Edible Blue Ridge Fall 2010 : Page 36
almost unnatural. “It’s a great way to preserve the garden’s bounty.” In most cases, the recipe calls for little more than produce, water, salt, and spices. That’s it—four ingredients, to be left out at a cool roomtemperature for two or more weeks. To say there’s no strict combination of A glass of tangy “fruity spritzer.” The more ubiquitous milk kefir—also colonies of yeast and bacteria—are similar in makeup to water kefir but are white with the bumpy texture of a cauliflower floret. They thrive on lactose, so can be added to any type of milk to create creamy fermented drinks (also called kefir). Draining our cups of the fruity spritzers, and feeling quite rejuvenated, we hold them out for the next taster: kombucha, a ferment-ed tea with Chinese and Russian roots and an emphatic zing. It is the unanimous favorite. Unusually refreshing and wholly satisfying, it’s made by floating a leathery mass of bac-teria and yeast in a jar of tea for about two weeks. That mass—which can be bought at health food stores, passed on from a friend, or ordered online—is called a SCOBY (sym-biotic colony of bacteria and yeast) or the kombucha “mother.” The mother is removed before drinking, and placed in a new jar of tea to be recycled and reused. Our thirst slaked now, Story moves on to explain the most simple how-to of all: fer-menting vegetables. What vegetables you use matters less than what you have on hand. “For a fermentation workshop this summer, I went to a farmers’ market and came back with baby carrots that caught my eye—in gorgeous orange, purple, and white,” says Story, pointing to another jar of serendipitous market finds, with a pink so bright, it seems DAWN STORY’S ZESTY KRAUT Story prefers using Celtic sea salt because it is unprocessed and has a better flavor. Makes 2 quarts 1 head of cabbage (red or green) 2 Tbsp. Celtic sea salt (available at health-food stores) 5 ounces carrots Bunch of kale 1 ounce any combination of caraway, fennel, coriander, basil, oregano, thyme, peppercorns 2 to 8 garlic cloves, to taste ⁄2 Shred the cabbage using a mandoline slicer or food processor. Put in a large bowl with sea salt. Let sit for 1 to 2 hours, until the cabbage releases its own juice. Move the cabbage to a lidded glass jar, along with the other vegetables, spices, and garlic. Cover completely with the juices released by the cabbage. Let sit at room temperature, for at least two weeks, making sure to open the lid and let out some air every other day. 36 | EDIBLE BLUE RIDGE FALL 2010 flavors is an understatement; you make what you like. Instead, there are merely guidelines and ratios. For example,mix two tablespoons salt into every quart of water,making enough to cover the vegetables by at least an inch or two. This is achieved by weighing themdown with an overturned ramekin or too-small lid. Then it’s a waiting game. “I strongly en-courage beginners to sample their ferments along the way,” says Stone, who tastes and re-tastes every few days, along with unscrewing the cap to let out some air—an act affection-ately known as “burping.” “By tasting and getting to know the flavors, I can slow the fermenting process by refrigeration when it is to my liking. Some might want a more tart ferment while others prefer a milder flavor.” Perhaps that is the most alluring aspect of home-fermented foods. Each one is hand-crafted, each one is different. To Story, many of the jars preserve part of the harvest she nurtured for weeks in the garden. To ask her to choose a favorite is inconceivable—it de-pends on the season and her mood. Really, she loves them all. You might say these krauts and spritzers are like her babies. So it’s hard not to think of that when Story walks over to a jar of cabbage-and-kale kraut on the counter, still undergoing the fer-mentation process. She carefully unscrews the lid to “burp” her baby, as any good fermenta-tion mama knows to do. WHERE TO FIND FARMSTEAD FERMENTS Dawn Story’s new line of fermented foods is available at the Forest Lakes farmers’ market and AndersonCarriage Food House inCharlottesville, at RelayFoods.com, and by special order by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling (540) 718-3200.