Food Culture

I figure since i don't have a serious interest in taking down measurements of any sort but do love sharing my progress with friends (be it via story or simply mason jars full of stuff that will never be returned) i'll keep some sort of journal that i can look back upon and maybe be inspired. This blog will mostly cover experimentations in fermentation but other kitchen exploits may be featured
So one of my main specialties is sauerkraut. I have cabbage people and my season revolves around their season. Growing up I would like sauerkraut except sometimes it was crunchier than other times and sometimes it made my throat itch in a weird way. I liked it crunchy but could not be guaranteed it!But then a few years ago i bought a jar of kraut at the farmers market in union square because it was advertised as having curry in it. This was unlike any kraut i had eaten before. Aside from the obvious spice addition, the cabbage was coarsely chopped, not overly salty, and also not vinegary! So I looked into this a bit. What separates this kind of kraut from the kind at hot dog carts is that this is LACTO FERMENTED. Webster’s dictionary doesn’t define lacto-fermentation but it is a process of the conversion of sugars in whatever you are using (cabbage in this case!) into lactate. It is anaerobic, meaning without oxygen. What separates rot from fermentation is oxygen. Since the cabbage is submerged in a liquid it cannot rot even when left out of the fridge. The addition of salt also helps to prevent bad bacteria from growing. What you will need:Cabbage (you want a nice, dense, head of cabbage. red or green work but i find that red is not only easier to work with and denser, but is sweeter, too! plus it makes yr kraut purple or pink if you mix red and green!)Salt (i recommend himalayan pink salt! it has no anti-caking agents and contains trace minerals. yummy.)a ceramic crock (ohio stonware makes these in increments of 1-10 gallons. ace hardware will order them for you and it is roughly $10/gallon. brooklyn kitchen has ‘vintage’ ones if you wanna be ripped off)a weight! (you can use outer leaves of the cabbage of a plate that fits perfectly in the crock weighted with either a mason jar full of water or a well-scrubbed stone)a cover: (you want to keep out dust and bugs while still allowing the exchange of air. i find these fit perfectly on a 1 gallon crock but a towel and tie will do fine, too)the process:chop the cabbage and in manageable amounts add it to the crock and salt lightly. it is hard to properly explain the right amount of salt but you want it tasting decidedly salty but not REALLY salty. massage the salted cabbage until you feel liquid being released and then press down with your fists and all your weight. repeat this in small batches until you’ve used up all the cabbage. I always chop my cabbage by hand but there is such a thing as a kraut blade that seems like it would make the whole process way easier. those prices are high i assure you but just to give you an idea. it’s basically a big mandolin with multiple blades.and that is just the basics. 10 lbs of cabbage will make you about 1 gallon of kraut, tightly packed. feel free to add in whatever sort of spices you want! horseradish would be nice obviously and so would garlic! you also do not have to limit yourself to cabbage! add in carrots, beets, turnips, crisp apples..anything!In this batch i used mustard seeds and caraway seeds which i toasted first to help evenly distribute the flavours

So one of my main specialties is sauerkraut. I have cabbage people and my season revolves around their season. Growing up I would like sauerkraut except sometimes it was crunchier than other times and sometimes it made my throat itch in a weird way. I liked it crunchy but could not be guaranteed it!

But then a few years ago i bought a jar of kraut at the farmers market in union square because it was advertised as having curry in it. This was unlike any kraut i had eaten before. Aside from the obvious spice addition, the cabbage was coarsely chopped, not overly salty, and also not vinegary! So I looked into this a bit. What separates this kind of kraut from the kind at hot dog carts is that this is LACTO FERMENTED. Webster’s dictionary doesn’t define lacto-fermentation but it is a process of the conversion of sugars in whatever you are using (cabbage in this case!) into lactate. It is anaerobic, meaning without oxygen. What separates rot from fermentation is oxygen. Since the cabbage is submerged in a liquid it cannot rot even when left out of the fridge. The addition of salt also helps to prevent bad bacteria from growing.

What you will need:
Cabbage (you want a nice, dense, head of cabbage. red or green work but i find that red is not only easier to work with and denser, but is sweeter, too! plus it makes yr kraut purple or pink if you mix red and green!)
Salt (i recommend himalayan pink salt! it has no anti-caking agents and contains trace minerals. yummy.)
a ceramic crock (ohio stonware makes these in increments of 1-10 gallons. ace hardware will order them for you and it is roughly $10/gallon. brooklyn kitchen has ‘vintage’ ones if you wanna be ripped off)
a weight! (you can use outer leaves of the cabbage of a plate that fits perfectly in the crock weighted with either a mason jar full of water or a well-scrubbed stone)
a cover: (you want to keep out dust and bugs while still allowing the exchange of air. i find these fit perfectly on a 1 gallon crock but a towel and tie will do fine, too)


the process:
chop the cabbage and in manageable amounts add it to the crock and salt lightly. it is hard to properly explain the right amount of salt but you want it tasting decidedly salty but not REALLY salty. massage the salted cabbage until you feel liquid being released and then press down with your fists and all your weight. repeat this in small batches until you’ve used up all the cabbage. I always chop my cabbage by hand but there is such a thing as a kraut blade that seems like it would make the whole process way easier. those prices are high i assure you but just to give you an idea. it’s basically a big mandolin with multiple blades.

and that is just the basics. 10 lbs of cabbage will make you about 1 gallon of kraut, tightly packed. feel free to add in whatever sort of spices you want! horseradish would be nice obviously and so would garlic! you also do not have to limit yourself to cabbage! add in carrots, beets, turnips, crisp apples..anything!

In this batch i used mustard seeds and caraway seeds which i toasted first to help evenly distribute the flavours

This batch finished up quicker than the last one!  i don’t know if it’s because we had some warm days and nights or because i used less salt (seemingly) but i’m pretty sure it’s been under a week!
Those Wyman peppercorns really shine through…especially towards the bottom of the crock.  It definitely has a more “sauer” taste with fewer competing flavors.  I just picked up fifteen pounds of cabbage from Northshire Farm (just outside of Cooperstown) and dumpstered some horseradish so maybe something will turn up this week….

This batch finished up quicker than the last one!  i don’t know if it’s because we had some warm days and nights or because i used less salt (seemingly) but i’m pretty sure it’s been under a week!

Those Wyman peppercorns really shine through…especially towards the bottom of the crock.  It definitely has a more “sauer” taste with fewer competing flavors.  I just picked up fifteen pounds of cabbage from Northshire Farm (just outside of Cooperstown) and dumpstered some horseradish so maybe something will turn up this week….

This one actually is me and that is the crock i just bought.
There’s a thrift store on 1st ave that has no awning or name of any sort and as far as i’m concerned is one of three redeeming qualities of the Upper East.
The other two are:
Juliano’s - a super cheap and friendly (and good!) coffee shop on 91st and lex that closes when they feel like it and doesn’t allow laptops or credit cards.  No idea how they make rent with a corner location but i’m glad they do.  
Pita off the Corner - I waited for literally months staring at their awning creating an image of what it would be like at this place based on the few reviews of the midwood location i could find.  I speculated that it would be stuff it yourself and closed on shabbos but beyond that i had little to go on.  I had been without my own falafel place for over a year since ashkara closed.  This place is new and i’ve already established rapport.  The falafel is perfectly seasoned and fried and not only is stuff it yrself with some of the freshest ingredients, but includes unlimited salad bar on a plate.  And they have amba.  I’ve eaten here no fewer than ten times since i started going about a month ago.  Sometimes up to thrice weekly.
But anyway…i pass this thrift store sometimes on my night walks (when i have them) but am usually with a dog that is not only too wild to be trusted around so many breakables but is also just too big to really maneuver the store even if he were well-behaved.  Best i can gather is that they specialize in old lamps and fixtures and open mostly during night hours to showcase their talents best.  when it’s not open (seemingly a good portion of the time) a sign on the door offers a number to call to purchase anything in the  window or to have a lamp rewired.  the people who work there are super friendly.

to find that crock i had to move myself and a bag stuffed with chocolate covered with gold (dumpster score at dean & deluca.  more on that place soon) and to a shelf in the rear illuminated by one of their famous light fixtures.  i thought it was a kimchi vessel and they agreed it might be but whatever it is it’s older than i am (the characters are not in korean, however, so if it is a kimchi vessel it’s not traditional.  i can’t be sure if it’s japanese or chinese or…) and by a capacity-cost ratio it’s cheaper than a new crock i’d order from the hardware store.  it’s at least two gallons and easily three (which i think clocks my head in at about 1/2-3/4 gal.  maybe i’ll donate my body to miso when i’m gone)
in any case i’m still deciding what i want to make in here.  i’m thinking maybe it’d be a good place to do a second batch of kombucha since the cover wouldn’t really be useful for any sort of veggie ferment but also maybe because of the potentially japanese characters on bottom this could be my miso vessel?  it’s a weird endeavor to undertake because you want to make as much as possible since it takes a year but the more you make the more beans and grains you dedicate to a potentially unsuccessful venture
stay tuned.

This one actually is me and that is the crock i just bought.

There’s a thrift store on 1st ave that has no awning or name of any sort and as far as i’m concerned is one of three redeeming qualities of the Upper East.

The other two are:

  • Juliano’s - a super cheap and friendly (and good!) coffee shop on 91st and lex that closes when they feel like it and doesn’t allow laptops or credit cards.  No idea how they make rent with a corner location but i’m glad they do.  
  • Pita off the Corner - I waited for literally months staring at their awning creating an image of what it would be like at this place based on the few reviews of the midwood location i could find.  I speculated that it would be stuff it yourself and closed on shabbos but beyond that i had little to go on.  I had been without my own falafel place for over a year since ashkara closed.  This place is new and i’ve already established rapport.  The falafel is perfectly seasoned and fried and not only is stuff it yrself with some of the freshest ingredients, but includes unlimited salad bar on a plate.  And they have amba.  I’ve eaten here no fewer than ten times since i started going about a month ago.  Sometimes up to thrice weekly.

But anyway…i pass this thrift store sometimes on my night walks (when i have them) but am usually with a dog that is not only too wild to be trusted around so many breakables but is also just too big to really maneuver the store even if he were well-behaved.  Best i can gather is that they specialize in old lamps and fixtures and open mostly during night hours to showcase their talents best.  when it’s not open (seemingly a good portion of the time) a sign on the door offers a number to call to purchase anything in the  window or to have a lamp rewired.  the people who work there are super friendly.

to find that crock i had to move myself and a bag stuffed with chocolate covered with gold (dumpster score at dean & deluca.  more on that place soon) and to a shelf in the rear illuminated by one of their famous light fixtures.  i thought it was a kimchi vessel and they agreed it might be but whatever it is it’s older than i am (the characters are not in korean, however, so if it is a kimchi vessel it’s not traditional.  i can’t be sure if it’s japanese or chinese or…) and by a capacity-cost ratio it’s cheaper than a new crock i’d order from the hardware store.  it’s at least two gallons and easily three (which i think clocks my head in at about 1/2-3/4 gal.  maybe i’ll donate my body to miso when i’m gone)

in any case i’m still deciding what i want to make in here.  i’m thinking maybe it’d be a good place to do a second batch of kombucha since the cover wouldn’t really be useful for any sort of veggie ferment but also maybe because of the potentially japanese characters on bottom this could be my miso vessel?  it’s a weird endeavor to undertake because you want to make as much as possible since it takes a year but the more you make the more beans and grains you dedicate to a potentially unsuccessful venture

stay tuned.

dumpstered a few things at Dean & Deluca.  Among those things was this sack of Wynad Peppercorns (200g).  The description from an online salt retailer reads:

Featured in the November 2008 issue of Cooks Illustrated!One of the finest peppers in India grows in the Wynad Plateau in Kerala. Parameswaren’s Wynad Pepper pepper is grown on a small estate in Wynad, in a beautiful valley where elephants are common, and tigers are still occasionally seen.Most peppers are picked between January and March, harvested green and dried in the sun; yet, sometimes a small part of the crop will be left to ripen further, achieving a reddish color. More difficult and expensive to collect, it has an intensity of flavor unmatched by the green pepper. This Special Wynad Black and White Pepper are of that rare quality. Enjoy!


All the reviews are favourable, though they also insist you order your peppercorns from this merchant rather than some inauthentic place such as amazon.com.  I highly doubt the proprietors of  Salt Traders could have conceived of three unique statements, however, so i will simply choose to trust that this is good pepper and Salt Traders is a fine retailer.

I also bought, with my hard-earned food stamps, some Late Flat Dutch Cabbage.  That is not me in the picture
 
Were it me i would be certain to offer the side-view of the vegetable thus demonstrating how it appears flat, at least in comparison to other cabbages.  Having only two of these i made sure to pick up some extra cabbage at Integral Yoga.  Normally i don’t care much for hippies but not only is yoga something i’d like to try (someplace free, perhaps) but they treat me real nice there.
 So using one of the one-gallon crocks i dumpstered, some real salt (i’ll recommend this since it doesn’t have anything added such as anti-caking agents and contains all the trace minerals) and the aforementioned peppercorns and cabbages i should have some nice kraut in another week or two.

dumpstered a few things at Dean & Deluca.  Among those things was this sack of Wynad Peppercorns (200g).  The description from an online salt retailer reads:

Featured in the November 2008 issue of Cooks Illustrated!


One of the finest peppers in India grows in the Wynad Plateau in Kerala. Parameswaren’s Wynad Pepper pepper is grown on a small estate in Wynad, in a beautiful valley where elephants are common, and tigers are still occasionally seen.

Most peppers are picked between January and March, harvested green and dried in the sun; yet, sometimes a small part of the crop will be left to ripen further, achieving a reddish color. More difficult and expensive to collect, it has an intensity of flavor unmatched by the green pepper. This Special Wynad Black and White Pepper are of that rare quality. Enjoy!

All the reviews are favourable, though they also insist you order your peppercorns from this merchant rather than some inauthentic place such as amazon.com.  I highly doubt the proprietors of  Salt Traders could have conceived of three unique statements, however, so i will simply choose to trust that this is good pepper and Salt Traders is a fine retailer.

I also bought, with my hard-earned food stamps, some Late Flat Dutch Cabbage.  That is not me in the picture

 

Were it me i would be certain to offer the side-view of the vegetable thus demonstrating how it appears flat, at least in comparison to other cabbages.  Having only two of these i made sure to pick up some extra cabbage at Integral Yoga.  Normally i don’t care much for hippies but not only is yoga something i’d like to try (someplace free, perhaps) but they treat me real nice there.

 So using one of the one-gallon crocks i dumpstered, some real salt (i’ll recommend this since it doesn’t have anything added such as anti-caking agents and contains all the trace minerals) and the aforementioned peppercorns and cabbages i should have some nice kraut in another week or two.

This is my next project.  It’s a high-capacity dehydrator that costs, at most, as much as a four-tray excalibur.  I’m a little off-put by the fact that it was designed by a survivalist and his price forecasts don’t match any i’m able to find (again…these people are not to be trusted) but i would lump this in with the things that have been worth the money they cost (along with my champion juicer [free], bike [the opposite of free…] and messenger bag [walks the line])
besides who doesn’t love a good project?
this will surely lead to other projects.  The dehydrator could act as an incubator for fermenting things like tempeh, yogurt/kefir, and raw nut-based cheeses (which require a dehydration period as well).  don’t doubt for a second that i also won’t be dabbling into fruit leathers from juicer pulp (the house still opposes even a smell-free compost bin)
But the project to make this project doable…finally organizing my office-space

This is my next project.  It’s a high-capacity dehydrator that costs, at most, as much as a four-tray excalibur.  I’m a little off-put by the fact that it was designed by a survivalist and his price forecasts don’t match any i’m able to find (again…these people are not to be trusted) but i would lump this in with the things that have been worth the money they cost (along with my champion juicer [free], bike [the opposite of free…] and messenger bag [walks the line])

besides who doesn’t love a good project?

this will surely lead to other projects.  The dehydrator could act as an incubator for fermenting things like tempeh, yogurt/kefir, and raw nut-based cheeses (which require a dehydration period as well).  don’t doubt for a second that i also won’t be dabbling into fruit leathers from juicer pulp (the house still opposes even a smell-free compost bin)

But the project to make this project doable…finally organizing my office-space

My latest ferment, what i call reubenkraut, is a mixture of red and green cabbages, white beets, and newtown pippin apples.  Everything is sourced locally.  The cabbages are uncertified organic while the white beets are certified.  The apples are not specified, though they don’t show signs of spraying and they were certainly not waxed.
My coworker and i were lucky enough to find five one-gallon ceramic crocks in Dean & Deluca’s trash.  Actually, i was lucky enough to find them and he took three of them.  With one i decided to get back into regular krauts, not being worn out on Kimchi but ready for something new.  I had only done a kraut once before and it was ultimately too salty though it did properly mature.
I am only going to be using Real Salt or other salts that are free of additives of any sort.  Real salt claims to be full of trace minerals which i’m starting to learn is key for the fermentation process. My coworker’s batch did not turn out nearly as well so i am going to assume that when doing this ferment you’ll want a finer grain salt as opposed to a coarse grain.  I suggested to him that he rinse the cabbage and then add just plain water to the same level as the brine was and leave it to ferment for at least another week.  Does anybody know if this was sound advice?
My personal batch took somewhere between two and three weeks to finish and has been further maturing in the fridge.  My concern is that i can’t, with the vessels at hand, make enough of anything to keep up with the rate at which i’m able to eat it.  A crock that was about 5/6ths of the way full (very densely packed) provided me with seven pints (actually just about right…) of the good stuff.  Since this is lower in salt than any kraut you get in the store and certainly than my previous attempt i could polish off one a night easily.  I lack the will and fridge space at the moment to even consider trying to stock up in the interest of always being in supply.

My latest ferment, what i call reubenkraut, is a mixture of red and green cabbages, white beets, and newtown pippin apples.  Everything is sourced locally.  The cabbages are uncertified organic while the white beets are certified.  The apples are not specified, though they don’t show signs of spraying and they were certainly not waxed.

My coworker and i were lucky enough to find five one-gallon ceramic crocks in Dean & Deluca’s trash.  Actually, i was lucky enough to find them and he took three of them.  With one i decided to get back into regular krauts, not being worn out on Kimchi but ready for something new.  I had only done a kraut once before and it was ultimately too salty though it did properly mature.

I am only going to be using Real Salt or other salts that are free of additives of any sort.  Real salt claims to be full of trace minerals which i’m starting to learn is key for the fermentation process. My coworker’s batch did not turn out nearly as well so i am going to assume that when doing this ferment you’ll want a finer grain salt as opposed to a coarse grain.  I suggested to him that he rinse the cabbage and then add just plain water to the same level as the brine was and leave it to ferment for at least another week.  Does anybody know if this was sound advice?

My personal batch took somewhere between two and three weeks to finish and has been further maturing in the fridge.  My concern is that i can’t, with the vessels at hand, make enough of anything to keep up with the rate at which i’m able to eat it.  A crock that was about 5/6ths of the way full (very densely packed) provided me with seven pints (actually just about right…) of the good stuff.  Since this is lower in salt than any kraut you get in the store and certainly than my previous attempt i could polish off one a night easily.  I lack the will and fridge space at the moment to even consider trying to stock up in the interest of always being in supply.