Home on the Range

According to the Internet and her book jacket, Shannon Stonger and her husband have five children, various farm animals and live off the grid on their five-acre homestead in Texas. I want that to sink in for just a second. This woman has five children and somehow managed to write a cookbook. A good one, I might add.

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I have two little girls and live very much on the grid, and I can barely get up three paragraphs once a week on this blog. How she found the time to sit and write a book is blowing my mind right now.

When her book Traditionally Fermented Foods arrived in the mail in late May, I honed in on the kimchi, or, as she puts it, “Homestead ‘Chi”. Most everything I needed for it was in the CSA: cabbage, turnips, and green onions. All that was left to add was garlic, spice, and time, and I’d eventually have kimchi.

And, oh, how I tended to my kimchi. For the first week I had to “burp” the built-up gases nightly, by quickly opening and shutting the cap. It gave the most satisfying little exhale. Of course, this was pre-snake, back when I would go down to the basement.

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The ‘chi rested for about a month and a half in two large jars at the bottom of the stairs. I’d fashioned the fermentation weights with stones I found outside and wrapped in cheesecloth. I know they sell special weights in kitchen stores, but I encourage you to improvise as well.

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And while your kimchi ferments, there’s much, much more in the book to try.  A sourdough section, kombucha, and a dairy section with kefir and sour cream.

We’ve stirred our kimchi into leftover brown rice and topped it with a scallion salad and fried egg for a meal.  I tucked some of it into a grilled cheese sandwich on Sunday night and it was PHENOMENAL. It’s become a go-to condiment in our house, right next to the ketchup, mustard and sriracha.

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To prep the jars, wash them in very hot soapy water. Do not dry the washed bottles or jars, but put them upright on a baking sheet, about 2 inches apart, and put in the oven. Turn on the heat to 350F and once the oven has reached this temperature, leave the bottles or jars in the oven for 20 minutes to ensure they are completely sterilized. Wear protective oven mitts when handling hot bottles and jars.

Homestead ‘Chi from Traditionally Fermented Foods by Shannon Stonger

Ingredients

2 medium heads green cabbage

2 large (softball-size) turnips, grated

12 green onions, chopped roughly

8 large garlic cloves, minced

3-4 tbsp (45-60 g) salt (4 tbsp [60g] only if temperatures exceed 80F (27C])

3 tbsp (22g) ground sweet paprika

1-2 tbsp (2-4g) red pepper flakes or 1/4 -1/2 cup (43-85) diced hot peppers

Directions

Shred the cabbage thinly using a knife and cutting board or mandolin. Add the cabbage and all remaining ingredients to a large mixing bowl. Mix well with hands to combine. Pound the cabbage with a mallet or potato masher to release the juices. Alternatively, allow to sit, covered for 1 hour to allow the juices to be released.

Pack kimchi tightly in a half-gallon (2-L)-size jar or 2 quart (1-L)-size jars, leaving at least 2 inches (50mm) of headspace. Add the fermentation weight of your choosing. Check that the brine is above the level of the fermentation weight. If not, mix 1 cup (236ml) of water with 1 ½ teaspoons (8g) of salt and pour this brine into the jar until the fermentation weight is completely covered.

Place at cool room temperature (60 to 80F [16 to 27C], optimally) and allow to ferment for at least three weeks. If you haven’t used an airlock, then during this period, especially during the first 5 to 7 days, you will need to burp the jars by quickly opening them to release the built-up gases that result from the fermentation. To do so, carefully and quickly open the jar, listen for the release of gas and close jar back up with just a bit of the gases still remaining inside.

This ferment pairs wonderfully with eggs, beans and salads, and makes a delicious spread when mixed with soft cheese.

 

 

 

Pot of Gold

Call it kismet, call it destiny, call it Lady Luck, but there is something afoot in my kitchen. A few weeks back, as we were enjoying stuffed pumpkin at a Friday night dinner, I become just a tad wistful talking about my love of cholent, a stew prepped on Friday afternoon, put on a low-flame and cooked overnight so it’s ready the next day for Shabbat lunch. Alas, I lost my Crock-Pot sometime between moving from Harlem to Lower Allston. Such is life, I thought to myself, and helped myself to another piece of pumpkin.

The next day, I set out to take a walk down by the river to watch some of the Head of Charles (read: to eat free food samples down by the river). As I weaved my way through my neighborhood, I stumbled upon a tag sale. And there it was: a Crock-Pot! After inquiring with the Crock-Pot seller about the safety of a Crock-Pot with a $15 price tag – they had just gotten married and were selling things they had doubles of – I convinced them to set it aside.

That Monday morning my sister popped up on Gchat and randomly asked me if and when I was going to post some slow-cooker recipes. “Funny you should ask that,” I typed.

We’ve had some freakishly warm weather this fall, so I was slow to put my new find to use. This past weekend, however, I decided to get a few things in order in the kitchen. I spent an afternoon tidying my pantry by putting dried beans and grains into empty glass Bell jars. Things did look extra-spiffy at the end of my task, but my actions served a deeper purpose: to keep creepy crawling things out of my food. I also did some electronic tidying, sorting through all my emails that contained recipes — 538 to be exact, including several featuring slow cooker recipes I’d tucked away, just in case.

I’ve started digging through the myriad of Crock-Pot recipes, but I’m going to start things off with that cholent I dreamed about.

I started this project two days before. Right before I went to bed, I placed 1 and 1/2 cups of dried cranberry beans to soak overnight. (A quick word about dried beans: Given the new information about BPA levels in canned foods, I am going to now exclusively use dried beans when I cook with legumes, and you should, too. OK, enough lecturing.)

When I came home from work the next day, I assembled the rest of the cholent. I set the cooker to low and left it on overnight. When we woke up in the morning the house had the smell I’d been pining for. Or, as Rich sang, “It’s beginning to smell a lot like cholent.” I kept the pot on low and went to work. I think the cholent would have been ready by mid-morning and certainly for lunch. If I wasn’t at work, I’d most likely be eating bowls of this all day long.

You’ll notice that I’ve topped mine off with a dollop of Greek yogurt. I know some of you won’t be able to do that final step, but if you can, I promise you it’s terrific. You can also leave out the eggs and keep this dish vegan, but I love the deep flavor of the slow roasted egg. I also left salt out of the Crock-Pot and added it to taste when all was said and done.

Vegetarian Cholent with Cumin and Aleppo Pepper

Ingredients
1 and 1/2 cups of dried beans (I used cranberry, but I think chickpea would also be great in this version) soaked overnight
1/2 cup barley
1 carrot, peeled and chopped into 1-inch pieces
1 onion halved and quartered
2 cloves garlic, smashed
1 large potato or 2 small potatoes, peeled, halved and chopped into quarters
1 turnip, peeled, halved and quartered (a rutabaga would also be very nice)
Approximately 2 1/2 cups water, depending on the size of your crockpot
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon Aleppo pepper
2 eggs

Directions
On the night before you want to serve the cholent, place all ingredients in your Crock-Pot, except for the eggs. I prefer giving everything a stir so that the spices swirl and cover the vegetables, then place the eggs on top of everything else. Cover, turn Crock-Pot to low, and walk away. In the morning, check to see if everything is sufficiently moist. If things look dry, add a half cup water. Turn the eggs over.

For the yogurt: when ready to serve, mix 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin, 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander, 1/2 teaspoon aleppo pepper, juice of half of one lemon and a pinch of salt into 3/4 cup of Greek yogurt. I also tried a plain scoop of yogurt on top of today’s lunch. Both were delicious; it will really be up to you how much you want to explore the added spices.