Fermented vegetables #2: wild onions

A brief note: I first drafted this blog entry in May 2015, though the posting of it comes in August 2015. Its been a busy time for me and the blog seems to be the first thing that goes in the general triage of life.

I’ve decided to keep it unchanged as its a great reflection of my very initial understanding and approach to fermented vegetables at that point.

 

Ever gone foraging for wild onions? A wonderful experience. The earthy smell of spring as the early green of buds is on the trees, the promise of a rich summer to come. The reaping of the year’s first crop.

We were at our place up north first week of May at the height of the wild onion season. This is nature’s  yearly event where all the wild onions are up – their earthy garlicy pungent air – both sublime and yet not so subtle either.  

I picked what I could but for the short term I really had too much and I did not want to throw any of it away. I knew those lovely leaves probably had about a week in the fridge before they were compost material.  I did not want them to go to ruin. What to do? I wondered about making them into a fermented vegetable product.  I had heard about this that very day at the market. One of the vendors was selling a fermented vegetable condiment.

I thought, “Let’s check this out” and looked on the web. Essentially the process involves soaking the vegetable in a brine,  leaving it out of the fridge for 3 days and then putting it into the fridge for 3 weeks. That seems simple enough.

Here then is the recipe

Ingredients:

wild onion leaves

salt

water

a large leaf of a tough vegetable like kale or cabbage

Equipment needed

2 pots: 1 large pot and a smaller one to prepare the brine

a couple of jars. I use a 500ml widemouth mason jar

A rock that will fit inside your jar

A pestle to pack down the leaves.

Method

The leaves before processing

The leaves before processing

  1. Identify the jar and rock to weigh things down
  2. sterilize jar, rock and pestle.
  3. make a brine: 1litre of water, 50g salt. (20:1 solution) Heat the water and add the salt until the salt is dissolved. Take off the stove and let cool. The instructions that I saw gave volume measurements but I’ve made a ‘typical’ 20:1 brine 1 liter of water: 50g salt.
  4. Clean and cut the leaves. I decided to cut them very small because it would be likely I’m using this as a condiment so I’d want it in very small bits – almost a paste.
  5. Place the leaves in a very clean jar  – in my case a wide mouth 1L mason jar and crush/mash them with a pestle.  

    After cutting them, they are crushed with a pestle.

    After cutting them, they are crushed with a pestle.

  6. Take a large leaf of cabbage or kale as an additional barrier between the wild onion leaves and the air. NONE of the leaves can be in contact with the air and at this stage they need to be pressed down. For this purpose I used a combination of a small mason jar lid and a rock (I I subsequently realized that a small mason jar lid with a 250 ml mason jar filled with water acts as an effective press for such a little amount.)
The brine added, they will be pushed belwo the surface with the weight of the rock (or jar of water.

The brine added, they will be pushed below the surface with the weight of the rock (or jar of water.

  1. Leave the jar at room temperature for  3 days and then refrigerate for 3 weeks although it  could be eaten at this point.

What to do with it?

  • Think Umeboshi plum paste: as an addition to a rice or vegetable dish
  • Mustard flavoring – either subtle or not so subtle
  • a condiment on the side – be careful – its strong!
  • as part of the flavor palette of a viniagrette
  • a BBQ rub in place of garlic
  • a flavoring ingredient in a sauce.

In retrospect, and several months into fermenting,  I would not change a lot about this. I would add a little salt and massage the leaves before cutting them to bruise the leaves and begin the fermentation process, but I still think its a vegetable that needs the brine liquid added to it (as opposed to only massaging with salt). The 20:1 (5%) brine is, I believe correct  – but who am I to say?  

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