Well, success I would say.
Several weeks ago I set myself the task to ferment a jar of peppers– dried, fresh and sweet all together, submerged with some garlic in a salty brine with the intention of an eventual Harissa, my favourite Middle Eastern condiment. I even love the processed stuff that comes in tubes, but wanted to taste a version with that particularly perfect sour fermented flavour, after my good experience with pickling jalapenos in this way. I wrote a blog entry about it and stored the jar on my busy counter tops in the hypothetical section called “In Progress.”
Three and a half weeks later, I noticed that the garlic had become that unsightly blue that sometimes develops in lacto-fermented cloves of garlic. The lovely, ever helpful and knowledgable Sarah of Killer Pickles referred me here to learn that “Garlic contains anthocyanins, water-soluble pigments that can turn blue or purple under acidic conditions. This is a variable phenomenon that is more pronounced for immature garlic but can differ among cloves within a single head of garlic.” Yet it was that blue that told me there’d been enough fermentation ( thus acid production) to proceed. (I was kind of tempted to intensify the blue in photo-edit, and resisted.)
First step was to strain the peppers of their brine, which was fragrant and spicy and sour and bright, and went in as the final splash in the day’s soup, as I’ve described before.
The pepper skins themselves I put in some vinegar for … whatever that turns out to be.
Then as per classic recipes for harissa, I blended the pepper and garlic pulp with olive oil and added ground seeds that I’d sieved to remove the husks: coriander for brightness, cumin for depth, and beloved caraway for a kind of bitter that really levels it all out. Here, in the photo below, I’d drizzled a little extra olive oil.
Well, paste, no– I think if I wanted a paste texture I’d add tomato paste/ puree– not sure how I’d thicken it otherwise. (Any thoughts anyone?) It’s more like a thick sauce, and a really good success of an experiment. It’s a hot spicy with out torment and with various levels of depth. Next time I might ferment the seeds along with the peppers, or perhaps roast them Indian style in the oil at the end. That could bump it all up even more– but I’m not really sure more intensity is called for. In the meantime, I am just really into this idea of fermenting ingredients that then can go on to play a role in grander schemes…