Meet Darra Goldstein, Editor-in-chief of CURED*

Kyoto Pickles pictured in the first issue of  Cured  photo Akihito Yoshida

Kyoto Pickles pictured in the first issue of Cured photo Akihito Yoshida

There is a new magazine coming out—a visually evocative, sensually stimulating magazine. It is called CURED, and at its heart is food preservation—you know, the stuff we geek out about all the time. Its focus is  how humans have kept their food nutrient-rich, available and (hopefully) flavorful through the lean times, whether  for surviving the next season or for a long journey. Fermentation is a big player in this new publication’s look at these ancient techniques through science, art, culture and travel.

I want you to think about this for a moment because this is a milestone. We’ve hit a point where we have got a lush magazine (as in heavy paper and jaw dropping visuals) being launched by an established media company, Zero Point Zero Productions (who has given us Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown and Mind of a Chef) with a strong editor at the helm—Darra Goldstein. Darra is an award-winning cookbook author, world-renowned food scholar, and founding editor of Gastronomica.

Darra Goldstein photo by Stefan Wettainen

Darra Goldstein photo by Stefan Wettainen

Recently, Christopher and I had the opportunity to talk with Darra in a delightful conversation that meandered through time periods. Darra effortlessly guided us from a late 19th century banished Russian nobleman who observed that “sour” foods kept the peasants healthy to the modern allure of the bright packaging of industrialized food juxtaposed with the rediscovery of these ancient techniques having a certain luxury associated with them.

After the New York Times article (about CURED's debut) was published, Darra’s inbox lit up with email from folks all over the country who told her about their regional fermentation groups. She said, “there is an interesting subculture that is no longer marginal; it is really out there. Preservation has become much more mainstream but there is still a lot more to discover, particularly about other traditions of fermentation throughout the world.”

From our conversation we got a sense that it is this discovery that moves Darra. She is excited by the opportunity with CURED to take the DIY movement to a deeper level by bringing to the table the stories behind our preserved foods. CURED will seek to choose foods that we may or may not still eat and ask, what is the culture that surrounds it? What is the lore? What are the exigencies? How were these things created?

So what do we have to look forward to? Darra shared a sampling of some of the voices that will be heard. "There will be a wonderful article by Moises Valasquez-Manoff looking at the gut microbiome and probiotics. He went through many studies to try to determine if there is quantifiable scientific evidence and," Darra said, "everything points to something pretty intriguing."

There will be articles exploring Asian fermentation such as Japanese Zukemono, and a profile piece on Los Angeles chef Kwang Uh, whose kitchen uses a strong dose of fermentation, and there will be a piece on persimmon vinegar (can't wait to see that myself) by Edward Lee.

We had to ask, will there be recipes? While CURED is not a recipe-driven publication it will have recipes. "Recipes," said Darra, "are an important part of the story. A recipe tells the story in a different format and is like a continuation of the narrative that precedes it." All of the recipes are tested in CURED’s test kitchen in NYC but that doesn’t mean they will all be the centerpiece of your next dinner party. In part because some may not conform to the modern palate and in part because as we all know, fermentation doesn’t always conform to a consistent recipe.

She shared a wonderful example of a recipe by food historian Charles Perry for a medieval Persian cheese. In ancient Bagdad, yogurt and salt were added to milk that was then left on the roof to cure in the summertime. It works perfectly in Los Angeles, where the humidity is low. On a rooftop in NYC the summer humidity causes this to behave quite differently. And at Darra’s home in rural Massachusetts where the humidity is lower it is different yet again—but that is the wonder and beauty of it of it all now isn’t it?

Head over to CURED and put your name on the list to find out when it can be ordered. We sure did!

*the first periodical to explore how age-old methods like charcuterie making, pickling, and fermenting inform the way we think about and consume food today

 

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First Signs of Spring :: Fermenting Dandelion Buds

dandelion bud on a frosty morning

dandelion bud on a frosty morning

Kirsten writes :: Here in Southern Oregon the first dandelions have begun to bloom. Christopher and I had very different early relationships with spring dandelions. His father saw their appearance as time to tame the lawn while my mother saw them as a bounty to harvest.

Our first house as a young couple was a little saltbox in Boise with a backyard that the previous owners had planned to pave for a big shop. Thankfully they didn’t get that far.

The first spring there we picked and shoveled our way to the soil. The yard responded to the change in stewardship by celebrating with a riot of dandelions, which I proclaimed to be our first crop. When I was young, we lived in married student housing on the Cornell campus. There were vast lawns out the back door polka dotted with yellow dandelions. In the early spring my mother would pick the flower buds and sauté them in plenty of butter and garlic. When the flowers bloomed she made fritters. I don’t remember the flavor. I do remember the magic of eating off the lawn. Naturally I wanted to share this joy with our son.

Christopher writes :: I was skeptical but when I heard this project involved batter and frying I was game. We had just settled into a mound of fried dandelion blossoms out on the back patio when we heard the old wooden gate complaining and in came my father. By then I had downed a few of the golden beauties and I was eager to share my revelation with the man that had spent my childhood spraying, forking and mowing these delicious plants.

“Hey Pop, try these–they’re great!” I said, standing up and holding out my plate to him.

“What are they, morels?” he asked hopefully, reaching for a crispy blossom.

“No they’re dandelions!” I proudly announced.

My father’s hand stopped mid-air as he scanned my plate. I watched as he slowly looked past me. Turning, I saw our son in his cloth diaper sprawled out on the cool concrete of the patio, digging into his portion.

“Are you are feeding the baby weeds?” he asked us, clearly not wanting to believe his eyes.

By the time we thought of foraging dandelions to ferment, our toddler had three younger siblings and had entered college. There were many trials that included everything but the fluff—bud, leaf, and root. While we acknowledge the incredible health benefits of fermenting the greens we just don’t love (or even like) the bitter flavor, which isn’t mitigated at all by fermentation. (The best way to use the leaves is as small part of a batch of cabbage sauerkraut or spicy kimchi.) It is once again the blossom buds that have us eating from the yard.

   Dandelion buds in brine ready to start fermenting

 

Dandelion buds in brine ready to start fermenting

Fermented Dandelion Flower Buds

Make in a pint jar

When selecting flower buds to pickle, be sure to pick buds that are still tightly closed, not flowers that have simply closed for the night, which will have bits of petals sticking out. Use these small pickles as you would capers.

2 cups dandelion buds

1–2 heads garlic, broken apart and peeled

1 onion, sliced in wedges

1 (1–inch) piece fresh ginger, chopped

2 tablespoons red goji berries

1 cup Basic Brine (1/2 tablespoon unrefined sea salt to 1 cup unchlorinated water)

Combine the dandelion buds, garlic, onion wedges, ginger, and goji berries in a bowl. Transfer to a quart jar and pour in the brine to cover the mixture completely. The dandelion buds will want to float; place some of the larger onion wedges on top to keep everything under the brine. Reserve any leftover brine in the fridge to top off while fermenting. (It will keep for 1 week; discard thereafter and make a new batch, if needed.)

Follow with your favorite follower and weight, or use a water-filled ziplock bag. This steep is important to prevent the small ingredients from floating out of the brine. Remember: Submerge in brine, and all will be fine.

Set aside on a plate to ferment, somewhere nearby and out of direct sunlight, in a cool spot for 5 to 7 days. During the fermentation period, monitor brine level and press buds back into brine or top off with the reserved brine solution, as needed. You may see foam on top; it is harmless. As the vegetables ferment, they begin to lose their vibrant color and the brine will get cloudy; this is when you can start to test your pickles. They’re ready when: The buds are dull green, the goji berries are plump but still bright orange red and the brine is cloudy. The flavor of the buds and the brine are slightly sour, with ginger and garlic notes, 

Store in the fridge in the same jar, lid tight. These will keep for about a year. Enjoy them sprinkled on salads, added to a sandwich spread such as chicken salad, or simple pluck out of the jar for a little pickle-y treat.

Kimchi Season

In Korea late October or early November is the fall pickling season.  Kimchi is an important aspect of Korean cuisine—it is served with just about every meal. There are fermented flavors for different occasions and a taste for every palate—sophisticated, fruity, crunchy, pungent, sour, mild, refreshing. Varieties may include everything but cabbage—how about buckwheat sprout kimchi or squid kimchi?
In light of the season we thought we’d share some things you may not know about venerable kimchi.

Top Ten Random Kimchi “facts” (and facts is loosely defined)

10. Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is
During gimjang, or kimjang, (kimchi season) many employers give their employees bonuses to facilitate a good time shopping for piles of kimchi ingredients.

9. Imagine Mountains of Napa Cabbage (and Peppers and Garlic—Oh My!)
All this shopping for cabbage, garlic, ginger, peppers, and radishes takes place at farmer’s markets that spring up all over the country this time of year.

8. Celebrate
In Gwangju, South Korea there is an annual Kimchi Festival—which you missed this year. It was at the beginning of October. Maybe your travel plans will land you at the 21st annual next year. I have seen parade pictures that include mascots dressed as Napa cabbage.

7. Field Trip
There is of course the Kimchi Field Museum in Seoul whose mission is to educate the world about kimchi. One of the sections includes dioramas for each step of the kimchi making process. Or, if you are the literary type the library boasts over 2000 books on the subject.

6. Disease Fighting
During the 2005 outbreak of bird-flu scientists at Seoul National University lead a study that fed infected chickens kimchi to test its effects on their health. A week later, 11 birds had begun recovering. "We found that the chickens recovered from bird flu, Newcastle disease and bronchitis. The birds' death rate fell, they were livelier and their stools became normal," said Professor Kang Sa-ouk.

5. Care Packages Korean Style
Mothers of Korean soldiers being deployed to Vietnam in the 1960s weren’t sent off with cookies—but with onggi pots filled with kimchi.  In 1967 a diplomat visiting Washingon was said to have missed kimchi more than his wife. 

4.  Kimchi is Out of this World
When Korea sent its first astronaut to the space station they felt he must go with kimchi. It turns out kimchi posed a bit of an issue to turn into spacefood. There was concern about bringing the bacteria into space—partly due to contamination and partly do to fear of explosions with the pressure changes. One team developed inert kimchi cans, another in plastic packaging.

3. How Much Kimchi Do You Eat?
Per capita, South Koreans eat 77 pounds of kimchi per year.

2. Kimchi-fed Eggs
If you have backyard chickens and want to try something it is said that you can feed them kimchi—there are specialty egg producers feeding kimchi, or at least the resultant lacto-bacillus to their hens. I have read online claims of healthier hens with healthier eggs. Some even claim the eggs contain lactobacillus. I must admit this seams farfetched that the lactobacillus lands in the eggs but I can’t account for the science either way. I can tell you when I go through the effort and expense of making kimchi the last thing I would do is feed it to chickens. That said…

The pig who didn't like spicy kimchi

1. Pigs Don’t Like Spicy Kimchi
When we first made kimchi commercially we had a gallon or so of peppery-brine left at the bottom of the crock after packing countless jars. (Now I know the stuff is an elixir of the Gods—but at the time it seemed like excess.) We decided to take it to our pig who enjoyed all manner of scraps and gobbled up our cheese making whey. He dug his snout into his trough and drank the brine, when he came up his mouth was open and he ran to his water bucket. We dumped what was left in the trough and brought him apples as an apology.

Green Strawberry Pickles

Lacto-fermented green strawberry kimchi

Lacto-fermented green strawberry kimchi

Pickled green strawberries are all the rage these days. The chefs are using their creative souls on this trendy ingredient and the food writers and bloggers are spreading the word. This seasonal darling is landing in chutneys, salsas, and whole green pickled nuggets. These pickles are seasoned with anything from tarragon to orange rind and are served with seafood, parsnip puree, or desserts. Reading the blogs it would seem anything goes.

Since we are talking about pickling we thought we would throw our lacto-fermented two cents into the mélange. This is for the fermentistas out there. You know who you are. You have tossed vinegar aside in favor of lacto-ferments in crocks and jars. You have a bit of an addiction and you look at all veggies with an eye to ferment. “I wonder what fill-in-the-blank would taste like fermented.” All right, maybe that is just my quirky personality and the rest of you fermentistas are more reasonable.

“I need green strawberries,” I told my friend Mary in early spring. She doesn’t question these kinds of requests, she is used them. Besides, her fermentation mantra is “the experiments must continue.” We went and looked down two rows of plants that seemed to reach the horizon line. They were green – way too green, hard, and small. I had to wait.

The culinary green strawberries are actually white. This is the stage right before the orange blush that eventually turns red and ripe. They are tasty, not pithy or astringent like some unripe fruit. I would describe them as slightly acidic and faintly sweet – a cross between a not-quite-ripe honeydew melon and a kiwi. The texture sides with the melon. They have not yet developed their sugars and that is exactly why one can get away with fermenting them. (Too much sugar in a lactic-acid ferment and it turns alcoholic.)

Look for green strawberries in your own garden, at a u-pick, or at a farmers’ market. To ferment them, either slice them thinly or dice them. Mix in a teaspoon of salt per pound and a half of berries. Allowing them to make their own brine this way will give you a much stronger flavor. Play with your favorite salsa or chutney ingredients. Here we are working on green strawberry tulsi basil chutney, green strawberry mango salsa and kimchi.  The recipes we are working on for the upcoming cookbook haven’t been refined yet, but green strawberry kimchi is our favorite so far.