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Making Kimchi Latkes from a great new book — a review and lots of inspiration.

When my review copy of Fermented Vegetables arrived from the publishers, I felt upon first leaf-through an energising surge of creativity. From my own larder and imagination, I dressed a salad of grated swede and carrots in a Plum Kimchi vinaigrette.

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threw some RubyKraut in some lentil soup with assorted leftovers

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and made a quick potato salad mixing plain old sauerkraut with potatoes in olive oil with spring onions and chives.

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All were yummy, standard Kitchen-Counter-Culture type food preparations, but I needed to get past them to let in the light of the whole new universe that Fermented Vegetables opens up.  It’s a beautiful book with exciting and original recipes and has regenerated in me a can-do sense about all the ways to continue fermenting and use my fermentations as ingredients.

I am an experienced fermenter and experimenter, and often tell people in my workshops that if they get into fermenting they will develop their own personal style, as I feel myself and others to have done.  I always credit Sandor Katz’ brilliant and inspiring Wild Fermentation as the book that really consolidated a movement, explaining and instructing ancient techniques for contemporary food transformation; he did it in such a way that so many of us have taken off, and continue to do so, in our own culinary voices.

I’ve felt that Wild Fermentation suggests that in a world of political food, there’s no turning back from global tastes even as we embrace DIY food and gardening and localism. Kirsten Shockey and Christopher Shockey credit Wild Fermentation with teaching them loads, and they move in a different, complementary direction.  Theirs is an accessible, perhaps more mainstream book with stunning photographs and compelling recipes; it’s suitable for beginners and very experienced fermenters alike, which is a feat really.  A book on this topic could be redundant after Katz, but theirs is a marvelous contribution. It’s a resource for how to approach vegetables– there’s a whole A-Z section that answers questions about everything regarding fermentation, including, of note to me at the moment Jerusalem Artichokes and horseradish, for example .  It’s not an attempt to be exhaustive but rather, comprehensive and inspiring of further creativity and one’s one imaginative experimentation. Both of these great books are part of envisioning a new contemporary, multi-influence cuisine in a movement I see myself as part of.

The Shockeys do a lot that’s great.  They include a fun section on fermenting foraged foods, and flowers, and fruits, knowing there’s a lot of crossover interest.  They distinguish in chapters between brine pickles and versions of sauerkraut as different techniques, which is a smart approach (and what I do when teaching). They troubleshoot. They look at crocks and vessels. They go around talking to other enthusiasts (as Katz does in both WF and in The Art of Fermentation); this is great because we all love meeting these fellow afficionados.

Even as a constant fermenter and user-up of bottoms of batches, I found myself thrilled and surprised by the uses they put pickles too — mixing them with cream cheese for schmears, in quiches, frittatas, slaws, spanikopita and strudels.  Then they have fermented cocktails they dub Crocktails — “Kimchi Mary” just seems like an immediate classic — and desserts that excite people who like to like to defy culinary categories, with the likes of a Chocolate Sauerkraut Cake with a Coconut Kefir Glaze that sounds delicious, as does the fermented Rhubarb Fool.  I would have imagined myself to have thought up such things, but I hadn’t– they did– and I love the way they’ve done it.

So what was going to be the first thing I wanted to cook from this book? The choice felt visceral, and I made Kimchi Latkes (using peasemeal instead of flour as a personal quest). My husband pointed out they fell in a category like Bubble and Squeak — potatoes and a cabbage, but with the spicy, sour fermented zing of kimchi.  These were equal parts grated, drained potato with kimchi, and some egg and flour (peasemeal) to bind.  They felt traditional somehow with the sour cream, but the apple sauce really added an autumnal element and reflected a nice correspondence between seasonal ingredients, even cross-culturally.  Next time I would make them very little, almost like hors d’oeuvres, to give them a special amuse-bouche quality.  But I nevertheless feel my life is richer having made them this way even once.  I feel they are part of a cultural lexicon of hybrid foods like “Krautchi” that Katz made famous.

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Fermented Vegetables is a genuinely beautiful, useful, original book that speaks through the experience of happy and inspired fermenters, and I’m grateful for my review copy.  It’s a keeper, for periodic study and referral.  And it’s a book I will put on my teaching resources lists, and give to friends as a gift.  Thumbs up, and let the crazy desserts begin!

 

 

 

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