Thursday, December 29, 2011


While researching ways to make sauerkraut, I came across a compelling book by Sandor Katz.  In his book Wild Fermentation, he espouses the health benefits of fermented foods.  He claims that the beneficial bacteria in these "ferments," as he calls them, are highly beneficial for our digestion and for the absorption of vital nutrients from our food.  I encourage you to read his book.
My sauerkraut was such a raving success that I became inspired to make some kimchi.  Kimchi is a cabbage pickle that is a mainstay in the Korean diet.  Besides its probiotic qualities, it is also loaded with vitamin C.

This recipe is adapted from the one in Wild Fermentation. Kimchi is crunchy and delicious and we eat it at almost every meal.
To make one quart, you will need:

sea salt
1 pound napa cabbage (also called Chinese Cabbage)
1 daikon radish
2 carrots
1 medium onion
3 cloves garlic
3 Tablespoons fresh grated ginger root
1 chili pepper if you so choose (I chose not to)

Begin by slicing the napa as thin as possible, and placing it in a large bowl.

We use napa rather than conventional cabbage, because the napa has a thinner leaf, giving a lighter texture to the finished product. 

This is a daikon radish that I purchased at my local food co-op.
It was grown right here in Northeastern Connecticut.
(Sorry about the ruler, it's the only one I could find.)
You can see that the radish is a hefty 13 inches long!

Use a box grater to grate the daikon radish.   A root vegetable such as this reaches deep into the earth to provide you with minerals and nutrients. 
Grate the carrots and mix the radish and carrots into the cabbage. I find that it's easier to mix the vegetables in the large bowl than in the crock itself.

Mix a brine of 4 cups (1 liter) water and 4 Tablespoons (60 milliliters) salt. Stir until salt is thoroughly dissolved.

Place the brine and the vegetables in a crock or food-grade plastic bucket.

Cover with a plate and add a clean jar of water to keep the vegetables submerged in the brine for several hours, until soft, or overnight. 
Drain the brine off the vegetables, reserving the brine.

Now chop your onion and garlic very fine and grate the ginger root with a spice grater. 

If you have a mortar and pestle, you can grind the aromatics together in that.  Having none, I mashed the onions, garlic, artichoke, and ginger with a fork.
Add the spice mixture to the drained vegetables, and mix well. 

Pack into one or two quart sized jars. Tamp down firmly so the brine rises to cover the vegetable mix and all air is squeezed out of cabbage mix.  If necessary, add some of the reserved brine so the vegetables are well covered.

Use a smaller jar or a small plastic bag filled with brine to press down on the vegetables, keeping them under the brine and away from contact with the air.  

Allow the kimchi to ferment in a warm place for up to a week,
checking every day:
  • Remove any foam that forms.
  • Taste the kimchi to see if it is to your liking. 
  • Keep tamping it down to be sure no air bubbles are in there. 
  • Be sure veggies are well covered with brine. 
When the ferment has reached the desired tanginess, remove the smaller jar or baggie and replace with a conventional lid. Store the kimchi in the refrigerator for up to three weeks.  Enjoy as a condiment with meals, or pack right into a sandwich or wrap!

Monday, December 12, 2011


I love the name of these spicy little cookies.  Translated from the German, it means "pepper nuts." There is in fact PEPPER in the cookies, but there are many other spices as well, and the flavor is akin to gingerbread.

The texture is chewy when they are freshly made.  But tradition holds that the flavor intensifies if you bake them two weeks before Christmas and store them in an airtight tin.  That's where the second part of the name comes from, for they also become denser.  And hard as rocks. Excuse me: hard as nuts. They're only as hard as NUTS.

Trust me they are well worth the wait.  They aren't all THAT hard, they're full of good things, (honey, molasses, candied orange peel,) and they are easy to make.

These beautiful golden nuggets are chopped candied orange peel, from organic oranges, found at my local food co-op!  The perfect find for this baking project. 
You will be doing a great favor to yourself and the planet to seek out a local honey producer.

Plan on 15 minutes to mix the dough, 2 hours to let it chill, and another 20 minutes to get them rolled and baked. (Chill overnight if that's more convenient for you.)

Here's How:
In a large bowl, whisk two eggs
add and beat in:
1/2 cup canola oil
1/2 cup molasses
1/4 cup honey

In a second bowl combine these dry ingredients:
4 cups unbleached flour
1 cup organic sugar
1 and 1/2 teaspoons ground cardamom
1 tsp. nutmeg
1 tsp. ground cloves
1 tsp. ginger
2 tsp. cinnamon
1 and 1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. ground black pepper
1/2 tsp. salt

Mix in 1/2 cup very finely chopped candied orange peel or other dried fruit. Be sure your spices are well incorporated into the flour mix before adding the orange peel, because the orange peel is very sticky.  Carefully stir the peel into the dry mix, making sure the pieces don't clump together, but are evenly distributed throughout the mix.

Now combine the wet and dry ingredients and mix well.  Mixture will appear a bit dry and crumbly, but don't worry, this will change when you form the cookies with your warm hands. For now, cover and refrigerate for at least two hours.

Then preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. (165degrees C.)

Roll dough into little balls slightly bigger than acorns and place on an ungreased cookie sheet, spacing about an inch apart. 

Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, then use a spatula to move cookies to cool on a cooling rack.

When cookies are cool, use tongs or chopsticks to roll them in confectioner's sugar. 
Pack into a decorative tin, using wax paper as a barrier so the cookies don't actually touch the tin.

Cookies are also just fine without the sugar, if that's more to your liking.  And they are great to eat right away, if they don't all happen to fit into that tin.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Butternut Pie

Sorry food blog, I've been neglecting you...Thanksgiving and Open Studios and all...

But here you go.  The butternuts have been baked and made into a side dish for Thanksgiving dinner, a beautiful, decorative pie, and enough left over for butternut burritos!

To bake squash, cut in half lengthwise and remove seeds.  Place cut side down on a cookie sheet and bake at 350 degrees F. for one hour.  Poke with a fork to be sure all parts are done.  (The hollowed out part cooks faster.) 

Here you see the squash after baking.  I've turned them over with a fork and a potholder.  They are steaming hot and need to cool before you can scoop out the flesh.  Cooking them upside down keeps them from drying out, but in this type of pan (cheap) they will pick up an off color (!) from the metal if you don't turn them over right away
Once the squash has cooled, use a spoon to scoop the flesh into a large mixing bowl.  Puree by mashing with a potato masher until no large lumps remain.

Measure out two cups of squash for the pie, and save the rest for other cooking projects.
To make a 10 inch pie you will need:
a 10" unbaked pie shell, chilled
scraps of pie dough to make leaves and cat
5 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ginger
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup molasses
3/4 cup half and half
2 cups butternut puree

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.
Cut out leaves and/or a cat, dog or pumpkin from pie dough scraps if you have them.
Put them in the oven to bake for 10 to 12 minutes while you prepare the pie filling.
Whisk eggs in a large mixing bowl until light and fluffy.
Add spices, molasses, half and half and whisk again.
Stir in butternut puree and stir till well mixed.
Pour filling into crust and bake for 10 minutes.
Reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake for another 45 minutes.
Filling shoud look "set," and an inserted butterknife should come out clean.
If pie is not done, cook for another 10 minutes and test again.
Allow to cool before adding the pie crust decor and serving.
Recipe by Martha Stewart.  Cut-out cat by Jessanne Collins.