Pass The Sour Stuff - Part II

Csalamádé (Chuh-luh-maa-DAY) - Mixed Sours

This was my first time experimenting with ferments and pickling and sours. And it was a success I am happy report. It took all in all about 7 days to get the sauers to my liking, then in the fridge they went, and were gobbled up in about a similar space of time. What a rip off. Next time I need to make much more of it.

It was all last minute, made from left over vegetables I needed to do something with. So pickled slaw it was. 

Method:

  • shredded Chinese white leaf cabbage
  • thinly sliced zucchini
  • thinly sliced carrots, in the round
  • thin strips of yellow bell pepper
  • salt

From Alex Lewin's informative book Real Food Fermentation I read that the basic recipe for lacto-fermented vegetables is as follows:

  • for every 2 lbs (900g) of vegetables use 4 teaspoons of salt

Easy. That's all there is to it. 

You take your thinly shredded and sliced vegetables (it matters how you cut it) and you mix it with the appropriate amount of salt in a large glass mixing bowl. Really take your time with this. You've got to MASSAGE it in. Give it some well needed attention. Talk to it. Tell it how much you're going to love it. Do this for about 5 minutes. Squeezing and rubbing and squishing it all together, but nice and gently. You don't want to break anything, just coat it and knead it and stroke the salt in.

Put your stuff in a large clean glass jar that is larger than the amount you have. Now squish it all down. Again, do this firmly, but tenderly. You're looking to squeeze out all of the juices so ideally it covers the top of the veg. Do this nice and gently for about another minute or so. You will see the juices releasing gradually even if you don't think they are at first. That is what salt does, it draws out moisture.

Pop your tightly fitted lid on the jar and place it in a safe out of the way spot at room temperature for 4 to 7 days. 

Check on it every day, stirring it up, moving things around, pushing it down and squeezing even more juice out. The pong is like no other. And I love it. By the 3rd day you should have a fair bit of juice  that will cover your sour stuff. This is what allows the vegetables to ferment nicely. Keep checking back and tasting.  Mine took 7 days to get it right, but I didn't have time to 'decant' it into a smaller jar on the 7th day, (on the sabbath upon which she rested?) so it was done on the 8th. Still, it was awesome. We had it with bean burgers and on some sort of chickpea wraps  (can't quite remember what)  and each bite was so-so yummy. Crunchy and sour and zesty and mighty damn tasty.

Use the bottom of another glass or smaller jar to squish your sour stuff down and get the juices flowing, or even your hand.

This is how much juice I got out of the first 'pressing', on the second day. Fermentation had begun:

This is what it looked like when it was ready:

Then you add some more juice to keep it cozy, and pop it in the fridge to stop the fermentation:

Tuck in! Jo étvágyat! 

Here's a little secret: For a sneaky late night snack,  I love to get a fork and raid the savanyusàg jar.  Standing there with the fridge door open, I gently tease forth wilted fronds of crunchy cabbage and peppers and zucchini. You know what Im talking about, you've done it yourself ;)

Pass The Sour Stuff - Part I

My love for pickled, fermented and otherwise 'conserved' food in glass jars originates from my time spent living in Hungary. The gastronomy of the land of the Magyars is relatively varied although on the whole I think it could be settled that their delicious food is somewhat rather rich. Lots of pork. Lots of bread. Lots of sour cream. I love all three, preferably together like in a pörkölt (braised stew), but boy oh boy can it be a bit heavy on the digestion.

The clever magyars however are experts in having their cake and eating it too. Various digestive aids are consumed prior, during and after meals to reduce that horrible over stuffed feeling. Using caraway seeds, perhaps even just a teaspoon, scattered in a dish, is very beneficial for its soothing properties and helps lessen heartburn, gas, and bloating. Similar to indian 'mukwas' in a way I suppose but the seeds are added to the dish during cooking and not chewed after.

Another trick up their sleeve is liquor, of course. There are several aperitifs that boast to be post dinner digestive elixirs but none as much as Unicum. This stuff is bitter and it will put hairs on your chest. In other words, it works.  

But I am more interested in something tastier. The pickled stuff or 'savanyuság' (shah- vah-NYOO-shogge) in hungarian. It translates literally to 'sour stuff'. These people can pickle anything and make it taste delicious. It is customary with virtually any meal to have an array of savanyuság side dishes accompanying the main course. Often a small side plate is set at the table for each guest to place their selection of sour stuff in so the pickled juices don't meddle with the main course and ruin the taste. But at home, you slop it right onto your plate in and amongst the rest of your food, letting the sour brine trickle through the dish which actually tastes better for it. The array of savanyusag can vary tremendously from spicy pickled baby white peppers (that are actually a very pale yellow) stuffed with cabbage, to mixed vegetables, beets, fat cucumbers, traditional sauerkraut and even baby watermelon! As long as it is vinegary it's on the menu. You see, by pickling food we're transforming the environment into an acidic and inhospitable environment for most microbes. However the microbes that do survive in pickle juice are safe for us to eat and many of them actually enhance our digestion. Like I say, the hungarians can pickle anything. It's how they get through life. 

Most hungarians still grow their own something or other. They respect the purity of nature and make use of what they have, the remainder they share. One of my fondest memories as a kid in the summer time was helping our next door neighbour, a grandma named Jolánka, to pick our sun kissed fresh ripe apricots from our tree in the garden and make them into the most delicious jam I have ever tasted. Fact.

The fertile months of summer deliver a bumper crop of everything and anything and hungarians are not people to let food go to waste. So they save it for later.  For the long hard bitter cold winters. Pickle it. Ferment it. Stuff it. Jam it. Preserve it. Conserve it. Rows and rows of glistening glass jars all lined up neatly and stacked perfectly in the 'spejz' (larder pantry). By the end of the summer/ early fall walking in to a fully stocked fresh larder is truly a sight to behold. 

I am making my own sour stuff this summer and will be taking you through it step by step with a few variations on the technique. So go grab yourself a crunchy sour pickle and stay tuned.  


Images not my own, found on the following websites courtesy of: barnuczsavanyság.hu;  receptor.hu; receptoldal.hu; mindmegette.hu; szem-szajnak.reblog.hu; stukasavanyusag.hu.