FoodShed: early August hot and rainy

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Another exciting week of food adventures to report! This week I am playing with lactic acid fermentation, I know it sounds scary but it is super exciting! Also I am flush with squash and zuc’s from the garden… thus the final inspiration to get me fermenting: spicy kimchi here I come! I have a huge jar of kombucha on the go right now, which Dylan’s mom started for me last weekend with one of her mother mushrooms. Talk about a daunting entrance to the world of fermenting. I have a massive Costco size pickle jar on my shelf full of pink fluid with what looks like a piece of pig skin floating in it; kinda like a science lab jar with a baby something in formaldehyde! Fortunately our family has experienced the benefits of kombucha already; both Dylan’s grandparents, his mom, and him have all reported an easing of stomach ailments upon using commercially purchased kombucha in a jar, and thanks to Helens efforts to buck the system we are now brewing our own! So let me take this all back a step and get you thinking about more commonly used fermented foods: yogurt, sauerkraut, kosher pickles, & Korean kimchi… not too scary right? Well all of these are made using a super simple, old world method of preserving foods which doesn’t require heat, which in turn doesn’t diminish the health benefits of the food being stored, and in fact in most cases the natural bacteria within the process are extremely beneficial, does PRO BIOTICS ring a bell? So not too long ago the universe seemed to be hitting me over the head with the idea of fermenting foods; A truly talented and inspiring chef from back home and fellow Permie Valerie Andrews, did a demo of sauerkraut making simply using salt and water for our PDC class in Nelson, this happened only weeks after meeting with yet another Permie who was racing home to Vancouver Island and his bucket of fermenting cabbage, I then read an earlier mentioned book “Independance Days”, where the author raved to no end about her adventures in kimchi making, right around this time Helen got her first starter kombucha mushroom, and now that I am diving deeply into any and all methods of putting up food that don’t require heat other than the sun for drying (namely because I still don’t have a stove top),  my current drowning in squash situation was really the straw that broke the camels back, enough encouragement for me to get on the fermenting band wagon. I am thrilled to share my adventures thus far!

My kombucha has grown it’s own second mushroom after a week in my bathroom and next week I will divide it and we can begin to drink the sour fermented tea. Apparently you can brew it with elderberries for other added benefits, and each new mushroom can be dried and stored to be brewed again at any point in the future. I hope to experiment with both of these options in the future.

Kimchi & Sauerkraut: today I started the process with an over night soak in salt water for both a shredded head of lovely local organic green cabbage, and about 8 too large starburst squash in shades of yellow, lime and dark green which I thinly sliced on a mandolin. After soaking these in saltwater overnight in ceramic bowls with weighted lids I will portion large mason jars with respective veggies top up with the salt brine, leaving the lids loosely closed the jars will sour and ferment at room temperature over the next week or two. For the kimchi squash I will add sugar, fresh ginger, chilies and garlic too.

Last week at the Nelson farmers Market (a wonderful place to wander away a day) I met a wonderful; local garlic farmer who spent a great deal of time with me going over the ins and outs of garlic growing, and today we made a little trip to his farm to pick up bulbs and seeds for my fall planting. I really wanted to grow garlic this season but the bulbs need to go in late fall, so this will be my first change to grow them. I left his farm with 5 seed heads which over the course of 2 years will grow some 250 garlic bulbs. I also bought 1 lb of planting bulbs, he walked me through which ones to use now (for kimchi, and other culinary adventures) and which ones should go in the ground. I will start preparing my raised garlic beds soon, so that I am all ready for the frost and freeze, and if everything is successful by this time next year I will have enough garlic to get me through the season and I will be 250 garlic balls into the following years planting.

I did put to use 2 huge cloves of garlic in these evenings campfire cook out, where I guiltily made a cheesy, potato wheat dumpling dish featuring my garden peas and summer squash, It was divine and I never would have made it had my boyfriend been here for dinner as he is unable to eat all of the main ingredients (sadly) but we devoured the dish, and it was all the better for having to stand out in the rain to prepare it, while multitasking and netting off the plumping grape vines in hopes to keep some fruit for ourselves rather than all the local birds!

I have started digging up potatoes but I still have no root cellar to store them in, and I am seriously considering burying an old chest freezer we acquired with our property in to the ground. The other option I am looking into is creating a straw bale above ground storage box, which is actually much larger than it sounds and is a really primitive root storage technology, but may be just the ticket. I feel like I have had my share of digging this season, with swales and post holes and garden tasks and I am not eager to dive into a freezer size hole, with so many other projects on the go. I had a grand idea about getting a green house chicken coop I designed months ago up before the snow flies, but I think my entire labor force, namely my boyfriend is now focused on his woodshop getting done before the snow, leaving me to make my garden shed an all purpose building for this winter. Which grand greenhouse design aside will not host a root cellar cold sink. I will wattle and daub my way through a winter chook coop addition and likely cold frame a part of the garden instead of a green house, as well as experiment with over wintering some cold hardy crops like kale, spinach and chard. The other potato projects on my mind are home made potato chips, dried potato slices, and maybe frozen french fries ?! I seem to have caused my potato plants some distress which I attribute to laying a cushy cedar woodchip walk way too near them in already too acidic soil. After a bought with potato bugs the leafs have all turned yellow and look really sad, mostly out of embarrassment for my garden I want to get them all dug out and call it a day. Luckily the potatoes are beautiful, not scabby as I had feared and they range from monstrous to perfect little baby spuds, Unluckily however for the plants, shortly after planting all ten thousand of them, we found out my sweet man had sensitivities to potatoes and night shades veggies and some part of me just kind of neglected the potato isle all together thinking well if they are strong they will survive without my care… It’s not like my daughter and I can eat that many potatoes ourselves anyway.

I think that about sums up my week in food, I will follow up with pics of the kimchi and sauerkraut later this week. Besides it’s raining, it’s pouring and I just brought home a copy of “The art of Simple Foods, by Alice Waters” I can’t wait to dive into! For those of you that attended Food 4 Though, Alice Waters is the fabulous chef featured in Food Fight accredited to starting the organic local food movement in San Fransisco in the 70’s.

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