Thursday, January 22, 2015

Farmer Cookies

Some years back I inherited my Grandma Abbas’ personal recipe book. It’s an old Car-Ferry notebook in which she hand wrote all of her best/favorite recipes. Each one contains notes as to where she got it, variations, who likes it, etc. This particular recipe has the following notations: “These are great cookies if you are in a hurry. They are also about the best cookie recipe for the wood stove. They hold up well in a medium or hot oven. You can use a variety of ingredients above and beyond what I have listed here. They keep well and are good dunkers. Jeffrey likes them a lot. Eats more than any three-year-old I have ever seen!”
Obviously, I don’t remember eating a lot of them as a three-year-old but I do remember the cookies. Grandma would often make them with M&M’s instead of chocolate chips. When Christmas rolled around, she made them with crushed candy canes and chocolate chips. It is an amazingly customizable recipe, so have some fun with it.
It does say to “drop by tablespoon” onto a cookie sheet. I found the batter to be too dry for that so I simply made golf ball sized balls and baked them that way. Worked like a charm!

Farmer Cookies
1 cup vegetable shortening
1 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups oatmeal (uncooked)
2 cups corn flakes or 2 cups crisp rice cereal (either one works nicely)
1 cup flaked or shredded coconut (optional, but very good with the chocolate chips!)
1 cup chocolate chips
1 cup chopped nuts (optional)
1  Melt shortening, pour over sugars. Mix well.
2  Add eggs and vanilla and mix well.
3  Stir dry ingredients together and add to sugar mixture. Mix lightly.
4  Add oatmeal, cereal, coconut, chocolate chips, and nuts and mix well.
5  Drop by tablespoon on greased cookie sheet.
6  Bake at 350°F for 10 to 12 minutes.
Makes 4 dozen cookies

Friday, January 16, 2015

Make your own Kimchi–Day One

10 Litre German Fermentation PotOK…we’re ready to go! Here is the basic recipe we started with last summer, a great one to start with if you’ve never made kimchi before.
1 (2-pound) Napa cabbage
1/2 cup kosher salt
8 ounces Daikon radish, peeled and cut into 2-inch matchsticks
4 medium scallions, ends trimmed, cut into 1-inch pieces (use all parts)
1/3 cup Korean red pepper powder
1/4 cup fish sauce
1/4 cup peeled and minced fresh ginger (from about a 2-ounce piece)
1 tablespoon minced garlic cloves (from 6 to 8 medium cloves)
2 teaspoons Korean salted shrimp, minced
1 1/2 teaspoons granulated sugar

IMG_7202[1]Having done this recipe a few times, I am ready to strike out on my own and make our first official Kitchen Table Kimchi. The directions below are the same you will use when you make your own.
             There are 2 cardinal rules when it comes to home fermentation -
             1. Make sure all of your containers are clean and sterile! If you are using glass or crockery, a weak bleach solution works great. Make sure it is well rinsed and wiped dry when you finish with the bleach. The ‘sniff test’ works great when you are done. If, after 10 minutes or so you still smell bleach, rinse it again. If you are using plastic in any part of the process, use white vinegar or citric acid as your sterilizing agent.
             2. If it’s covered in brine, all will be fine. Simply put, always make sure the vegetables you are fermenting are completely submerged in the brine solution in your fermentation container. This will greatly reduce the chances of getting mold or unwanted bacterial processes.

IMG_7203[1]I will be fermenting our kimchi in two 10 litre German fermentation pots we purchased through Amazon. Napa cabbage is not in season right now, so I placed an order with Fareway in Waukon and got it the next day.
Remove any wilted leaves from the outside of the cabbage, quarter it lengthwise and trim the stem end. Cut across the quartered cabbage every one or two inches, depending on how you like your kimchi. We prefer the one-inch-wide slices. When all four quarters have been sliced, put the cabbage in a large bowl and sprinkle 1 tablespoon of kosher salt over it all. Mix well by hand to distribute the salt evenly throughout. Repeat this process until you filled your bowl and salted all the cabbage you have. I have found one tablespoon of salt sufficient for one cabbage; 2 cabbages – two tablespoons, 4 cabbages – four tablespoons, etc.
Once you have sliced and salted all the cabbage you are going to ferment, let it sit for a couple of hours. I am using 10 heads of Napa cabbage here, so I’ve got a pretty good-sized container, as you can see!
While you are waiting on the cabbage, slice your onions and julienne the carrots and Daikon. When that is all done, add it to your waiting cabbage and  mix it all in by hand. I IMG_7204[1]couldn’t find Daikon radish anywhere (wrong time of the year) so I am going to use organic red globe radishes purchased at the Oneota Co-op in Decorah. The red radish will add both complexity and spiciness to the kimchi.
Mix the remaining ingredients in another bowl and set aside until the two hours have passed. When the cabbage has rested for a couple of hours, add the rest of the ingredients you mixed up while you were waiting. Mix by hand until the wet mix is evenly distributed throughout the cabbage. Pack it into your fermenter and push it down with a wooden ram or your fists until you see the liquid coming to the top of the cabbage. Place a plate or some type of cover over the mix and weigh it down. A jar full of water works nicely for this. Cover it all with a towel (or put the lid on the bucket) and let it work it’s magic for a week to ten days.


Wednesday, January 14, 2015

The Unadulterated Joy of Home Fermentation

     2014  was a banner year for Mary and me. It was the year we discovered the joy of fermenting your own foods. With that discovery, came an added benefit unsurpassed in its nutritional benefits. Fermented foods are absolutely chock-full of probiotics; these are jars of living food, nourishment for our bodies and souls. There is no greater satisfaction at mealtime then eating food you have grown, processed and put away. And, when you do those things together, it becomes soul food.
     2014 was a banner year for our gardens as well, especially the cabbages. Bumper crops were the norm for red cabbage, Napa cabbage and the regular old green cabbage we planted. With all these cabbages and only so many CSA customers, we needed to come up with a way of preserving the cabbage bounty we had on hand. I have never been a big fan of sauerkraut (until we made our own – another story for later) and one can only make so much freezer coleslaw (an old family recipe of Mary’s), so the natural inclination was to make some kimchi.
     Kimchi is a traditional Korean dish with origins dating back to the 12th century. It is basically a mixture of cabbage and an assortment of other vegetables like carrots, radishes, turnips and other root vegetables, fermented and all spiced up to give it a little (or a lot) of zing. Kimchi is a time-honored tradition in Korea with regional and family variations in infinite varieties. It can be fermented for a matter of days, weeks or months, depending on the vegetables used and the season in which it is to be consumed. Winter kimchi was meant to be consumed over the course of the long Korean winter so it was made to ferment slowly over a period of months. The kimchi made during the winter months was used as an addition to main course dishes like soups and stews. Spring and summer kimchi is a much lighter and a quicker ferment, so it is used as a side dish or in salads.
     Our first kimchi was pretty simple. Napa cabbage, Daikon radish, chili powder, fish sauce, salt and Sriacha. We fermented the first batch in an old Red Wing 2-gallon crock with a weighted plate on top to keep out the bad bugs. The end result of that first batch was flat-out delicious! We allowed it to work about two weeks and put it into jars. We kept the jars loosely sealed in the basement so they could continue to work and age. It didn’t last long. We gave away a lot of it and ate even more. It became a side dish staple here at our house. Take my word for it, there few things better in life than a little dish of your own kimchi and a dark, malty beer to go with it! Since that time we have refined the recipe and have begun using authentic Korean hot red chili powder, salted fish sauce as well as more traditional Korean equipment.
     As you will see over the next few days, this not a difficult process. You do not have to bury the pot in the back yard, nor does it stink up the house. It is simple, not a lot of work and anyone can do it. Just because we have chosen to use some specialized ingredients and equipment, it doesn’t mean you will need to do that. If you don’t have any crocks, you can use a food-grade plastic bucket with a fermentation lock and achieve the same results. We did a batch of sauerkraut in one of those buckets we obtained from one of our CSA clients in Decorah, IA – “From Grain to Glass”. I’m sure Brad and Amber would be happy to set you up and send you the equipment if you contact them with your needs.
     Today is January 14th, 2015 and I sitting by the kitchen window watching and waiting for the UPS driver. He is bringing our 10 liter stoneware fermentation pot to us. I have been tracking the shipment ever since I ordered it. This morning at 6:07 AM it left Decorah for our house. Sure wish he delivered in alphabetical order – we’d have had it 2 hours ago! The recipe I will be using for this incredibly informative and entertaining series of blog posts is a basic recipe we found online. As we go through the processes on this batch, we will explain and illustrate each step along the way in an individual post for each step. If you would like to know more about home fermentation in general, I have posted several links and resources at the bottom of this first post.

Books -
Sandor Ellix Katz - “The Art of Fermentation” – An in-depth exploration of essential concepts and processes from around the world. Practical information on fermenting vegetables, fruits, grains, milk, beans, meats and more.
Kirsten K. Shockey and Christopher Shockey – “Fermented Vegetables” – Creative recipes for fermenting 64 vegetables and herbs in krauts, kimchis, brined pickles, chutneys, relishes and pastes. (A well-thought and greatly appreciated Christmas gift from our kids)
Lauryn Chun - “The Kimchi Cookbook60 Traditional and Modern Ways to Make Kimchi

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