi pot, or pickle jar this is not a problem, just a little bit of the other vegetables have plenty of LABs to jump start the process.  In onion only relishes and chutneys adding a little bit of sauerkraut brine is enough to inoculate the ferment and it will acidify as well as anything else.

Local Restaurant Making In House Sauerkraut

Smithfield's Pastrami Sandwich

My husband and I arrived and where greeted at the door of Smithfield’s in Ashland, OR with, "Hey you are the one that taught Neil to make sauerkraut!" The waitress then seated us at a table by the window looking out upon downtown Ashland.  It was after 2 pm on a Thursday right before they close to prep for dinner so it was pretty quiet, there was another couple and two guys practicing magic tricks over beers at the bar.

She told us the sauerkraut was making its debut today in the Rueben sandwich and then correctly assumed that was why we were here.  Ordering was easy, two Reubens and a Wondering Angus Cider to share.  When our plates arrived my eyes were drawn to the brown of the toasted rye bread, which matched the handmade perfectly crisp potato chips. The slices of in-house vinegar pickles stood out attractively like a bright green shrub on a desert landscape.  Then our server gave my plate a little spin as she set it upon our table and I caught a glimpse of the beauty within.

This story began about a month ago when I spent the afternoon in the kitchen chopping locally grown cabbages with Chef Neil Clooney.  He makes a noble honest house cured pastrami and he needed a sauerkraut to match.

There it was, between the bread layers of pastrami, blending with the melted Swiss cheese, separated by this first batch of sauerkraut.  Crisp ferment surrounded by fried, melted and succulent beauty, not bad for a coming out party.  But before I tried it, Neil brought out a ramekin of the sauerkraut, putting it before me to taste. I gave him the thumbs up. It was crisp, clean, not to salty, and pleasantly acidic. I couldn’t wait to savor the sandwich. But before I tried it, Neil brought out a ramekin of the sauerkraut, putting it before me to taste. I gave him the thumbs up. It was crisp, clean, not to salty, and pleasantly acidic. I couldn’t wait to savor the sandwich.  

The pastrami was incredible and the sauerkraut in its cliché roll on a Rueben did what it was supposed to do; provided a crunchy, fresh and slightly sour counterpoint to the rest of the sandwich. Perfect.  Our server returned part way through, smiling. 

"It's good isn't it?" she asked. We both nodded our heads, mouths full and deeply enjoying our meal.

Salvaging Limp Pickles

Limpy Dills

One of the last things we did when setting up at the farmer's market was to "sprinkle" our business cards about the table.  Imagine 1" by 2 1/2" rectangles of brightly colored confetti. These cards had witty and sometimes slightly irreverent phrases across the front, with the standard contact information on the back.  One of our customer's favorites was "Canning makes your pickle limp", which was Christopher's attempt at engaging conversation with the canning folks, he enjoyed extolling the virtues of fermentation over vinegar pickles which are canned in a hot water bath. Mostly the phrase made little old ladies giggle and blush, as they took a card.

This morning I opened a ten gallon crock of lacto-fermented dill pickles that I was commissioned to create for the grand opening of a new artisan butcher shop.  They were incredibly tasty, as I expected they would be...but.  But it was the first time that I had used small slicing cucumbers mixed in with a pickling type.  I bought them via an on-line post for pickling cucumbers, and that is what I got when I picked them up.  They were freshly picked, firm and crunchy and sweet. 

When I took them out of the crock, many of these "non-pickling" variety cucumbers where flattened, squishy and limp.  Not in a rotten way, just in an unappetizing way.  I did not want to toss them, but they were not to be seen in public either.  As I sorted out the flat ones I was bothered by the size of the growing pile, I didn't want to waste this good food.  Some idea's began to form.

I started by processing them in a food processor.  They were still delicious when finely chopped and had lost all of their awkward appearance. I divided the batch and came up with a superior hot dog condiment and a sweet pickle relish.

Pickle Kraut

Turn both hot dog stand favorites into one great condiment. Why chose relish or kraut, when  you can have both. Simply add chopped pickles to plain sauerkraut, mix and store in a jar, packing the kraut under the brine. Place in the refrigerator

Lacto-fermented Sweet Dill Relish

4 lbs. lacto-fermented dill pickles, chopped in a food processor

1 cup finely chopped onions

1 teaspoon turmeric

2 tablespoons raw cane sugar

2 - 3 tablespoons raw apple cider vinegar

Mix these ingredients in a large bowl. Taste.  Add more sugar or vinegar if you feel they are not strong enough.  When it is pleasing transfer this mixture into a 2-quart jar.  Make sure that the vegetables are under the brine and allow to sit on the counter for a day, with the lid loosely affixed.  This will give the flavors time to ripen and the onions a chance to ferment.  Store in the refrigerator for a few more days to enhance flavor.

Dill Pickle Relish

Pickle Soup

Polish Pickle Soup

It was a glorious spring day, in the way that only May can deliver in Southern Oregon.  The fields and mountains were green, the apple blossoms sprinkled the ground with petals, and the scent of lilacs wafted through the air.  I was at a gathering of neighbors. Tom and I were talking about, well what else, fermenting vegetables.  Pickles, to be exact.  He shared with me that his ex-wife was Polish and she grated pickles in  soups.  I was intrigued and went home with some concepts, but mostly wanted to grate a pickle.  One of our sons said it is his new favorite.

6 medium potatoes, peeled and cubed
2 medium carrots sliced
3 cups rich chicken bone broth, or vegetarian broth
2 tablespoons butter, or sunflower oil
6-7 green onions sliced
2 cloves garlic minced
1 teaspoon dried dill weed, or a couple of sprigs fresh chopped leaf     

1 teaspoon mustard seed
2 large dill pickles, grated
1 cup pickle brine
salt and pepper to taste
garnish with fresh chives and sliced hard boiled eggs

You will want to choose a soup pot that is made from a non-reactive material, as this soup contains brine.  The acidity can leach from the reactive metals.  See chapter on Crocks, Rocks, and tools of the trade.
In the first pot you will put the potato cubes, carrot slices, and the broth.  Bring this to a boil, simmer until the potatoes are tender.  Remove from heat and set aside.
In a soup pot, heat the butter or oil over medium heat.  Toss in the green onions, garlic, and mustard seeds, stirring often cook until the onions and garlic are soft, but not browned.  At this point transfer the potato carrot mixture to this pot.  Take a potato masher and gently mash the vegetables.   You only want to break them up a bit, allowing the potatoes to loose the chunky shape.  This will thicken your soup.  Add the brine, the grated pickles, and dill weed.  Bring this to a simmer, continue to cook for a few minutes allowing the flavors to meld.  If the soup is too thick you may add a bit more brine or broth. When it is pleasing add salt and pepper to taste, and garnish with the chives and sliced eggs.

Footnote on Rich Chicken Bone Broth:
There are many recipes for making soup stocks, truly the basis, or foundation of the flavor of your soups.  Stocks are easy,  to make and then to freeze for a more instant ingredient. They just require a bit of planning.  I do not claim the final word on broths but will share what I do.  I will  take a whole chicken put in a stock pot with any ‘extras’ that came in it.  Though I am finding most chickens don’t give you the neck or giblets these days.  I cover it with cold water and bring it to a full boil.  Then turn the heat down immediately.  I have read that this helps draw the flavor.  Skim of any foam that develops, carefully as to not remove the fat.
I let this simmer for about an hour, I then remove the whole chicken from the broth and cut off the meat, in which to make a dish such as enchiladas.  Then all the bits, skin, bones, and  cartilage go back into the pot.  At the point I will add some vegetables if I have them; half an onion, celery ends, and carrots.  I also add a tablespoon of vinegar to draw the minerals from the bones. I start the pot to simmer again, this time I will let it cook all day, this can be 6 - 12 hours.
I strain every thing out, and this becomes the base.  I use what I need or freeze portions in mason jars.

Asparagus

Asparagus Pickles in the Crock

When I was researching asparagus I found that the Romans had a saying to express a task that  was swiftly accomplished.  “As quick cooking as asparagus.”  Only a few minutes earlier I had been reading The While House Cookbook: a comprehensive cyclopedia of informations for the home.  Two inches of advice to the homemakers of 1887, claiming to “represent the progress and present perfection of the culinary art...”  One of its author’s appears to be a celebrity chef of the time.  Having cooked for Napoleon in Africa, restaurants in Paris, New York, Chicago, and the White House.  I have found treasures with these old forgotten books.  This was not one of them.  Culinary art in the Victorian United States felt asparagus should be boiled for at least 20 to 40 minutes.  I imagined mush.  I kept reading and the recipe suggested the cook “lift it out gently, as it will be liable to break.”  I imagine that the nutritional profile which boasts one of the best sources of Folic Acid, along with significant amounts of potassium, fiber, vitamin B6, vitamins A and C, and thiamin landed in that cooking water.  Good thing, they solved that problem a piece of toast is dipped in the “liquor”, and the asparagus laid on top. Definitely mush.
Oh my, the Victorians may equally as shocked by not cooking it.  The Romans, on the other hand, whose royalty reputedly prized asparagus enough to keep a fleet to fetch it,  may have been down with Asparagus Pickles...fermented and raw.

Grandma's Home Cooking

“Eating like your grandparents did.”
“Cooking like your grandmother.”

I often hear these phrases or similar ones when cookbooks are reviewed on NPR or in advertising of processed foods. I regularly come across articles titled “Cook <insert dish> Like Your Grandma”.  I can’t even count how many blogs use their grandma, or my grandma in their titles.  We, as consumers, are set up to harken back to memories of our grandmother’s who really cooked for us.  According to these many sources “our” grandmas cooked from scratch, butchered the chickens, ground the wheat, baked the bread, as well as grew and fermented the vegetables. Everything was delicious and wholesome, and don’t forget the steaming hot pie for desert.

Okay, warning, this is a rant.  Or, an argument to stop the broad statement that imagines our country’s food history was wholesome--just a few years ago. The grandmothers of homecooking are the domestic goddesses from pre-WW2, not “our” grandma’s, instead our great-grandmas and great-great grandmothers.  

Let me stop and say I am not dis-ing grandmas--or their cooking.  I am upset about using grandmas for setting a fairytale scene for our twentieth century food culture.

There are a few people I have met at market who remember their midwestern grandmas who fermented vegetables but these people are generally old enough to be my grandmother. And, they themselves don’t know a thing about fermenting.  They tell me their misty memories of odor, and basements, and taste.  And, incidentally there are women in my peer group who are now grandmothers.  My generation’s grandmothers didn’t necessarily cook.  My grandmother, who did have a small repertoire of homecooked meals, was part of what has been labeled “the greatest generation.”  She is part of the generation that whole-heartedly embraced the convenience of processed foods; instant mashed potatoes, check, Mrs. Smith’s pies, check, Campbells soup, yup. These great ladies did what they needed to do, but it wasn’t necessarily whole food cooking.

All this is to say the majority of current grandmas are now a generation of people who by in large are the third, and soon fourth generation to grow up having learned to assemble meals by combining products vs. preparing whole foods for the table.  

So, why does the fantasy continue?  My guess is T.V. and its driving force--advertising.  It works.  Somehow perpetuating the grandma myth fills a need.  Is it the basic need for comfort and more importantly nourishment?  Are we as a society so deprived of true nourishment in our bodies as well as our hearts, that maintaining this early twentieth century view of grandma satiates our hunger and fills the yearning, longing, and at times a collective pining for a simpler time.  Is that just human nature? Have people always seen their memories through the murky lens of “the good ole days.”

The advertisers will keep using grandma. However, I would love to see the rest of us food writers put the phrase to bed, to snap out of the mythology! It is all ages of people who are bringing back wholesome nutrient dense food to our tables.  These cooks are small farmstead or artisan producers, creative chefs and food writers, they are “new” homesteaders, they are the foodies, and they are the young mothers, whose grandmas are often learning to cook right along side them.  

These domestic arts are being researched in old cookbooks, they are being found in cultures that still have a more traditional diet, and most exciting are all the new flavors created in the old ways.  Our forbearers did not have the vast palette of ingredients that are now both available and affordable.  Nor did they have the time, it is hard work to keep everyone fed, let alone to innovate. For these great flavors, the time is now.

Sauerkraut and a Bathrobe

Ice Crystals in the Field

It is the day after the winter solstice and we are spinning back toward the light.  Here at Mellonia we a have a forested ridge to the south of our house.  This time of year we loose the sun on the house at about 2:30, from that moment on no matter how sunny and warm the day is, the chill has set in and instantly moves any of my activities to a sunnier location or inside.  This has been especially true this last month when things have been crystal, clear and cold.  I always like to think about how the days are getting longer again, but for some reason with winter just beginning it always feels like it takes more time to get out of the short days than it did to get here.


All the holidays of this season I believe stem from the solstice and I love all the candles and light that fills our homes no matter what our particular traditions are.  Despite this Christmas, dominates our culture, and so the story I have to share is a Christmas story.  

I just received an e-mail from someone who had visited us a the market this summer.  Her two daughters loved the krauts we made with lemons, the lemon kraut girls she called them.  She was contacting me because her girls had both requested a big jar of sauerkraut, her seven year old asked for a bathrobe and sauerkraut.  This warmed my fermenters heart, as it is the closest I will ever get to a Dear Santa letter.  We made big jars and personalized labels.  

Last night I heard a celtic blessing that is spoken as the Christmas candles are lit.  It is simple, and simply the most we can hope for.

“May we all be alive this time next year.”
Go mbeire muid beo ar an am seo aris!

Of Mice and Men...

By Christopher Shockey

Some days at the farmers market probiotics seems to be in the air, or at least on the minds of a lot of people that find their way to the shade of our canopy.  Usually it goes something like:

 

“So, this stuff has probiotics in it right?” they ask.

“Yep” I say nodding my head.

“Cool” they reply, also nodding.

 

Sometimes it feels a bit shallow but honestly we didn’t get into this business for the health claims…instead for the taste and the beauty of the process.  The health aspects are a big plus and a source to introduce people to fermented foods. For us this is a bonus, we are thankful and realize we should know more but there is only so much time in the day.  A few weeks ago in one of our favorite periodicals to come in the mail - The Week - a small article with the title “How the gut affects mood” caught my eye.

 

It was a quick summary of an article that appeared last month in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences - which we do not receive in the mail - by researchers in Canada and Ireland who have been working with mice.  No they haven’t been feeding sauerkraut to those little guys but they were feeding them a soup full of Lactobacillus rhamnosus, which is a species of bacteria naturally in our human intestines and interestingly enough as been patented by some enterprising Finnish researchers.  When their tummies were full of this bacteria broth the mice did a funny thing - they mellowed out.  You would know a mellow mouse from a normal mouse because they do things like walk out into the middle of the maze, instead of clinging to the sides or when thrown in a pool of water with no clear beach to pull-out they swam around without lower levels of stress hormones.

 

The researchers suspect that the key between the belly and the brain has to do with the Vagus Nerve, which connects the brain to the gut in mice and humans.  When they severed this nerve to a subset of the bacteria-rich broth lovers they were back to their normal wall-clinging, water-fearing mouse selves.

 

So what does this mean for us?  It is unclear from my research.  The folks that published the research are imagining that it could lead to probiotics replacing pharmaceuticals for disorders like depression and anxiety.  UCLA’s gastroenterologist and neuroscientist Emeran Mayer isn’t so sure.  He says what’s good for rodents isn’t necessarily good for humans.  Still, it’s exciting research and gives us something to talk about at the market.

 

“So, this stuff has probiotics in it like Lactobacillus rhamnosus, right?” they ask.

“Certainly relatives that will increase the diversity and health of your microbiome and stuimulate your intestinal epithelial cells” I say nodding my head.

“Cool” they reply, also nodding.



The Pickle Shop

Jar of Dills

This week the Mellonia kitchen smells decidedly of dill--dill pickles to be exact.  We are a small operation, our crocks are small and not many of the our local So. Oregon farmers grew cucumbers this year. I have had trouble sourcing an abundance, as the farmers that did grow them have had no problem selling them. The resurgence in home canning and pickling is alive and well here. All this to say, while we have 10 gallon crocks of pickles going, there is not enough to have pickles through the yearWe make a New York Deli style pickle developed in the early part of the last century.  My Grandmother, whose parents were immigrants from Russia, loved these.  Often the first business these immigrants would be able to get into was that of a carter. My ancestors where no exception. Push carts were cheap to rent and the market for pickles was good.  Many of these carters eventually bought their own carts, then stores.  In New York these were concentrated on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. This area became known as the “pickle district.” Though all but one of the once 80 shops are long gone, there is now an annual pickle festival.

These were by no means the first cucumber pickles.  Cucumbers where the first vegetable known to be pickled and that happened around 4000 years ago in India.  Even in New York earlier immigrants saw the pickle market. The 17th Century Dutch pickled Brooklyn cucumbers which they sold in Manhattan.

There is a part of me that would love to step back into 1920’s New York to visit these pickle shops--for a day.  To a certain extent I can imagine sights, sounds, textures and smells, but these images come to me in a murky sort of way.  A few weeks ago at market a woman told Christopher about visiting one of these shops once a week as a child.  She said that she was scared to death of the proprietor, who did not see customer service as the “customer is always right”.   It seems the pickler would not let anyone enter the shop unless they proclaimed the type of pickle they would be purchasing.  Once inside the barrels were intriguing--I imagine a dark tight space, worn slatted wood floors, the whole place smelling oaky and briny.  At the same time I can imagine an upscale pickle shop, bright and colorful, yet still aromatic, oak, brine, garlic, ginger, all the smells that waft around our “fermentorium.”  Exciting unusual sauerkrauts and pickles would be seasonal and part of the vegetable terra of our place.

An Applegate pickle shop, right along the wine tour...though pickles and ferments are trending, that maybe pushing the envelope right off the table.  So, I think about how that shop would have to be in a hip neighborhood in Portland, or Seattle, or some city. Then I think how I don’t want to live in the city. The Farmer’s Market is our pickle shop, where the little kids love to get kimchi in cups from Christopher.

Being Local

We sell our product, shredded local cabbages and other vegetables, swimming about in an enzyme and probiotic rich brine.  This alive, and at times effervescent, food lives in a jar.  A canning jar, that is the only solution we have found that is made in the USA.  This canning jar is not enough to assure the traveller our product which can pop like champagne, will not leave their wardrobe smelling like Sauerkraut or Kimchi forever.  And it is liquid, and the airlines are touchy about that as well.

As purveyors of this product that is truly of this valley we stand at a market that at times is made up of 50 % visitors to the State of Jefferson.  Sometimes this is fun, sometimes we feel like just another part of the "show" that these visitors have come to see, but there are many who would love to take our spin on So. Oregon's great food culture home with them.  Here are Christopher's thoughts on our commitment to staying truly local.

“Why don’t you sell on the Internet?” a woman asked recently after explaining why she couldn’t buy the "Lemon Dill Kraut" that she had just tasted and proclaimed the best in the world.  “I have a soft-side and there is no way I’m getting that by TSA so I can’t buy it now but I would once I got back to New York.  You have to, its how things are bought and sold these days!”  With that little piece of economic advice she left the shade of our tent for the next vendor down the line, Jonathan and his frozen lamb. 

“Good luck getting the frozen lamb shank on-board,” said the voice in my head.  Maybe it was the triple digit heat or maybe the lack of people standing across from my table buying things but I kept running the question through my head.  At first it seemed a no-brainer.  I helped HP setup their e-commerce sites fifteen years ago.  That was when it was all by hand and you had to know something.  Now anyone can pick a on line service, pick from their list of choices and voila--on the web by Monday morning, lobbing kraut-laden packages up from Medford to all points in the US.  Then I succumbed to the China effect. There are three hundred and eleven million people in the US so if we just sold to one-half of one percent that would be, half of 3.1 million, being conservative well over a million new customers!  We had racked up sales of about two jars by that point and the ice in the pan was melting already. 

I asked Ray what he thought of selling buffalo on the Internet.  “Did you see that woman that was just here a minute ago? he asked me, pointing to where she had stood I guess.  “She just bought all the tenderloins I had, over a hundred dollars worth.  I sell that for forty a pound here but on the Internet we sell it for fifty and we can’t keep it in stock.  There is a guy in Chicago that buys six hundred dollars worth at a time.  Man that guy must eat well.”

A customer that had no chance of procurring a tenderloin wandered into the shade of Ray’s tent so he left me pondering our new sales channel.  Why not?  If someone is willing to pay fifty bucks a pound for a frozen buffalo tenderloin they would pay ten bucks for a jar of the best kraut in the world.  If you can get a frozen hunk of meat across the country you can get a jar of fermented veggies there too.  Still no-brainer, still doable and by Monday we would be worrying about how we were going to fill all those orders.

Kirsten returned from the stand across the street, a sweet little vegetable stand called Meadowlark Farm.  She bought a bag of salad greens for sampling our salad dressings.  “Look here” she said opening the bag for me to peer into, “they put violets and calendula petals in after they weigh it.”

I looked and thought that’s not something you can do and ship across the country.  That’s something you do when your customer is standing right in front of you and you have three other farmers selling a greens mix at the market and you have to give them a reason to come to you for the greens that will grace their table.  That got me thinking about what reason we give our customers to come to us for the fermented fix.  When someone asks me where we get our cabbage I can point to one or two of the stands at our market or tell them Whistling Duck and they recognize the name from one of the other markets in the area.  If I’m selling to a lady in New York what does Blue Fox or Whistling Duck or Barking Moon mean to them?  Nothing.  Wimsical yes but no connection to their quality or their story.  I might as well source through a distributor and get the best market price, which through the complexities of the market economy and subsidized oil prices means likely California or North Carolina or Florida or God knows where but not down the road.  Not in Applegate nor the Rogue Valley nor Oregon for that matter. 

Here’s the deal.  If we are buying from anywhere and selling to anywhere then we could be based anywhere.  In fact, it would be best to be based near a shipping hub  because our costs would be based on shipping rates more than anything else.  We might as well be making anything as well because place wouldn’t matter.  But place does matter.  We are local in that our last child was born in our farmhouse.  We have planted enough trees to fully overwhelm us in our old age when we will be begging grandkids to come to the farm and pick, prune, weed or plant for us.  We will never move from this place while still breathing and we hope that we are buried here.  So if here is so important why would we do something that could be done anywhere just as well?  Our story is about pointing to a beautiful table of vegetables and saying “that is beautiful and you need to buy all you can eat.  But come this Fall the bounty will go away and won’t come back for seven months, maybe eight.  We are preserving that beauty now for you during the dark times and you will taste and remember.  Ours tastes wonderful because theirs tastes wonderful.  Our story begins where our local farmer's leave off and its a story best told locally.