Aug
28

Oh “Baloney”

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Or bologna, or boloney. However you spell it, I’m talking about a mainstay of my childhood. I can’t recall how many times I had a fried baloney sandwich, usually made by Dad, when I was a kid. And Parmesan cheese freak I was even then, most often the fried pieces of meat were smothered in it. And ketchup. Here’s a confession: when I was a kid, I treated ketchup almost as a beverage.

For some reason, I’ve been wanting baloney and a fried baloney sandwich. And as you can probably suspect, my first thoughts were about how to make it myself. And it certainly didn’t curb my quest to see a restaurant making its own baloney on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives. Besides, I make sausage, so it only seems logical I’d try baloney.

There are several recipes online for making baloney, and they are pretty much the same. Unfortunately, some are unclear about whether you should and how to emulsify the meat. I felt this recipe was complete and provides a link on emulsifying the meat mixture.

Before we get started, a word about the end result. Some of the posts about making baloney say the method used here and elsewhere does not produce real baloney. Rather, they say it is summer sausage. To be honest, I’m not sure why. The only step I found missing was poaching the chubs. Call it what you will, it’s tasty.

Two important things to keep in mind in this process. You can use a free-standing meat grinder, a grinding attachment for a heavy duty mixer (like a KitchenAid), or a food processor. I have the attachment, but I opted for using the food processor. It worked fine. And second: keep things cold, keep things cold, keep things cold. This includes your blades. Put the meat in the fridge or freezer between each step.

You can start with either a chuck roast or ground chuck. If you’re grinding it yourself, make sure to cut away any sinew. It can clog your grinding vessel. My store did not have a chuck roast (I know! Really?), so I picked up some ground beef, 80/20 blend. Although it was already ground, I ran it through the smaller grind on my food processor. If using roast, run through the slicing blade first and then the larger and smaller templates. Here’s how mine looked after a trip through the grinder.

Grind 1

Grind 2

Into the fridge for a bit, and then to the next step.

Most of the recipes called for Tender Quick, which is a quick curing agent and does contain some nitrates. This recipe and some others use sea salt, which is fine.  If using Tender Quick, though, use only half as much. I added the onion and garlic powders, but I did not add the brown sugar. I also did not add the liquid smoke. More on that later.

Emulsion occurs when you mix the meat mixture with the cold water. You will end up with a paste-like consistency, which is exactly what you’re looking for. Trust me on this. And while it might not look very appetizing, you know what’s in it, because you’ve put the ingredients into it.

 

Emulsified.

Emulsified.

 

Take a small portion of the mixture and fry to test seasoning.

Now for rolling. You can stuff this in a casing. I probably would have, but I didn’t have the ones I wanted. So like most of the recipes I found, I simply rolled it into a log and wrap tightly in plastic wrap.

HPIM1415

Then pop it into the fridge for 24 hours.

Back to liquid smoke. The recipes I saw all called for liquid smoke. I knew I was going to be using my pressure smoker to prepare onions for smoked onion powder, so I decided to forgo the liquid smoke for a 10-minute cold smoke with applewood chips. I wanted a hint of the smoke, not an overwhelming smoke flavor. Afterward, I baked it off, but slightly different from the recipe. I placed the roll on a rack in a broiling pan and did not turn at the midpoint of the first baking stage.

Finished.

Finished.

Does it look like or taste exactly like the baloney of my childhood? No. Do I mind that? Absolutely not. I’ve not fried any–yet–but I can tell you it’s great on homemade crackers and topped with a little mustard.

HPIM1430

Snack time. On homemade crackers with a bit of mustard.

I’m going to make it again, changing up the herbs and maybe adding some spice. Now see, this is one of the benefits of making your own–you get to have the flavors you want. I will probably order some of the casings I want so I can stuff it next time.

Making your own baloney is not nearly as difficult or time consuming as you might think. Give it a try.

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Aug
20

Filling the Cookie Jar

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I love cookies–the eating kind, not necessarily those affiliated with computers. But I seldom make cookies. I almost always make them in the countertop oven, because it works much better than my big oven. The problem is time. I could only do one batch at a time in my old oven. Now I can do 2 trays at a time, assuming I find 2 trays that fit. In time . . .

Anyway, back to my cookie jar. I thought about shortbread or peanut butter, but opted for oatmeal. They always seem so homey and comforting to me, and that seems to be the key these days. Of course they couldn’t be just any old oatmeal cookie. No, I had to throw in some extras. I’m not usually a fan of black walnuts, but I picked some up at the store the other day. They were chopped, but I chopped them up finer. And I added some coconut. My mother would be shocked to hear how many things I put coconut in these days. You couldn’t have paid me to eat it when I was a kid! I usually use light brown sugar, but I made dark the last time, so that’s what I used. I did add a bit more flour, because it’s very moist.

Oatmeal, Coconut, and Black Walnut Cookies

Oatmeal, Coconut, and Black Walnut Cookies

The result? Sweet, but not cloyingly so. And moist. The taste of the black walnuts is there, but you do run into big chunks of nut that can be rather painful if you have tooth issues. They’ve satisfied my cookie craving–for now.

Here’s the recipe for my Oatmeal, Coconut, and Black Walnut Cookies.

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Aug
18

Well Butter My . . . Biscuit

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I’m not sure why, but I’ve been thinking about things I love but don’t make very often. One of them is biscuits. Growing up, we ate biscuits a lot. But they weren’t homemade. Nope, they were the whomp ‘em type. I’ve written before of my trepidation every time I try to open those biscuits. And though I’ve used commercial baking mixes, I really want to move away from commercial mixes as much as possible. I do have my own pancake/waffle mix, but I wanted biscuits.

I turned to Google and found Alton Brown’s recipe for Southern-style biscuits. I even watched the video of the show he featured these on. Easy enough. And I had the ingredients. Well kind of.

Alton and his grandma prefers White Lily flour, which is made from soft wheat. I think I have some soft berries, but I didn’t want to take the time to find and grind them. So I used King Arthur Unbleached AP flour. The recipe also calls for buttermilk, and I have let myself run out. So I used the milk and lemon juice substitution.

A problem I’ve had in the past involved cutting in the fat. Well, it was a problem because I didn’t like doing it! Then I made a change. I keep my unsalted butter in the freezer, like most people do. Now when I want to cut in butter to a recipe, I grate it into the flour using the large grating holes in my box grater. This recipe calls for shortening, so I put it in the freezer for a bit before I made biscuits. It wasn’t quite hard enough to grate, but the grating with the butter lessened the cutting load, so I didn’t hate cutting in the shortening.

Hot biscuit, dab of butter, and homemade creamed honey

Hot biscuit, dab of butter, and homemade creamed honey

This dough is supposed to be wet, and it is. Since most of my bread doughs tend to be on the quite wet side, working with it wasn’t a problem. I did several folds and turns, which helps create layers in the dough and a flaky biscuit. It was tempting to add extra flour to the board, and I did add a wee bit. But scraping it off as I did the folding and turning seemed to do the trick.

When it comes to cutting out the biscuits, I use a square cutter for two reasons. First, I can’t find my round ones. But more important, I use them because the biscuits can be cut out right next to each other. And while you can reroll and use the scraps, those biscuits usually don’t rise as much. There are minimal scraps with square cutters.

I thumbed each biscuit top, which helps them rise more evenly, and popped them in the oven. In just a little while, I had very tasty biscuits.

Of course my mind is now filled with flavor alternatives. There’s no stopping me now. I may even venture into scones. I’ve never found a scone I liked, but then I’ve never made them myself. Yet.

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Aug
15

I’ve Been KO’d, but in a Good Way

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I’ve enjoyed the kohlrabi I’ve gotten in my CSA boxes. It’s a vegetable I like a lot but seldom find it in my supermarket. I don’t recall seeing it at the farmers’ market, either, so finding it in my CSA share made me happy.

But as happy as it makes me, I’ve been lacking in kohlrabi recipes. So one day I sat down with the omniscient Goggle and searched. Sauerkraut! I had never thought of making sauerkraut with kohlrabi, but it sure sounded good. I’ve fermented kohlrabi as part of a mixed vegetable blend, but never as sauerkraut.

KO Kraut

If you have a favorite sauerkraut recipe, simply replace the cabbage with the kohlrabi. The only difference I found common to most recipes was in how to prepare the kohlrabi. When making cabbage sauerkraut, most of us shred it. When using kohlrabi, grate it rather than shred it. I used my box grater, and it did a great job. Other than that, it’s the same as sauerkraut. The only changes I made to my cabbage kraut recipe was to add onion and caraway seeds; I usually don’t add caraway.

My cabbage kraut usually ferments for at least 4 weeks. I checked my KO (kohlrabi and onion) kraut after 2 weeks, and it was perfect! I’m not sure the quick fermentation to taste is characteristic of kohlrabi sauerkraut or just because it’s been so bleedin’ hot in here. Either way, it demonstrates the importance of giving your ferments a taste from time to time.

KohlrabiOnionKraut

Now that I had my KO kraut, what to do with it? Well I ate some, of course. But the simple fact of the matter is that I may like making sauerkraut more than actually eating it. You can freeze it, but I’ve never been really happy with the results. Fortunately, it keeps well in the refrigerator. Assuming you have room. Space in my fridge is at a premium, so I’m always looking for other ways to keep my ferments.

And then I found it. Well someone in the Fermenters Kitchen group on Facebook did. Dehydrate it! She dehydrates cabbage kraut successfully, so I saw no reason it wouldn’t work with KO kraut. I drained but did not rinse the kraut and placed it on the clean screens of my dehydrator. To maintain as many probiotics as I could and still dehydrate, I set the temp at about 105 degrees. In about 6 hours, trays filled with KO kraut looked like this.

KOKrautdried

Of course I had to sample. So good. Oh so good. So good, in fact, it took all the self-restraint I have to not eat all of it. I was able to smoosh it into a jar that contains about a pint.

KOFinished

I should have used a bigger jar, but I wanted to use this one.

Will I make this again? Oh yeh. I anticipate dehydrating all kinds of krauts. They’ll be good on burgers and hotdogs, other sandwiches, salad additions, and soup toppings. Then there’s that whole snacking thing!

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Aug
07

Not What You Expected? Doesn’t Mean It’s Wrong

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I’ve discussed my desire to create a barbecue sauce before. After many tries, I created one I really liked. Sadly, it was lost when my Mac bit the dust. And once I found Sweet Baby Ray’s barbecue sauce, I confess the urgency I once felt to develop my own kind of took a backseat. Let’s just say I can drink that sauce right out of the bottle.

Of course, that attitude couldn’t last forever. And when I found myself with a healthy supply of peaches, it seemed the perfect time to get to work on a fruit-based barbecue sauce. Why fruit based? It’s something different. Yes, as easy as that. Besides, fruit-based barbecue sauces are rare on my grocery store shelves.

Armed with peaches, I added the usual suspects in my sauce arsenal: peppers (jalapeno and Anaheim, along with red pepper flakes and cayenne), vinegar, onion, garlic, brown sugar, and a few other spices.

Note: Before beginning a recipe containing brown sugar, check to make sure you have enough. Otherwise, you’ll have to stop and make more. Just sayin’.

I blanched the peaches and then peeled them. Everything went into a pot, covered, and brought to a boil. After reaching a boil, I reduced it to simmer and let it reduce until thickened. I chose to can it when finished so I didn’t have to put it in the fridge.

Chicken with Peachy Keen Sauce

That night I roasted a chicken, using my Ida’s Artisan Kitchen Peachy Keen Barbecue Sauce. Result? It was a nice addition to an everyday roast chicken. There was an initial hit of heat, but it dissipated quickly.

Even though it tasted fine, it wasn’t quite what I expected. That was disappointing at first, but then I realized it might not be what I was going for exactly, but it was pretty good. I think it will make a good simmering sauce. I already know it works as a finishing sauce. It still needs tweaking, but it’ll be part of my sauce repertoire.

So the lesson learned? Ida’s Artisan Kitchen’s Peachy Keen Barbecue Sauce would likely not been created had I not ventured outside my comfort zone. Though I meant to make a barbecue sauce, this is in no way a failure. Embrace the things that don’t turn out as planned. They expand your horizons.

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Aug
01

Don’t Let the Husks Scare You

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One nice thing about subscribing to a CSA is the chance to try things I might not otherwise. I’ve been trying to expand that philosophy to my grocery store purchases as well. I’ve often seen tomatillos at the store, of course. And though I think I used them once in something, I can’t recall with any certainty. That’s how impressive it must have been.

Not to be deterred, and again inspired by Preserving by the Pint: Quick Seasonal Canning for Small Spaces from the author of Food in Jars, I decided to give them another try.

Tomatillos (often called tomate verde–green tomato in Mexico) are part of the nightshade family. The husks can range from green to brown. Inside, the sticky green tomatillo can range in size from a cherry tomato to a small apricot. The smaller ones tend to be sweeter. When picking out tomatillos, make sure the husks are not dry and shriveled, and the tomatillo should be firm.

Tomatillos clothed and naked

Tomatillos clothed and naked

I mention Preserving by the Pint. She includes a recipe for Smooth Tomatillo Simmer Sauce. Although she acknowledges it can be used as a salsa, her primary use is as a simmering sauce with chicken thighs. I’ve no doubt that would be tasty, but I was definitely thinking salsa. And as I looked over her recipe, changes immediately came to mind. So off I went.

Make sure to husk and wash the tomatillos. All they need is a rough chop. Add onion, garlic cloves, and the rest of the ingredients. The recipe calls for chili flakes, and I added them. But I wanted more pepper. So I added 2 small Anaheim peppers, seeded and deveined. I really wanted to use jalapenos but didn’t have any. So I followed my philosophy of using what was on hand–or ready in the garden.

The recipe also called for ground cumin. Ordinarily, I would have taken whole cumin seeds and ground them. But the mixture has to cook for about 20 minutes, so the cumin seed softens. And then the whole thing takes a trip in the blender or food processor. Of course you can use ground cumin, but I strongly urge using whole seed.

To enhance the smokey flavor cumin brings to the salsa, I added some smoked paprika. Most stores now carry it.

Tomatillo Salsa
Tomatillo Salsa Closeup

After the mixture reduces to about half, you need to make a decision. If you like the consistency, you’re done. Though I’d roughly chopped the veggies and they had broken down in the reducing process, I wanted it a bit smoother. So I ran it in the food processor until I was happy. I put it in a jar and let it sit on the counter for a day before eating.

Yum. The only change I might make next time is add more peppers to it. Or perhaps leave some of the seeds in the Anaheims.

I haven’t tried it with chips yet, but I have put it on sandwiches, and it was great. I also added it to a pan sauce I made for steak, and it beat any commercial steak sauce I ever had. Well so far, at least.

Give tomatillos a try. Here’s the recipe for my Tomatillo Salsa (Salsa Verde). Please note the program I usually use for recipes is not working. I apologize and hope they get their act together soon.

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Jul
24

Making Our Herbs Last

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The simple fact of the matter is that I eat a lot of the same things. Often cooked in the same way. Yes, you could say I can get in a rut. But for the past year or so, I’ve been trying to change up my dishes by using different herbs and spices. Fortunately, last year and this, the herbs I’ve planted in my garden have done fabulously. This year I’m growing Genovise basil, dill, rosemary, pineapple sage, regular sage, oregano, and thyme. And though my thyme is not doing as well this year as last, it’s still giving me a ready supply. I love walking past my garden and smelling these spices in their glory.

Although overall a good thing, my abundance of fresh herbs is not without a problem: how to save them. Of course I dehydrate some of them. I much prefer growing my own and drying than to buy dried in the store. Many people freeze them in water-filled ice cube trays and then pop them out and store in a freezer bag. Others do the same thing but in olive oil. Now I have no doubt that works and for most people a good idea. But ice cubes are a food group to me–or at least a necessity, so I don’t relish (Hee hee! Food reference.) the idea of having even one tray out of commission. Yeh, I know. Priorities. I’m also not keen on freezing in olive oil. What if I don’t want even a hint of olive oil in my final dish? And besides, freezer space is really limited. So what to do?

Enter Marisa McClellan. I have been a fan of hers since Food in Jars: Preserving in Small Batches Year-Round. So when I learned she was publishing another book, I couldn’t wait to preorder. Since it arrived several months ago, I’ve been waiting for things to get ready in my garden.

Preserving by the Pint: Quick Seasonal Canning for Small Spaces from the author of Food in Jars continues McClellan’s quest to encourage those of us who don’t need to preserve large amounts of food that it is still a worthwhile activity. The recipes are categorized by season, so you can use produce at its freshest. And even if you’ve never canned–and you don’t have to can; things can be refrigerated–before, you’ll find her techniques easy to understand and follow.

HPIM1358

Since my most immediate interest was in preserving some herbs, I turned to her recipe for Salt-Preserved Herbs. Easy enough: herbs and coarse sea salt. Both I have. Her instructions are for 8 ounces (230 grams) of fresh herbs. She suggests parsley, cilantro, basil, chervil, sorrel, and the leafy parts of celery. (How many times have I told you to use that part of the celery!) When selecting herbs to preserve together, make sure to select ones you like using together. I combined thyme, rosemary, and oregano. Those I can use in different ethnic cuisines. Basil and sage I use a lot, but I decided to leave them out of this mixture. This increases the versatility of the mixture.

Wash and dry the herbs and then stem. When it comes to mincing, a rocking pizza cutter does a fine job and makes what could seem like a unitasker into a multitasker. A knife or chopper works, too, of course. Just don’t do them in a food processor. You’ll likely end up with mush.

Mix together the herbs and salt. According to the original recipe, her salt measures 75 percent of the herbs’ weight. So I did the math. Put them in a jar, put a lid on it, and stick it in the fridge.

HPIM1359

All that’s left to do is shake the jar every day. Well, and wait. After a week, or when the herb and salt volume is half what it was, transfer to a clean, airtight jar. This keeps a long time in the fridge.

I’m still in the waiting stage. I’ll let you know how it turns out.

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Jul
18

A Bit of Fermented Heaven

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A few days ago, July 12 to be exact, I was searching the Internet for ways to ferment daikon. My local grocery store rarely has it, and when it does, I try to grab one. I knew I wanted to make a fermented pickle. And if I could find one that includes carrots, all the better.

I quickly came upon this recipe for banh mi pickles. (Gotta love Phickle!) For those who don’t know, banh mi is a Vietnamese sandwich featuring a variety of meats (including seasoned pork). It’s topped with a carrot and daikon slaw made with vinegar. I was thrilled that Phickle had come up with a pickled version through fermenting!

You cannot get much easier than this recipe. Seriously. Even if you’ve never fermented a pickle, you can do this recipe. Take her advice, though, and check the FAQ on fermenting if you’re brand new. You’re going to need a fermenting vessel, knife or other cutting tool, carrots, daikon, salt, and filtered water.

Banh Mi Pickles

Banh Mi Pickles


For my fermenting vessel, I used the airlock system and a pint canning jar. I probably would have used a fido, but the one I wanted was otherwise occupied. A jar and airlock work just fine.

As for cutting, she recommends a mandoline. You can also cut them with a julienne blade and a food processor. Some box graters (such as the Combi Chef) have a larger julienne that would probably also work well. I have all those things. I used a knife. Whatever method you use, try to be as consistent in size as possible.

I assume you can cut the carrots and daikon into coins if you’d rather. The julienne shape is traditional and fits well on sandwich rolls.

After you peel and cut the carrots and daikon, put them in a bowl, add the salt, and toss. You’re waiting for them to begin releasing their natural liquids. Because I was only making a pint (the recipe is for a quart), I only added a bit over 1 1/2 teaspoons of sea salt. Let your taste buds be your guide.

it didn’t take long for the veggies to start giving up their liquidy goodness. I did massage them a bit, but they released enough liquid I didn’t need to add brine. Then my impeccably clean hands packed them into an impeccably clean jar. The recipe called for an optional halved jalapeno. I opted for red pepper flakes, which I added with the veggies. I kept some of the larger ends of the daikon and used them to weigh down the carrots and daikon so they would stay below the brine. I put on the airlock and then came the hard part. Waiting.

But it was certainly worth the wait. Phickle suggests about a week. But it has been so hot in my kitchen, I started tasting at about 3 days. Still not quite right. But when I tried them again last night, they were perfect. Seriously perfect. The daikon as softened a bit, but it isn’t mushy. The carrots have softened less, but there is still a toothiness that adds texture to the mixture. And there’s just enough acidity and heat to be interesting—and pickly.

Whether I eat them on a sandwich, in a salad, with cheese, or on their own, these pickles are going to be a staple in my pickle-making repertoire.

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Jul
15

Flakey Bounty

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I have really enjoyed the items in my first few CSA boxes. The kohlrabi have encouraged me to expand my repertoire beyond soup. In fact, I started a kohlrabi and onion sauerkraut on Sunday. But that’s a topic for another post.

I’ve received a lot of turnips in my early boxes. The smaller, sweeter ones are great raw, especially in salads. But in truth, I’m not a big fan of turnips. Cooked or raw. But I don’t want to let them go to waste, to I did the logical thing. I turned them into chips and flakes.

Why do that? Like I said, I don’t want to waste them. And turnip chips make a great, healthy snack. As for the flakes, I can add them to soup. I can even add them to salads as a kind of crunchy topping. And if you or someone you cook for doesn’t like turnips, especially their texture, you can sneak them into dishes.

Turnip chips

Whether making flakes or chips, you begin the same way. Peel and thinly slice the turnips. Now you can do this by hand, but my knife skills generally don’t allow for a consistent thickness. That is why I have “helpers,” in this case, a box grater/julienner/slicer. Slice to between 1/8 inch and 1/4 inch thickness.

To maintain their whiteness, blanch the turnip slices for 3-5 minutes. (Mine may have blanched longer; I was distracted.) Drain well.

Place the slices in a single layer on your dehydrator trays. I prefer to dehydrate at a lower temperature. I set it at 100 degrees and let it run overnight. When I got up the next morning, the turnip chips were perfect.

Turnip flakes

I held some out for snacking and used my spice grinder (i.e., formerly a coffee grinder) to turn the rest into turnip flakes. You could turn them into powder, but I wanted a flake, so I didn’t let the grinder run as long. Think of onion flakes; my turnip flakes are about that size.

Now I can have turnip flavor at will. And it does my heart good not to let the turnips go to waste.

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Jul
05

The Spiral Beetcase

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I’ve been lucky to have some good-looking beets in my CSA boxes lately. I’ve loved beets for as long as I can remember. As a child, they usually came in cans, and to be honest, I could sit and eat all of them straight from the can. We were fortunate to have homegrown beets from time to time (though not necessarily grown at our home). Mom always made sure to can some to cook with butter later (my favorite way). And she always pickled some.

It’s now my turn to decide what to do with beets. I wanted to do something other than cook the ones in my CSA box. I’d never tried fermented beets and didn’t know if I’d like them raw. But if you never try something, you’ll never know.

Now if I was going to try something different to me, it seemed to make sense to try something different in the prep. Last year I bought a Paderno World Cuisine A4982799 Tri-Blade Plastic Spiral Vegetable Slicer but never used it. This seemed like the right time. There are many versions of vegetable cutters at many price points.

The first step is to clean and peel the beets. (If your beets came with their leafy tops, don’t toss them. They are great lightly steamed or sauteed.) You can slice them, chop them, spiralize them, or if small, leave them whole. Put them in a clean jar. I had 4 or 5 medium to large beets, and they fit in a quart jar. I added 1/2 tablespoon of pickling spices. You can add more or less, to your taste. Then cover with a basic brine (19 grams sea salt to quart of water). I held back some of the beets as slices and used them to help hold the beets under the brine. Now I used a Fido, and supposedly keeping the food under the brine isn’t necessary. But I tend to err on the side of caution. Cover and set aside to let Mother Nature do her work. Be sure to burp your jar if you’re not using an airlock.

fermenting beets

I let mine ferment for just over a week. It is pretty hot in my apartment, so things tend to ferment quickly. Taste after a few days. Let your taste buds be your guide to when it’s done. Mine were to my liking after about 10 days.

fermentedbeets1

If I can get more beets, I’m going to make them again. I may parboil some to see what difference that makes in taste and texture. In the meantime, I’ll enjoy these.

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