DON'T FORGET to mark your calendars for the Farm Store Valentine's Pop-Up Saturday and Sunday, February 12-13. We'll be open 9-5 with a bonfire and unique Valentine's gifts.
Life is so deliciously slow right now, that it lends itself to slow cooking in the form of fermentation...and recipe research and testing, too! I call this my version of "Hot Yoga!" Sit on the farmhouse floor in front of the fire reading about fermentation while all my fermentation vessels simmer and bubble around me!
A loaf of sourdough bread sits behind a jar of Honduran Pickled Cabbage
All things fermented is the test kitchen way these days. It started with sourdough starter and bread, then irritated with sad salad greens at the grocery I was inspired to create some sort of winter leafy deliciousness, of course, new ways to HOT SAUCE is always motivating, and then I got the bug to SHRUB like colonial farmers back in the day. Allow me to explain.
Sourdough starter, Sichuan Chili Garlic Sauce and Pickled Cabbage with Green Onions
This time of year I often crave Mexican food. Obviously, when I indulge, I travel vicariously through the food to that much warmer climate! This winter, Honduras and El Salvador have been on the brain. In Honduras lives the Baleada - a toasted flour tortilla filled with pureed black beans, crema and sometimes a second crumbled hard cheese like cotija. Usually Baleadas are served with a side of pickled cabbage similar to the El Salvadoran Curtido, but not so pickled and not spicy at all. During my Peace Corps days, while I enjoyed this crunchy cabbage side, I never thought to ask how it was made. Now, I'm left to travel back in time nearly 30 years to recall if it might have been simply salted and left to sit for a short time, or did it have a white onion or two, or perhaps a dash of sugar? Was it even fermented, or did it have a splash of vinegar instead? Anybody out there have any ideas for me?
When I met the Pupusa from El Salvador, so gobsmacked with the pickled cabbage, onion, carrot and hot pepper curtido was I that I learned how to make it. I found it's tricky to find just the right balance of oregano, carrots and hot peppers, so while last week's El Salvador version of pickled cabbage is DELICIOUS, this week I thought I'd try to recreate the simpler, less is more, Honduran style curtido with just cabbage and green onions. Below, as you can see, my Wisconsin Black Bean Baleada is really just a vehicle for mountains of pickled cabbage and my new Sichuan Chili Garlic Sauce.
Speaking of Sichuan Chili Garlic Sauce, what a fun concoction this was to create! My sister-in-law is Chinese and introduced me to the Sichuan Peppercorn via a batch of insanely delicious pickled vegetables she made a few years back. In test-kitchen research mode last week two things caught my attention. I stumbled across the term "Mala" as it relates to a hot pepper sauce made with chilis and Sichuan Peppercorns, and I was also researching shrubs, or sipping vinegars, infused with herbs and spices. The idea to ferment peppers while also infusing them with a variety of herbs and spices seemed interesting, and let me tell you, the end result is fantastic. The Sichuan Peppercorns have a definite zing to them bringing a different kind of heat to the sauce while the infused herbs and spices deliver a totally unique flavor. The sauce resonates as Asian, but pairs really well with anything where a hot sauce is appreciated. You will definitely find some of this in the store for our Valentine's POP-UP February 12th-13th.
I'm not sure if it's just a farce, but there sure is a lot of talk online about abstaining from alcohol! Somebody even suggested that one day we'll look back and feel the same way about drinking and boozing as we do about smoking! "Mocktails" are all the rage. I'll believe it when I see it, but in the meantime, I am thrilled about the rebirth of a beverage that could potentially push soda off the shelves - SHRUB.
What's shrub, you ask? Well, I asked, too, and learned that it was a pre-refrigeration, Britain and Colonial America drink made with fruit infused vinegars and honey. One version of it called, "Haymakers Punch" caught my attention for obvious reasons! Not only are shrubs made with fruit, but they can be made with nearly any herb and spice combo, so with my pantry full of dried goodies from last summer's gardens, I have been concocting some new brews. In the bottle below is a shrub made with rose petals and rose hips I call "A Dozen Roses." We all love to look at a dozen roses, but on Valentine's Day, perhaps we enjoy them in a Shrubtail Cocktail instead. Yes, I will have some Rose Shrub in the store for your sweet Valentine!
A Dozen Roses Shrub
I hope you are well, finding time to be creative and enjoying some delicious slow-cooked food. When life gives you time, get creative!
Sending love from the farm,