Making Preserved Lemons is Easy

It’s quite easy to make your own preserved lemons at home. All you’ll need is some kosher salt, a jar, and 6-8 small lemons (organic is preferred as you’ll be eating the peel).

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The batch that I have prepared here is my second, so I’m no expert. However it doesn’t take much effort or skill.

This time I used the often suggested Meyer lemon known for its sweetness and bright lemon fragrance. The peels are softer, too, making it easy to flex them into the jar.

I look the lemons over, separating out the few with less desirable looking peels, saving them to be juiced and poured in over the preserved lemon wedges.

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Then I slice up the lemon wedges in half and then again, into quarters, and place them into a clean jar with a locking lid.

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I sprinkle a bit of salt over the first layer of wedges before adding more lemon.
Layer until the jar is full, sprinkle on a bit more kosher salt and add the lemon juice.

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And that’s it! The last ingredient is time. Since it’s so easy to make preserved lemons it must be easy to find some Moroccan recipes that call for them, right?

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A Dose of Dosa

I was lucky to attend a fermentation workshop this past summer. One of the best revelations was dosa (or dosai, or thosa…there are many variations of spelling).

Dosa is a delicious South Indian pancake made simply from rice, lentils, and good ol’ wild yeast. It is gluten free, dairy free, and the consistency allows it to be cooked with out any fat, if desired. I omit salt as well.

The workshop participants were given a batch of dosai batter to inspect. With an eyebrow raised, I stuck my nose in the jar, unsure of what to expect. The batter looked a bit strange, but the smell wasn’t bad. Not what I had imagined.

The finished product was fried up in coconut oil. It was fantastic. The dosai had an almost sourdough-esque quality. Tangy and earthy.

When I got back home I looked up some recipes and began to experiment.

There’s some prep time, but it’s not involved. Just begin preparation a few days in advance if you’re planning on serving it to others.

Here’s what has worked for me:

I take 2 C of long grain white rice and 1/2 C lentils (traditionally urad dal) and soak it overnight. Some recipes call for a 2:1 ratio of rice to lentils, which could be chosen instead if you want the extra protein. I have found other recipes calling for 1 1/2 C. rice and 1/4 C. lentils. It’s always okay to experiment, I promise.

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I’ve strayed beyond traditional recipes, trying many types of dal (lentils). You could even use split peas if desired. Or not. I prefer golden lentils in colder weather; they seem to cause the dosa batter to ferment faster. Maybe it’s not true, but I think it works.

The next day I strain the water and rinse the rice and dal mix. Then I place the strained mix in the blender.

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Sometimes I add fenugreek seeds at this point.

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Next, I add unchlorinated water until it covers the top of the mix.

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Pop on the cover and blend, starting on the lowest setting, progressing gradually towards the highest speed.

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When it’s relatively smooth and frothy I pour it into a glass jar or into a non-reactive (non-metal) bowl and cover. Make sure there’s some extra room for the dosa batter to rise, whichever receptacle you choose.

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It usually takes a day for the batter to ferment if it’s warm out. The batch might need some encouragement via warm oven if your home is kept cool.

Typically it’s two days for the dosai batter to develop into the taste I prefer. It takes on a flavor that’s reminiscent of sourdough the longer it’s left to ferment.

Once it’s fermented to the point of peak flavor into the fridge it goes where it will keep for up to a month, but best used within a week. Some old funky batter I found hiding in my fridge took on the odor of cheese which was more akin to gorgonzola than parmesan. In any case it wouldn’t have killed me if I cooked it and ate it, but I wasn’t feeling that adventurous.

In any case, what you do with your dosa batter is up to you. I like to make curried potatoes as a filling (masala dosa).

This morning I took my batter and put a small amount in a mixing bowl along with some cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg. I added some water to thin the mix. I heated up my flat frying pan to a medium heat and spread the batter as thin as I could to produce a crepe.

I guess as I find and try out more recipes I will post them up here. There are many different versions that are traditionally made, but I can think of some interesting fusion dishes that could be prepared.

The Fabulous Katz

It’s almost needless to say that the book Wild Fermentation by Sandor Katz is one of the most amazing resources for anyone interested in fermented food.

I insist that if you haven’t checked out his book, at least check out his supporting website.

Wild Fermentation

Kimchi in Space

I came across this laughable old post:
Kimchi goes to space, along with first Korean astronaut
It’s quite ironic that the lengths taken to get the Korean delicacy to space render the kimchi useless health-wise.

Kimchi Fried Rice

Kimchi Fried Rice.

I hope to try this out with my current, seemingly endless jar of kimchi.

Thanks, Cady!

Vacation in Tucson and Vegas

I just returned from a whirlwind week-long desert trip.

My boyfriend and I flew into Las Vegas to meet up with my father (who was in town visiting a friend) while on our way to Tucson to meet up with my mom. Mom was in Arizona for a tattoo convention.

I had never been to the famed Sin City.
I was looking in one direction, distracted by the sites of the strip when
my boyfriend pointed out a large sign declaring “KIMCHI”.
My reaction?

No way! Really?

But yes. Yes way, indeed. Not a desert mirage, but a 24 hour all-you-can-eat Korean BBQ.

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I wasn’t aiming for a food adventure, yet there it was.

I stepped into the restaurant and asked if they made the kimchi themselves. I was told that, yes, it was made there.
I was hoping so, but you never know. I have been to places that will serve up something out of a jar purchased elsewhere.

The hostess told me that they usually serve the kimchi as part the buffet meal and did not have it on the menu separately. She let me know that she would have to ask for pricing on the kimchi. The hostess stepped back to ask a woman in the kitchen, who I assumed was more than likely an owner.

The young hostess returned to inform me that they would sell me a container for $5 plus tax and proceeded toward the buffet table.

The first thing I noticed was the way it was displayed at the buffet.

The kimchi was laid out nicely, rather than slopped in the tray. I love Korean cuisine because, in addition to tasting great, it’s usually presented very artistically. The hostess kindly overstuffed the container with some pungently peppery kimchi and asked if I wanted some chopsticks, which I accepted.

The woman who was back by the kitchen offered a smaller plastic baggie to keep the container from leaking, which was very nice of her, as kimchi juice always seems to find a way to escape from most containers.

So I hopped back into the rental car with my boyfriend and father, and I (kindly) placed the lightly seafood scented fermented cabbage into a small cooler my father brought along. We drove to the Circus Circus where my dad placed a single bet on roulette. Then we were off to see the wizard, er Tucson.

No way for us to see the Hoover dam on this trip. Once we were over on the newly constructed bridge we realized we had missed our opportunity to take the exit to see the dam. So on we went.

When we arrived in Tucson I took this pic:

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Then unwrapped the chopsticks and dug in…

Here’s the assessment:

The stuff stunk, that was for sure. My mom wanted to know what smelled like sewage (yum!). However, I was not deterred. While the odor was vaguely seafood-esque it was not as fishy as I had expected. The flavor was not too sour, and relatively sweeter than what I make at home. The cabbage seemed healthy and very green. The texture of the cabbage leaves was was similar to what it might have been fresh. A bit salty, but that seemed to balance out the sweetness. There was plenty of green onion and maybe some radish. Lots and lots of red pepper paste made it spicy, but not devastatingly hot.

Overall it was some of the best kimchi I have had in a while.

It was a cure for all ailments, a potion of funk. My father was compelled to try some on a slice of pizza, which he claimed was delicious.

I got tattooed, a cactus, well suited for Arizona. And we took a tour out to Tombstone, which was fun. We got there a bit late and missed the gunfight, but we went to Boothill, had some dinner, and took the ghost tour at The Birdcage theater.

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I said farewell to my parents and the boyfriend and I headed back towards Vegas, stopping to visit his grandparents on the way.

We spent one night at The Excalibur casino on the strip, because the rooms were the least expensive. Got to ride the roller coaster at New York, New York, right next door. My right foot was hurting, so we didn’t wander too far. We got to the MGM Grand, the Luxor and the following day we went to Treasure Island before heading back to the airport.

Crazy stuff.

Homemade Hot Sauce

I go through a lot of hot sauce at home. Really. It gets to be expensive.

I realized that many hot sauces are fermented, like Tabasco and Sriracha. Why not make my own?

Here’s what I do: I take a variety of fresh appealing chile peppers, wash them, and pop the stems off. I recommend wearing gloves for this, as peppers vary in piquancy and some will sting your skin. If I forego the gloves my hands won’t sting, but then I will touch my face at some point and it’ll burn like crazy even after repeated hand washings.
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I put the peppers into the blender. I blend for a brief moment before I add some filtered water.

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Next, I add a bit of salt and a pinch of sugar.

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The first time I made this hot sauce it took about nine days to ferment. Now what I do is take the remaining sauce from the previous batch and add it to the current hot sauce, like a starter, to make it ferment faster. The previous batch was mostly Fresno chiles and garlic.

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Sometimes I add more garlic, or no garlic at all. Sometimes a bit of sugar goes into the mix. I pick my peppers based on availability, so the ferment is constantly shifting, which is great because my taste changes too.

This week the starring peppers are Serrano, jalapeƱo and habanero! A greener version of what I typically make.

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One more tip for those of you who hate blender clean up:
Take that sucker and fill it up with some soap and water and blend it until clean, then rinse!

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Don’t consume. Haha!

Sauerkraut, no doubt.

Sauerkraut is one of the easiest fermented foods to make at home. It can be made with the simplest ingredients: cabbage, salt, and water.

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The process is easy. Start with a fresh cabbage and chop it up. Some folks like to shred it or grate it, that’s personal preference. I like a rough chop.

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Then salt is added. I typically use kosher salt, but any salt could be used (yielding different results). This week’s food experiment used a small amount of smoked salt and kosher salt. I usually serve the sauerkraut with pork and I thought the smoked salt would pair nicely. (The smoked salt is the suspicious looking bag on the right.)

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I usually add some dill, but remember that none of that is necessary. This time I gave it a pinch of dill, but I introduced some fresh turmeric to this batch of sauerkraut.

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I mix the cabbage with my hands, warming it up in the process. I let the cabbage sit for about an hour while the salt works to draw the juice out of the cabbage. After the brief wait I stuff the cabbage into a glass locking lid jar. I have learned from trial and error that I need to leave 1″ to 2″ of free space or else it tries to escape and wastes precious sauerkraut juice.

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I make sure the brine covers the cabbage, if it doesn’t it can be topped off with water (some people use distilled water, but I use spring water or filtered water). The fresher the cabbage the less likely you will need the water.

Then comes the patience part. I let it sit for about a week or so before I refrigerate the kraut at it’s flavor peak. You can taste it as you go until you find the flavor you’re pursuing. If it’s cold out it could take longer.

Sometimes I eat the finished product raw, but usually I slow cook the sauerkraut with pork. Throw in some onions, fresh dill and potatoes and it’s a meal.

And that is the beauty of fermentation! Cabbage to kraut to meal. I typically make my kraut and save it for that specific craving.

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It’s Kimchi for Me

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When I was younger a family friend visiting from New Jersey would occasionally bring us a jar of Kim Chee. I remember my dad would open it over the sink because it was so effervescent. I felt it fizz on my tongue when I began to chew. It was an understandable acquired taste, yet years later I found myself reminiscing in the health food store and purchased a jar of basic Kimchi. Unlike what I had growing up, It was more tart, not fizzy, but still good. That’s what I was buying for about a year up until I moved from upstate NY to Colorado.

In Colorado I found a great Asian grocery store nearby. I payed them a visit to get some kimchi, but every option was laced with MSG. Still, it was something different so I bought it. It was much fishier than expected, but tasted much better than anticipated. But the addition of MSG still seemed unsavory (because it turns me into a pantry devouring zombie). It was time to make my own kimchi.

I found a recipe online and returned to the Asian grocer, this time for ingredients. My first batch was left to ferment in a glass that previously contained a mass quantity of pickles. The jar would hiss and squeal randomly throughout the day, and when that stopped I put it in the fridge and called it done. It was an inferno of cabbage due to some insanely hot crushed red pepper. It was delicious if rinsed off before consumption. I cooked with it using it like a napa cabbage hot sauce. When I finally polished off that giant jar I knew I would have to make more.

Since then I have refined my technique a bit more, but I’m still learning and having fun creating. It’s moved past fermenting cabbage and onto beets, cucumbers and carrots. Hard cider and hot sauce. Now that I’ve begun it’s hard to see why I would ever stop.