Friends, I have been way behind in relating some important news in the 2019 ReLocavore season.
First, I am sure many of you know, but if you don’t, ReLocavore and The Mister relocated. We are now back in our native turf, Southern Wisconsin. Back with quality farm land, quality farmers and quality markets. So, we re-re-located. You’ll see a definite shift in my work. First, I have lots of built-in helpers. Second, my new house has white composite marble countertops (goodbye beautiful New Hampshire granite).
Second, I have not been posting the canning inventory for 2019. Let me catch you up…
37 pints Strawberry Jam (h/t Smother and The Mister)
The going price at the market for corn in Vermont and New Hampshire is anywhere from 6 ears for $4 up to $1 per year – or $8-12 per dozen. As a kid, the teenagers in pickup trucks along the side of the road charged, at most, $2/dozen, and we could often talk them down to $1.50. In Madison, I could buy a bakers dozen ears (13×13) from a local sweet corn farm, and they’d even haul the bags to my car for $3.50/dozen, and often not charge me for the full Baker’s gross. The most offensive price in the Midwest for an ear of sweet corn is at the Sun Prairie Corn Festival where FIBs* and Cheeseheads get overcharged for sweet corn- $2/ear including salt and butter. Last year, I got lucky and coaxed a kid to $5/dozen and complained to everybody around about the price of sweet corn. So, paying $8 for a dozen ears of corn offends my Midwestern sensibilities. I was not going to pay $8 per dozen to freeze corn this year.
We headed to upstate New York over Labor Day, where fertile soil and normal market pricing mechanisms conspire to produce cheap, high-quality sweet corn. I was determined to buy as much corn as I could haul back and put it into the freezer for the year. I accomplished my goal. $4 per dozen. A gross of corn (a dozen dozen), and we produced 43 zipper bags holding about 2 cups of corn each. Mission accomplished.
Corn came in “bags” which was 4 dozen ears in a large brown paper bag. Pidi enjoyed traveling in the back seat on top of pillows with a comfy headrest of corn. Good dog!
I couldn’t wait to get home to eat an ear. I had this one as a snack while driving home.
We’re shucking the corn. Pidi tried to help but lacked thumbs. We shuck in the yard so we can hose away the corn silks. They get everywhere.
That pile of corn husks will do great in my compost pile.
Here’s the process of freezing corn: (R) I hang plastic all over the kitchen to catch the splatter from cutting corn off the cob. (L) Sam sautees the corn with butter (1 tbsp per 2 cups kernels), then spreads it on a sheet to cool. (C) We pack 2 cups per quart bag and lay them flat. The frozen bags make handy partitions in the chest freezer. The extra table is a sawing table the previous owners left in our garage.
A gross of corncobs is only slightly lighter than a gross of shucked corn. I used part of a cabbage leaf to top my jar of pickled corn.
We ended up with 43 bags (2 cups each) of frozen corn, 5 ears eaten on the cob, and a quart of pickled corn.
During the hands-on portion of the workshop we made a mixed vegetable ferment with carrots, napa cabbage, radishes, salad turnips and onions. The onions came to dominate the flavor but have mellowed out while fermenting.
After chopping the vegetables and adding salt, the next step is to macerate the veggies to release juices and start the fermenting. This wooden macerator was handmade by a workshop attendee and the weight of the wood made quick work of macerating the vegetables.
Sandor Katz and a vat of homemade blueberry soda.
On Jul 22-23 I participated in a Fermenting workshop with Sandor Katz, the author of The Art of Fermentation and Wild Fermentation. Shelburne Farms, just outside Burlington, Vermont hosted the event. If you’ve been to Shelburne Farms before, we were in the Coach Barn for the event. Over two days we covered the basics of fermenting, lactic-acid fermentation of vegetables, a hands-on exercise making our own ferment, (day 2) dairy fermentation, fermenting grains and legumes, and fermented beverages like kombucha.
In general, I was impressed with Mr. Katz knowledge and experience with fermenting. He clearly has a passion for the art and has experimented with a lot of interesting techniques. Admittedly, that was where my enthusiasm stopped. Sorry to drag work into my blog, but I was criticizing Mr. Katz classroom technique throughout the workshop and found his teaching to be lacking. The entire second day was blocked out into 2-hour chunks with 30, 60, and 30 minute breaks between (8 hour day total). Most of the content was basic lecture with a few quick demonstrations (blueberry soda and yogurt). We had a hands-on activity after lunch on day 1, but day 2 was uninterrupted sitting. To compound the fatigue from sitting, the space had uncomfortable chairs and was not air-conditioned. We were pretty short tempered and sweaty in a 90+ degree room with little moving air. I didn’t get much out of the second day, even when I abandoned my uncomfortable chair to stand in the back of the room and hope to catch a little breeze. I did learn a lot, and the course definitely met my objective of motivating me to make better kraut and kimchee. I think I may even start to make our own yogurt.
I had three major takeaways from the event:
Everything is rotting, being digested and broken down by microbes. Fermenting is just using different techniques to control the process of rotting food by favoring different microbes over others. Malted barley plus water makes sugars that can be digested by yeast to make alcoholic beer, or by other molds to make nasty undrinkable stank.
Fermenting refers to two different processes. Process 1 is where yeast convert sugar to alcohol in the presence of oxygen, then acetobacteria convert alcohol to acetic acid (vinegar), again, still with oxygen. Process 2 is where lactic acid bacteria convert carbohydrates and sugars to lactic acid in the absence of oxygen. The following table may help clarify the difference between the two foods:
Lactic Acid Bacteria
Carbohydrates and Sugar
Alcohol + CO2
Lactic Acid + CO2
alcohol to vinegar
Tart, tangy, softer
Fermentation has become very “faddish” due to confusion and misinformation about the well-supported versus not-so-well supported benefits of fermentation. Fermentation has three well-known and supported benefits: pre-digestion of food, preservation of unstable foods, and increased diversity of gut flora. With pre-digestion, the bacteria or yeast break down the substances in the food into simpler forms. Complex carbohydrates (e.g. cell walls) become simple carbohydrates (sugars), and complex sugars (disaccharides like sucrose or lactose) become simple sugars (monosaccharides like fructose or glucose). Fermented foods are more stable over time – sauerkraut lasts longer than a plain cabbage, and yogurt lasts longer than milk. Additionally, fermented foods are home to a culture of microbes that have been shown to have benefits for diseases of the gut.The confusion comes from the secondary effects. In the process of fermenting foods, some people argue that the food becomes more nutritious, makes certain nutrients more available for the body to absorb, and may have broader effects on the whole immune system of the body. Some participants at the workshop even argued (from their own personal experience) that fermented foods helped them recover from cancer, HIV, and other serious diseases. While these are nice stories to tell, the research just doesn’t pan out to support these effects. I’m working on a systematic review of the literature and when it gets complete, I’m happy to provide detailed citations. In the few areas where there have been studies, the studies have been small and results are non-conclusive. In the absence of good evidence, it’s fine to eat fermented foods because you like to eat them and drink them, but don’t do it because you think it will be some health panacea. It’s just a fad.
I know them’s fightin’ words, so please give feedback in the comments.
Welcome back to Relocavore! After this past Winter hiatus, I’m eager to update y’all on the fun that we’ve had since this past fall.
New URL… Relocavore.com
Over the next 48 hours the DNS servers will refresh and typing relocavore.com into your web browser will bring you right to the blog. Also in a few weeks,I’ll be rolling out a weekly email digest. Sign up and you’ll get an email on Saturday morning with a summary of the previous week’s posts. In another bit of outreach, I’ll be posting short synopses to the Upper Valley Locavore mailing list. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Relocavore goes Hyper-Local
I always think of the most local eating is the food you grow, forage or hunt yourself. It’s great supporting local ag, but it’s also great to work for your food too. In that vein, the Relocavore family relocated this past December to 1.3 acres in West Lebanon, New Hampshire. There’s a house and garage and plenty of room for garden plots. The hubby and I put in two 6 ‘ x 6 ‘ raised beds, with plans for expansion to 6 beds in the next three years. I’ll talk much more about garden planting in the near future. Those posts will be separately categorized as “gardening” if you want to focus or filter.
Relocavore Guest Bloggers
I’m reaching out to other foodies, locavores, and bloggers to contribute content to Relocavore. You’ll see some guests posts coming out from foreign travelers, home gardeners, cheese makers, and home brewers.
This summer, I will be joined by other members of the Relocavore Kanning Klatch in putting food by for the season. This means more informative canning posts under the heading of CanningU. I’ll introduce the Kanning Klatch members later in the season.
I’m focusing more on video production and sharing with the hope of assembling a few cooking videos. If you’re interested in helping with video production reach out and we’ll make it happen. Stay tuned.
This is going to be a great year for local eating. We’re anticipating a robust harvest, warm weather, and lots of new farms, vegetables and adventure!
I like to pickle – to preserve vegetables in a salt and vinegar brine. I pickle for three reasons: First, it’s a way to preserve some veg to eat later in the season. Second, I have a bad salt-sour tooth (like a sweet tooth, but more for salty and sour things). Third, my pickles never turn out the same way twice, so it’s always a surprise when I open a jar.
Sidenote: pickling is not fermenting… They’re different processes. Pickling is killing microbes and reducing their ability to reproduce by introducing a hot, salty and acidic environment. Fermenting is using the microbes to create a warm and slightly acidic environment that both slows reproduction and breaks down foodstuffs. Some old-school cucumber pickles are both fermented and pickles, but not all.
Another sidenote: Pickling can produce both self-stable pickles and pickles that need refrigeration to keep from spoiling-so-called “refrigerator pickles.” I prefer refrigerator pickles because they’re very easy to make and the resulting veg stays crisp.
To start out this season, I made pepper pickled radishes. These are radishes pickled in a vinegar-salt-sugar brine with peppercorns. They turn a light shade of pink as the color leaches out of the radish into the brine. For a new twist this year, I added a sliced onion. In retrospect, I used too much onion, so these are more pepper pickled onions with some radishes thrown into give it a pink color. As they hang out in the fridge, the pepper flavor gets stronger while the vinegar mellows.
Pepper Pickled Radishes
(Makes 1 pint of radishes. All measurements are approximate… This is the variability I talked about…)
8 radishes – about 1″ in diameter
1 small onion
1 tbsp peppercorns
1 cup rice wine vinegar, apple cider vinegar or white vinegar
6 tbsp salt
2 tbsp sugar
Heat the vinegar, salt and sugar to almost boiling. Taste it and adjust salt and sugar to your preference.
Thinly slice the radishes and the onion on the mandoline.
In a pot of boiling water, sterilize a clean canning jar, ring and lid for 10 minutes.
Fill the sterile, hot jar with layers of radish slices, onion slices and peppercorns. Press firmly to pack the jar very tight. Pour over the hot brine until within 1/2″ of the rim of the jar. Tap the jar firmly on the counter to release air bubbles. If air bubbles are still visible, jam a butter knife down the veg to release the air bubbles. Press down any veg sticking up out of the jar, so it won’t touch the jar lid. Top off the jar with extra brine to reach within 1/4″ of the rim of the jar. Wipe the lip of the jar clean, top with the lid and screw on the ring to hand-tight.
Put the jar in the way back of the fridge. Let cool for at least 24 hours.