About miriamyum

I grow things in the ground and then eat them while promoting independent media and forward-thinking punctuation.

Fermentation Rumination

Aside

I love pickles.

I love gherkins and dills and bread-and-butter chips. I love dilly beans and vinegary blueberries. I love pickled okra and beet-stained turnip pickles and pretty much any kind of pickle you can think of.

But I am hands-down crazy about half-sours.

Half sour pickles (and their puckery cousin the full-sour) are to me what a pickle should be – crispy and salty and refreshing. None of this limp, neon-green nonsense that you see in the salad aisle.

The thing that makes half-sours so crispy and delicious is that they are fermented, not cooked or heat-processed. Surprisingly, the worldwideweb is a little thin on half-sour recipes, so I thought I’d share mine here.

Half-Sour Pickles

Yield: 2 1-quart jars of pickly goodness

Protip 1: use the freshest possible pickle cukes. I try to pick and pickle in the same day.

Protip 2: Pickle cucumbers are not just smaller salad cucumbers. They’re a different kind of cuke, generally full grown at six inches or so, and paler green, sometimes with light-colored stripes lengthwise down the skin – not dark green like a salad cuke. They’ve got a thicker skin and crisper flesh then other cucumbers.

Ingredients:

  • 10 -12 pickling cucumbers, very fresh with the stem trimmed off
  • 1/2 tsp. whole coriander seeds
  • 1 tsp. pepper corns
  • 1/2 tsp. mustard seed
  • 1/2 tsp. crushed pepper flakes
  • ¼ tsp. dill seeds
  • 2 dried bay leaves
  • 4 mature dill blossoms
  • 4 cloves fresh garlic
  • ¼ cup pickling salt (don’t mess with this and use sea salt or table salt. You need pickle salt.)
  • 5 cups purified water

Instructions:

1. Soak your cucumbers in a bowl of icy water for about 15 minutes while you prepare the pickling spice.

picklebath2. Dissolve the salt in the water.

3. Put all your dry spices into a plastic bag and hit them with a hammer. (I tried grinding them with a pestle and they got too ground up, but a few whacks with a hammer – or firm rolls with a rolling pin – cracks your mustard seeds open and busts up your pepper flakes without pulverizing anything.

hammertime4. Split the garlic cloves, pickle spices, and dill blossoms evenly between your jars.

5. Cram pickles into the jars. I usually chop up a few into half-sizes and throw them in the bottom, and then line the perimeter of the jar with pickles sliced in half lengthwise (skin facing in), and then shove a few whole cukes into the center of each jar. Try to keep your pickles tucked underneath the shoulders of the jar.

6. Pour your brine into each jar, making sure that all your pickles are fully submerged.

7. Put your pickle jars in a pan (in case the fermentation makes them spill over a bit) and put the lids on loosely.

8. Store your pickles in a cool dark place for a few days. Start tasting them at the end of each day – mine were ready to go in 48 hours. The longer they sit, the more they sour – so for half-sours, a few days should be fine, and for full sours, it may take up to a week. Things that may happen and are normal include: the water gets cloudy, they fizz and foam, the garlic turns turquoise (although using fresh garlic will prevent this last one).

pickling

9. When they’ve fermented to where you want them, tighten the lids and refrigerate. You can keep them for months – they will keep fermenting, but very very slowly once in the fridge.

DELICIOUS!

 

 

 

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Probiotic Superfoods: How to NOT Destroy All of Society

In my family, we always say that failing to take a full course of antibiotics once you’ve taken the first pill has the potential impact of destroying all of society.  There’s truth in this; taking a partial course of penicillin encourages infectious bacteria to develop resistant strains that will eventually be untreatable, and then we all might get scarlet fever and die.

But there’s an even bigger truth: not taking that first pill, and instead letting our bodies fight infections and develop antibodies, and constantly eating foods that encourage them to do so, actually makes the world a better place.  In addition to potentially creating resistant bacteria strains, antibiotics like penicillin wipe out all the good bacteria in our bodies with the bacterial equivalent of a cropdusting treatment.  And these days, antibiotics are showing up not only in our pharmacies, but sometimes in our milk and meat. So when we buy a corporate-big-farm-produced ice cream cone, we might actually be KILLING EVERYONE IN THE WORLD SLOWLY.

Oh dear.

Of course, the antidote to this glut of antibiotics is the magical, wonderful PRO-biotic.  Probiotics are living microorganisms that make our bodies (aka the “host organism”) better, strengthening our immune system and our digestive system, and keeping all our other systems clean of toxins and functioning well.

Lactic acid bacteria (LAB) and bifidobacteria are the most common types of probiotics, and are in fermented foods with live cultures, like yogurt or (or kefir), miso, and the original probiotic superfood: saurkraut.

Saurkraut (and Kimchi, which has the same deal going for it) is what happens to cabbage (or daikon) when it gets old.  Fresh cabbage is already pre-populated with the bacteria required to lactoferment itself.  And, as all things, it really does get better with age- cabbage in its raw form contains substances called ‘goitrogens’ that can block the production of thyroid hormone, but goitrogens are reduced or eliminated through the fermentation process.

My friend Michaela of the awesome local Crock & Jar is a master-fermenter, and she gives great workshops on how to make your own krauts and fill the world with probiotics.  (She’s giving one tomorrow on Governor’s Island at Cook Out NYC , which is also benefitting Just Foods Farm School).  I got my hands on a few jars of her spicy kraut and pickle kraut, and when I’m not just standing in the kitchen eating them by the forkful, I use them to make probiotic-y awesome meals like these:

Pickle Kraut Tempeh Reuben*

Ingredients:

  • 5-6 slices of Tempeh
  • a few slices of your favorite whole-grain bread (all I had was sourdough, which is also good, but I think the seedier the better)
  • a handful of Crock & Jar Pickle Kraut or your favorite (or your own homemade!) Kraut
  • 1 teaspoon organic ketchup
  • 1 teaspoon ground horseradish
  • 1 tablespoon mayonaise or nayonaise or whatever you use
  • a dash of paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon whole seed mustard or some toasted crushed mustard seeds
  • a little soy sauce
  • a handful of fresh spinach or collards or other greens- bitter is fine!- steamed, strained, and seasoned (I used kale because I had it in the garden)
  • a few sliced and sauteed mushrooms- creminis or shitakes are the best
  • some cheese if you want it (mine was pepper jack, but you can use anything! really!
  • a little butter or oil
ingredients!

Directions:

  1. Mix the ketchup, mayo, paprika, mustard and horseradish together.  Feel free to mess with the ratios to get it to the perfect zing and zang for your taste.
  2. Splash a little soy sauce in a pan with some oil and fry up your tempeh until it’s a bit browned.
  3. Remove your tempeh and assemble it with all the other ingredients between two slices of bread.  Make sure your cheese is against one slice and your sauce against the other to keep the whole thing messy and delicious.  Throw the greens, shrooms, tempeh, and kraut in the middle.
  4. Heat a little oil or butter in your pan on medium and toss the sandwich on it, pressing it down with the spatula to brown the bread and melt the cheese.  Flip it over to do the same to the other side.
  5. Eat it with some of the delicious local berries from the farmers’ market. Feel healthier immediately.

*Bonus! Tempeh is ALSO a probiotic food, so this recipe gets pro-pro points.

sandwich heaven

I can eat my weight in this stuffSpicy Kraut Lettuce Wraps

Ingredients:

  • A cup or so of day-old rice (see Tony’s Plastic Bag Rice Recipe)
  • A cup or so of Spicy Kraut or Kimchi, roughly chopped
  • Fresh, carefully washed, lettuce leaves – I like green leaf or butter lettuce, but anything will do
  • 1 egg
  • A little soy sauce OR a smear of miso paste mixed with water (full of probiotics!)
  • A few shitake mushrooms, sliced
  • Fresh chopped scallions to taste
  • A little bit of olive or sesame oil

Directions:

  1. Heat a little oil in the pan and throw in the mushrooms, scallions, and miso/soy.  Saute for a minute or so.
  2. Throw the rice in the pan with everything else and mix it around.
  3. Beat the egg with 2 tablespoons of water.  Drizzle it over the rice, stirring it in as you do.
  4. Remove all this from the heat and put it in a glass or ceramic bowl.  Add in the kraut and toss.
  5. Place 2-3 tablespoons of the rice mixture into a leaf of lettuce and roll it up like a burrito.  Eat immediately!

Broccoli: Unleaded

After years of gardening in Arizona (imagine elaborately constructed garden shades, waiting for rain for months on end, chopping at caliche and swatting javelinas), gardening in the northeast seems like a fairy tale. I barter a bag of magic beans, throw them casually out the door, and the next thing you know there’s a fava stalk grown halfway to Queens.  I drop a few broccoli roots in some composty dirt and weeks later I’m harvesting glorious, fragrant, emerald crowns, perfect for roasting.

Of course, every fairy tale has a villain, and in the urban garden fairy tale, the villain is urban humans, who have poisoned the soil with car fumes and paint runoff and turned that fertile luscious garden moss into a lead-filled poison pit.

In much of the world, having more than 100 parts-per-million (ppm) of lead in your soil is considered unacceptable. The US EPA rolls its eyes at this caution, and in a puff of SUV exhaust, proclaims that up to 500 ppm of lead is totally no big whoop.

In many urban areas, the soil has been contaminated to 2 or 3 or even 4 times that. (My soil tested at 1,008 ppm of lead, so even the EPA might squirm over a home-sowed salad from my backyard.) Lead won’t hurt your flowers – and flowers will, over time, help repair your soil – but lead contaminated soil can leach toxins into your homegrown food, especially my favorite leafy or rooty veggies.

Picture of my Vegetable Garden

In my lead-bed, I grow lots and lots of flowers that I fertilize with organic materials and put to bed every year under a layer of compost from my community farm. For my incredible edibles, my friends and I built a simple raised bed and dropped a few seedlings in it.

Last night we ate my first fresh broccoli of the season. Fresh-picked broccoli has a flavor that’s intense and deep and a little nutty, and completely unrecognizable when tasted alongside its wan grocery store counterparts.  It’s great raw but also pretty unbelievably fairy-tale good roasted with a little bit of lemon.

Roasted Fresh Broccoli: Unleaded

Ingredients

  • As fresh-as-you-can-get-it broccoli, including stems
  • ½ tablespoon of olive oil or sesame oil per head of broccoli
  • ¼ teaspoon salt per head of broccoli
  • sprinkle of sugar
  • black pepper to taste
  • a few lemon wedges
  1. Harvest your broccoli from low in the plant so that you get lots of stem.
  2. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees and put a baking sheet on the lowest rack in the oven.
  3. Remove the stem and set it aside. Cut the broccoli in quarters or eighths so that each floret has at least one flat side.
  4. Peel the stem, removing the tough outer skin (save this for your compost), and cut it into ½-inch thick (or smaller) spears.
  5. Toss the broccoli and stems in the oil, salt, and pepper. Sprinkle with sugar (this is just to help encourage some roasty browning on the broccoli’s edges – you don’t need more than a very tiny sprinkle).
  6. Working quickly so as not to cool the baking sheet, remove the baking sheet and spread the broccoli over it with the flat sides down.
  7. Put the baking sheet back in the oven and roast for 8-12 minutes, until the edges of the broccoli have browned a little bit and smell kind of toasty.
  8. Let it cool for a few minutes before serving. Serve with wedges of lemon.