Strawberries in Red Wine

strawberries in red wineHere in the Willamette Valley we’re at the height of strawberry season, and the berries have acquired the full aroma and sweetness that tell you summer has arrived. I snack on the fruits every time I pass by any of my three strawberry patches, and I’m stuffing the freezer with bags full of berries, for making jam and preserves when time allows and instant strawberry ice cream whenever my youngest is around. And after I pick a big basketful of strawberries I always put some aside for dessert, because the strawberries deserve—and we deserve—this formal celebration of the season.

Unfortunately, Robert and I aren’t usually in the mood for extra flour, fat, or a lot of effort in the kitchen at this time of year. So, for dessert, we’ve come to prefer our strawberries simply halved, tossed in sugar, and bathed in red wine.

For this recipe you’ll want a wine that’s not too heavy or tannic. A California merlot has served the purpose well; we found an Australian shiraz to be too much. A very low-acid wine might call for a bit of added lemon juice.

Vanilla sugar is sold in grocery stores in Europe (and in specialty markets, at high prices, in the United States), but I make it simply by keeping halved vanilla pods buried in a bowl of sugar. Plain sugar will do fine if you have no vanilla sugar. If you like, you might add a drop of vanilla extract to the strawberries.

If you want to get fancy, add slivered mint, basil, or lemon verbena leaves.

1 pound strawberries, topped and halved
1/3 cup vanilla sugar
1 cup red wine

In a bowl, gently toss the halved strawberries with the sugar. Pour the red wine over. Let the berries macerate for 2 hours.

Divide the berries among dessert bowls or glasses, and pour the wine over them.

Serves 3 generously

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Strawberries and Roses for a Scented Spring Cordial

strawberry-rose cordialHere in the cool Northwest we’re not yet fully into strawberry season, though I’ve tasted a few tiny, tender, perfumed Alexandrias. But the rugosa roses are putting forth a new crop of lovely pink blooms daily, and I feel driven to capture their scent in one way or another. A few days ago I did so with this syrup, made with last year’s strawberries from the freezer:

Strawberry-Rose Syrup

1½ pounds hulled strawberries
½ pound strong-scented pink or red rose petals
4 cups sugar
Juice of 1 to 2 lemons, to taste 

macerating roses and strawberriesDrop the strawberries into a large bowl, add the sugar, and crush the fruit with a potato masher. Add the rose petals and crush some more, until the mixture is more liquid than solid and much reduced in volume. Cover the bowl, and let the mixture rest for 12 to 24 hours.

straining strawberry-rose syrup

 

Drain the syrup through a fine-meshed strainer. Stir and press the solids in the strainer to extract the remaining liquid.

Combine the syrup with the lemon juice in a nonreactive pot of at least 4 quarts’ capacity. Bring the syrup to a boil, and boil it for 1 minute.

If you’d like to store the syrup in the pantry, immediately pour it into pint or half-pint mason jars, leaving ¼ inch headspace. Add lids and rings, and process the jars for 10 minutes in a boiling-water bath. Alternatively, store the syrup in sterilized bottles in the refrigerator. I think it’s best to keep at least a little syrup in the fridge, so you can enjoy it while still smelling the perfume of strawberries and roses in your garden.

Makes 2 to 2½ pints

On a warm, sunny day, after a couple of hours of scything grass or other sweaty work, drop a few ice cubes into a tall glass. Add 2 to 4 tablespoons Strawberry-Rose Syrup (depending on the strength of your sweet tooth) and ¾ cup carbonated or plain cold water. Stir well, and then drink up the most refreshing treat imaginable.

If the day is coming to a close, you might forget the water and instead combine the syrup with chilled bubbly wine.

 

 

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Another Use for Angelica

blooming angelica Blooming exactly in accordance with European folk tradition is this Angelica archangelica, whose flowers burst forth in my garden on May 8, the feast day of St. Michael the Archangel. When you see flowering angelica you may have missed your chance to cut stems for preserving—unless you also find some first-year plants, which will wait until next year to blossom. Happily, I have a bed crowded with both first- and second-year angelica.

Upon seeing the blooms I hurried to cut a few young, all-green stems (the flowering ones turn red), because I remembered that I’d wanted to make a traditional northern European preserve that combines stalks of both angelica and rhubarb. I thank Laura Content, of Portland, for telling me about—

rhubarb-angelica preservesRhubarb-Angelica Preserves

2/3 cup water
2 cups sugar
1 pound rhubarb stalks
½ pound angelica stalks

In a preserving pan, slowly dissolve the sugar in the water, and bring the syrup to a boil.

As the syrup heats, cut the rhubarb into 1-inch pieces. Peel the angelica stalks, and cut them it into slender rings. Add the angelica and rhubarb to the hot syrup, stir, and bring the mixture to a simmer. Simmer it very gently for an hour or longer, stirring very little if at all, until the rhubarb is quite tender and the syrup is somewhat thickened. Keep in mind that the preserves will thicken more as they cool.

Ladle the preserves into four half-pint sterilized jars, leaving ¼ inch headspace. Add lids and rings, and process the jars for 5 minutes.

The recipe to which Laura referred me was actually one for rhubarb-angelica jam. If you want a jammy texture, you can simply stir the preserves during or after cooking. But I think that preserves are prettier, especially if your rhubarb is the red-skinned kind.

Angelica has a strong aroma that mystifies and even scares people unfamiliar with it. If you’d prefer to tone down the angelica, at least the first time that you try this recipe, simply increase the weight of rhubarb in relation to the angelica. Try, say, 1¼ pounds rhubarb to ¼ pound angelica.

If you really love angelica, you might use proportionally more than called for here. One reader of this blog wrote that Icelanders use equal parts rhubarb and angelica in their preserves. That might take some getting used to, but I already like angelica in this more modest role.

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An Appetizer for Spring: Fried Angelica Sheaths

angelica pods on the plantWhile browsing in Patience Gray’s Honey from a Weed yesterday, I came upon a description of two angelica species, Angelica archangelica and A. sylvestris: “Both these angelicas grow wild near abandoned ruins and damp places. In February the Salentines [the people of the Salerno, the heel of the Italian boot] go feverishly in search of them. This is the moment when the incipient flower-heads are still enclosed in their sheaths right up against the greenish-purple stem. You cut these sheaths with a knife.”

Ah, I though, here is my reward for letting angelica—the garden variety, A. archangelica—take over an entire flower bed. I headed straight to the garden to cut some of the little sheaths. According to Patience, I could boil or grill them and serve them with olive oil and a little wine vinegar, or I could boil, flour, and fry them. The sheaths would taste strong and bitter, I knew, although Patience described them as “aromatic and faintly sweet.” British by birth, she had adopted Italian tastes; she seemed to truly like bitter weeds. I might prefer the bitterness softened with grease and starch. So I decided to fry my sheaths.

angelica pods before blanchingThe sheaths came in various sizes. I tore into some of the large ones because I could feel bits of hard stalk inside. Within each large sheath I found a smaller one, or, usually, two. Sometimes the larger of the two contained two more little sheaths. The soft green pouches within pouches reminded me of Matryoshka dolls, or of the Cat in the Hat, with all the little and littler cats hidden beneath his topper.

A tender green flower-head peeked out from one slightly open sheath, looking like a strangely delicate broccoli floret. Perhaps this sheath was past its prime? I decided to use it anyway.

To make zavirne fritte, you boil the sheaths “for a few minutes,” instructed Patience. I hurried to put a pot of salted water on to boil, because the cut edges of the angelica had begun browning immediately after harvest. I boiled the sheaths vigorously for five minutes. This was perhaps a bit too long; one or two began to fall apart, though the open sheath turned out fine. Next time I’ll give them just three to four minutes.

I drained off the now vivid-green water, covered the sheaths with cold water, and let them sit in the water for an hour, as Patience instructed. The soaking, I supposed, would moderate their bitterness.

blanched angelica podsAfter an hour had passed, I drained the sheaths and dried them on a towel. I rolled them first in beaten egg and then in salted and peppered flour before frying them in hot oil until the coating turned golden.

We ate the fried sheaths immediately, while I finished cooking dinner. This was the right thing to do, because zavirne fritte are best hot; the warm, crisp coating counteracts the bitterness.

cooked angelica podsAngelica sheaths are bitter, more bitter than radicchio, I’d say, though less so than dandelions. The incipient flower-heads inside are tender and sweetly perfumed in the odd, medicinal way of angelica—rather like licorice, rather like anise, but at the same time wholly different from both. To know this flavor you must try angelica candy or liqueur, if not zavirne fritte.

Robert dislikes the flavor of angelica; it reminds him of soap. (Soapmakers take note: The scent of angelica would be appealing in your products.) Maybe the flavor will grow on him, if he lets it. But eating angelica is lovely thing to try even if you do it just once. You will no doubt marvel at the taste, and, if you believe the old-time herbalists, you will leave the table fortified against witches, evil spirits, and the plague.

 

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From the First of the Year’s Rhubarb: A Compote

rhubarb-strawberrry compoteMaybe you remember the Rhubarb-Rose Preserves I made the year before last? The recipe was inspired by a simple dessert in Margaret Rudkin’s Pepperidge Farm Cookbook. The beauty of Margaret’s dessert, and of my preserves, is that the rhubarb pieces stay intact instead of falling apart, because they’re cooked in the oven rather than on the stovetop.

With my first harvest of rhubarb this spring, I wanted to make a dessert like Margaret’s, but I wanted it red, not greenish. I have one rhubarb plant whose stalks are red both inside and out, but they weren’t ready to harvest yet. All my other rhubarb plants have green stalks with red-speckled skins. I couldn’t add roses to the mix, because none are blooming here yet, and strawberries don’t ripen until June. But I had plenty of strawberries from last year still in the freezer. So I made this lovely dessert:

Baked Rhubarb-Strawberry Compote

1¼ pounds rhubarb stalks, cut into 1-inch lengths
1¼ pounds hulled strawberries
2/3 cup sugar

Heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Toss the rhubarb, strawberries and sugar together in a baking dish. Bake the compote for an hour or longer, until the rhubarb is quite tender but still intact. There will be a lot of liquid in the dish, but the compote will thicken as it cools.

Serve the compote hot, cooled, or chilled, on its own or with pound cake, shortcake, or ice cream. 

Makes about 4 cups compote 

If the amount of sugar in this recipe seems high, keep in mind that rhubarb is very tart and not noticeably sweet at all.

If you like, add a cinnamon stick or ground ginger along with the other ingredients.

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A Beautiful Pantry . . .

Andrea's garage. . . or, actually, a beautiful corner of a garage, at the home of Julie Barnett of Salem, Oregon. Her mom, Andrea, who sent me this photo, says that Julie is “always on the quest for the perfect pickle.” The picture of Julie’s bounty was too good to keep to myself. Thanks, Julie and Andrea, for letting me share it here.

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Fresh from the Pod: Green Garbanzos

raw garbanzosThis find from a Salem, Oregon, supermarket may be nothing new to the Californians and Southwesterners among my readers, but it got me excited: fresh garbanzos, fully grown but still green and in the pod. I shelled them like regular peas—each pod cradled just one or two garbanzos—and boiled them for seven minutes before tossing them into a salad. Cooked, they had a flavor that was pea-like, though less sweet, and a firm texture with none of the mealiness of dried garbanzos. My dinner guests startled at the cooked chickpeas’ bright yellow-green color.

cooked garbanzosAn ancient food of the Mediterranean region, southern Asia, and North Africa, garbanzos need a long, rather cool growing season in well-drained soil. So where had these pods come from, in early April? I guessed southern California, and a little sleuthing around the Web reinforced my suspicion.  A company called Califresh was established near Fresno in 2002 specifically to produce green garbanzos, after the founders saw Mexican immigrants selling uprooted plants, their green pods dangling, along the roadsides of southern California. Green garbanzos had long been a popular snack in Mexico, and Mexican immigrant communities were a ready market. Soon Califresh had expanded production to several Californian and Mexican growing areas so the company could supply the fresh market year round. And the market was wherever a lot of Mexicans were settling—as they have been, in recent years, in and around Salem, Oregon.

I’ve never grown garbanzos, for either fresh or dried use. I’d like to do it just for the treat of my own in-pod green garbanzos. And in growing my own I could try red, black, and brown chickpeas, from among any of the dozen or more varieties listed by Seed Savers Exchange. Could I really manage to grow them, though, with my heavy soil and short growing season?

Garbanzos can indeed be grown in cooler places. Thanks in part to the current craze for hummus, they are now a major commercial crop in eastern Washington, western Idaho, and Montana, and farmers also grow them in North Dakota, South Dakota, and Oregon. In fact, for several years now a farm family in my county has been growing, drying, and shelling garbanzos for local sale.

Garbanzos are usually planted in early spring, because the plants need at least three months to produced filled pods and longer for the pods to dry. Our wet soils of spring and cold rains of autumn will be problematic for me. But producing green garbanzos should be much easier than producing dry ones. And if necessary I can follow the example of other dogged gardeners, by starting the seeds indoors–in biodegradable pots, because garbanzos dislike having their roots disturbed.

If you’ve grown garbanzos or found good ways to prepare the shelled green chickpeas, I’d love to hear about your experience.

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To Cut a Stubborn Squash

 

In the first flush of spring, as violets and narcissus perfume the air, as we taste the first luscious spears of asparagus and await the first tender lettuces, I consider the old winter produce we’ve yet to eat up: sprouting potatoes, thick-cored parsnips, leeks that will soon form stalks, and squashes still heaped in baskets. The little striped pumpkins are especially problematic. Resulting from an accidental cross between an acorn squash and a miniature pumpkin, the fruits are lovely and sweet-fleshed, with meaty seeds that are excellent for roasting. But the skins are as hard as those of gourds. I can hurl these babies onto a concrete floor and make dinner from the mess, but I prefer to bake my little pumpkins whole.

 

scoring pumpkinMy daughter, Rebecca, took on the problem without my asking. She scored each of four pumpkins all around with a serrated bread knife, and she jabbed the score line in spots with a narrow, pointy-bladed knife. Then she used the pointy knife to pry off the tops, which came loose with nearly perfect edges (the slight imperfections helped in replacing the lids later; Rebecca says next time she would purposely notch each edge).

 

poking & prying pumpkinRebecca scraped out the seeds and filled the cavities with quinoa, raisins, roasted hazelnuts, and chives before baking the little pumpkins for dinner. Next time she thinks she might try quince preserves in place of raisins, but the possibilities for filling ingredients are endless: rice and peppers, bread and cheese, bacon and onions and cream, sweet coconut-milk custard . . .

 

filled pumpkin

Baking the pumpkins gave their shells a handsome burnished look. After the chickens had pecked off every clinging bit of flesh from the insides, both bases and tops were still fully intact, so I scrubbed the shells and left them on the kitchen counter to dry. To keep mold from growing, I squirted them once or twice with chlorine-water.

 

pumpkin with necklaces 4And now I have four pretty little striped pumpkin boxes, for jewelry or keys or pennies or any other little things that need confining.

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Cabbage Rolls with Adjika

When I finally found time to make cabbage rolls from my fermented whole cabbage heads, I didn’t know where to begin. From Turkey south to the Levant, west to Greece, north through eastern Europe, and west again to Germany, cabbage rolls vary a lot. They usually include ground meat of some sort, and rice, although bulgur or other grain may be substituted. Tomato is usually incorporated, in forms that range from V8 Juice to canned soup to tomato paste. Other ingredients may include cilantro, mint, dill, basil, and quince (in a Turkish recipe); beans and fresh peppers (another Turkish recipe); mushrooms and parsley (Poland); onions and paprika (Hungary) carrot, celery, and parsnip (Russia), cinnamon, cumin, garlic, and pomegranate molasses (Levant); bacon and pork ribs (Serbia), and even mustard seed, ginger, and garum masala (an Indian cook who says cabbage rolls aren’t really Indian, though hers certainly are).

But Cristina from Moldova was the first person to tell me about fermenting whole cabbage, and my daughter, Rebecca, loved Cristina’s mom’s cabbage rolls, called sarmale, when Rebecca tasted them last spring. So we had to go Moldovan. The key ingredient in Moldovan sarmale, Cristina had told me, is adjika, a tomato-pepper sauce with garlic, horseradish, and apple added. Rebecca remembered carrots in the cabbage rolls and told me I must also use unrefined sunflower oil. These bits of information would have to do as a recipe, because we weren’t going to bother Cristina, who was (and is) busy with a new baby.

First I set some rice to soaking. Some people make cabbage rolls with raw rice and others with cooked rice; soaking seemed a good compromise. It would shorten the cooking time but still allow the rice to swell, filling out the rolls as they cooked.

My gogosari look-alike, a happy product of careless seed saving

My gogosari look-alike, a happy product of careless seed saving

The next day I fetched from the garage two pint jars of adjika. I made the adjika last summer according to instructions from Cristina’s mother, who had used a dinner plate as a measuring reference. Unfortunately I lacked an essential ingredient, gogosari peppers, which, Cristina had told me, are “meatier” than other sweet peppers, but in the garden I had a pimiento cross that looked very similar. I can’t know how closely my little peppers match gogosari peppers in taste, but my sauce turned out delicious. True pimientos might work well enough, too.

Here is my version of Cristina’s mom’s adjika recipe:

Adjika (Moldovan Tomato-Pepper Sauce) 

Hot as well as sweet peppers are required for this recipe. I used ripe pimientos de Padron, which have quite a bite, and I didn’t bother to seed them, but still the sauce turned out only mildly piquant. If you have scant tolerance for capsaicin, however, you should feel free to seed your hot peppers and even to substitute peppers that are barely piquant. 

Note that the USDA provides no recipe for homemade adjika, so I can’t give you an officially approved processing time. In Moldova the jars of hot sauce are simply capped and stored in a cool place, but I chose to process my adjika like salsa, in pint jars in a boiling-water bath for 15 minutes. The pH of the finished sauce was 2.6. 

This tomato sauce with kick is good not only in cabbage rolls but on bread and pasta, in sandwiches, and with meat.

1 ½ pounds gogosari, pimiento, or other thick-fleshed sweet red peppers, tops and seeds removed
10 red hot peppers, such as pimientos de Padron, tops removed but seeds retained
6 pounds tomatoes
1 tart apple, cored
3 large garlic cloves
½ ounce peeled horseradish root
1 tablespoon salt
½ cup cider vinegar 

Cut the sweet and hot peppers, the tomatoes, the apple, and the garlic cloves into pieces, and grind the vegetables fine in a meat grinder. Put the ground mixture—which should have “the texture of sour cream,” Cristina says—into a large, nonreactive pot. Grate the horseradish, and add it to the pot along with the salt and vinegar. Cook the mixture uncovered over low heat for several hours, until the adjika is as thick as pizza sauce. Pour the sauce into five pint jars, leaving ½ inch headspace. Cap the jars, and either process them in a boiling-water bath or let them cool and then store them in the refrigerator. 

For the sarmale filling, Cristina’s mother may use pork or possibly beef, I suppose. But I chose ground alpaca, because I had some handy, thanks to our local food swap. Since the meat was very lean, I used plenty of sunflower oil. I also added carrot, as Rebecca insisted, onion and garlic, as I suspected a Moldovan might, and cumin simply because I love it.

Here is my recipe for the stuffing:

Sarmale Filling 

6 tablespoons unrefined sunflower oil (available at Russian markets)
½ pound onions, diced small
½ pound carrots, diced small
3 garlic cloves, minced
½ teaspoon cumin seeds
½ cup adjika
2 pounds lean ground alpaca or other meat
1 cup long-grain rice, soaked in water to cover 8 to 24 hours
Salt

In a pot, heat ¼ cup of the oil, and sauté the onions until they are soft. Add the carrots, garlic, and cumin, and sauté the mixture until the garlic and cumin seeds release their aroma. Let the mixture cool. 

With your hands, thoroughly mix the cooked vegetables with the adjika, meat, rice, remaining 2 tablespoons oil, and salt. I used 1½ teaspoons salt, which was just the right amount, but you’ll need more if you’re using unfermented cabbage and less if you’re using heavily salted cabbage. 

Stuffing the cabbage leaves is surprisingly quick and pleasant if you have a helper or two. Rebecca and her friend Guillaume and I did the job together in ten minutes or so.

Stuffing and Cooking the Sarmale 

You can substitute water or meat or vegetable stock for some or all of the brine. This is a good idea if the brine is very salty or you aren’t terribly fond of the taste of sauerkraut.

1 very large or 2 or more smaller fermented whole cabbages
1½ cups adjika
2 cups brine from fermented cabbage, or water or stock
About 3½ cups water

Core the cabbages, and pull off the leaves one by one. If you’re using a very large cabbage, you may need to cut each leaf into pieces and plane or trim off the thick rib at the base of each leaf. I used six very small cabbages, whose leaves were mostly perfectly sized for small sarmale. Cover the bottom of a large, heavy pot with cabbage leaf fragments, and save more fragments for placing over the sarmale.

Put a little filling on the concave side of each leaf or leaf section; the exact amount of filling will depend on the size of the leaf and the desired size of your sarmale. Roll the leaf around the filling, folding in the sides as you would in rolling a burrito. Place the cabbage roll seam-side-down in the pot. Continue in this way, layering the rolls in the pot, until you have used all of the filling, Cover the rolls with the reserved cabbage scraps. Combine the adjika and brine, and pour the mixture over the cabbage rolls. Add enough water to cover the cabbage (heating the water first will speed the cooking).

Cover the pot, and set it over medium heat. When the contents begin to simmer, reduce the heat to medium-low. Simmer the sarmale for 45 minutes. Before serving, take one out and taste it to be sure the rice is fully cooked.

sarmaleServing the Sarmale

 Adjika
Sour cream

Place several hot sarmale on each diner’s plate, and serve adjika and sour cream on the side. Alternatively, drain off some of the cooking liquid, mix it well with adjika and sour cream, and serve the mixture as a sauce.

Although the sarmale are irresistibly tasty, you will probably have many left over; four of us could finish only about a third of them at a sitting. So the next day and maybe again the day after that, you might fry some sarmale in a little sunflower oil. Again, serve the hot sarmale with adjika and sour cream.

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Taking the Wind Out of Jerusalem Artichokes

jerusalem artichokes

Jerusalem artichokes look like thick, pale gingerroots.

Does your spouse refuse to eat Jerusalem artichokes because they’re too—err—windy? Have you yourself abandoned your Jerusalem artichoke patch to the weeds or the pigs, because no human of your acquaintance would eat the damn things again? If so, you have plenty of company.

If you can’t quite place this native North American vegetable, you may know it instead by a name invented by a California produce wholesaler in the 1960s: the sunchoke. The sun part of this moniker comes from sunflower, because the plant is closely related to the sunflower that provides us seeds for birds and snacks and oil. Jerusalem artichoke blooms look like small sunflowers, and they can grow just as tall.

The Jerusalem part of Jerusalem artichoke came about soon after the plants were first grown in Europe, in the early seventeenth century at the Farnese Garden in Rome. From there they were distributed to the rest of Europe as Girasole articiocco, “sunflower artichoke.” In the diet book that he published in 1620, an English doctor, Tobias Venner, translated Girasole as “Jerusalem”—a good first guess, perhaps, but unfortunately the name stuck. Soon inventive English cooks were making their Jerusalem artichokes into “Palestine soup.”

Sunroot would be a better name for the vegetable than sunchoke, in my opinion, because Jerusalem artichokes certainly are not artichokes, and they have nothing like the hairy, inedible part of an artichoke that is called the choke. Yet the two vegetables known as artichoke are discreetly similar in their chemical makeup and flavor. Samuel de Champlain noted this in 1605, when he found Indians on Cape Cod growing roots with “le goust d’artichaut,” the taste of artichokes. Both artichokes and Jerusalem artichokes, he may have observed, share a peculiar sweetness. This sweetness comes from inulin, a kind of soluble fiber that passes through the human digestive system intact until bacteria go to work on it in colon, releasing a lot of gas in the process. Artichokes are rich in inulin. Jerusalem artichokes have about half again as much, by percentage of fresh weight.

I thank Rose Marie Nichols McGee, of Nichols Garden Nursery, for asking the question I should have long ago asked myself: Can fermentation rid Jerusalem artichokes of their windiness?

Rose Marie posed that question about a year ago, and the two of us promptly decided to conduct an experiment. After digging up the little patch of Jerusalem artichokes that I’d ignored for ten years, I brined a pint of the rhizomes according to the kakdooki (Korean fermented daikon) recipe on page 64 of The Joy of Pickling, with garlic and powdered chile. Rose Marie developed another recipe based on one of mine, she said, although nothing about it sounded the least familiar. With a stroke of brilliance, she added turmeric, so that her pickled Jerusalem artichokes turned out a brilliant yellow. We shared both pickles, hers and mine, at a Slow Food board meeting, and people seemed to find them both tasty. I requested follow-up digestive reports.

But I got none. Was this good news? I couldn’t be sure. Apparently nobody’s bellyache was bad enough to prompt a complaint. But, then, the meeting attendees hadn’t actually agreed to tell me about their gas problems. Some of them may have felt they really didn’t know me well enough. And none of them had eaten more than a small handful of the pickled rhizomes. So the results of our study were inconclusive.

In digging up my Jerusalem artichoke patch, however, I must have missed a little rhizome. Last summer, sans weeding and sans water, a single nine-foot sunflower stalk shot up. I could experiment some more!

I waited through most of the winter to dig up the rhizomes, because time alone has been said to convert much of the inulin in Jerusalem artichokes to fructose. In January, I harvested a crop just as big as the previous year’s, at least ten pounds. Several nights of temperatures around 0 degrees Fahrenheit had done the rhizomes no harm.

I first assessed their windiness by simply roasting some with salt, pepper, and olive oil. The roasted rhizomes were delicious, but still gassy.

Inspired by Rose Marie’s example, I then pickled some of the Jerusalem artichokes in this way:

fermented jerusalem artichokesMellow Yellow Jerusalem Artichoke Pickle

1½ pounds Jerusalem artichokes, broken into nodes, thoroughly scrubbed, and cut into ½-inch dice
1 teaspoon ground dried turmeric
1 ounces garlic (about 8 cloves), chopped
½ ounce fresh ginger, minced (about 1 ½ tablespoons)
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
2 teaspoons pickling salt
2 teaspoons sugar
1½ cups water

Toss together the diced Jerusalem artichokes, the turmeric, the garlic, the ginger, and the cumin. Pack the mixture into a jar with a capacity of at least 6 cups. Dissolve the salt and sugar in the water. Pour the brine over the Jerusalem artichokes; it will not cover them at first. Add a brine bag (a gallon freezer-weight plastic bag containing 1 tablespoon salt dissolved in 3 cups water) or another suitable weight.

The next day the brine should cover the Jerusalem artichokes. If it doesn’t, add more brine mixed in the same proportions.

Wait several days before tasting the pickle. I found it perfect after a week: The brine was sour, and the Jerusalem artichokes pleasantly, mildly spicy and still crunchy.

When the pickle has fermented enough to suit your taste, store the jar in the refrigerator. Keep the Jerusalem artichokes weighted so they won’t take on a grayish cast.

Several people have now eaten this pickle in potentially distressing quantities. The test subjects remained on site this time, so that if reports didn’t come verbally they would emerge in another form. And nobody has suffered.

I hope that these results will be duplicated by other investigators. Let me know, OK? Don’t be shy.

Posted in Fermented foods, Food history, Pickles, Preserving science, Vegetables | Tagged , , , , , | 22 Comments