Archives for posts with tag: Condiments

IMG_20180616_164137.jpgI knew that Rhubarb Ketchup was a thing, as I gazed upon all those stalks growing madly in the raised bed and asked them, what shall I make with you? They said, if you make a standard ketchup, you’ll have to sterilise the jars, and do you really have the energy to do that? Or would you rather make something probiotic and alive, naturally tangy, and furthermore….  why not use your vinegar from underripe green grapes, the vinegar that started life as a verjus, knowing it is ill-advised to jar, as in many vinegar preserves, with an unknown Ph.?

So Fermented Rhubarb Ketchup happened, and it’s wonderful.   It an EXTRA fruity tangy ketchup, or catsup as one used to enjoy saying as a child– and would be marvellous at a barbecue or with anything chicken or duck, kind of like hoisin.  My intention though is to use it as an ingredient in a BBQ marinade, for tempeh.

Are you all right with my giving loose recipes?  It’s how I like to cook.  Because I cook this way, I feel more empowered and creative.  If it seems challenging, refer back to proper recipes.  Feel free to play with your own spice combinations– Pam Corbin in The River Cottage Preserves book uses cumin and coriander for instance, others use bay leaves; I am a junky for warm, spicy cloves as a go-with for rhubarb.  Here’s how I made mine:

  • 12 skinny or 6 quite fat stalks of rhubarb
  • a loosely chopped, large red onion
  • a few garlic cloves, being aware you could over-do (which you might want to do!)
  • five cloves or a teaspoon of clove powder (I like lots, you might not.)
  • a big handful of brown sugar
  • a small American measure 1/2 teaspoon of salt (add more to taste)
  • a mixture of cider vinegar and sauerkraut brine to equal about a quarter cup, but really the proper amount to thin the mixture to what feels ketchuppy to you.  (I used a scrap vinegar from green grapes and a brine from a lactofermented cauliflower/ giardiniera.)   Some people might use whey here.

Roast the rhubarb, onion and garlic until soft. It might have been nice to add a little orange juice, and maybe I will next time.  I did sprinkle a bit of seasalt here to get the juices flowing.  The rational for roasting in my thinking (vs raw fermented rhubarb) — a) most fermented ketchup recipes start with tomato paste/ puree which of course is cooked and b) when I discovered world traditions of beginning fermented aubergine/ eggplant recipes by roasting, steaming, or boiling, ferments that had been meh became YEAH!

When cooled, puree the rhubarb mixture; I did this in my trusty food mill which makes for a very smooth texture and removes scratchy bits.  Add everything else, combine, and pot, which for me means a jar with a rubber gasket that I will burp; others prefer airlocks.

I’m excited to smother this over stuff, and have it as an element to play with in my larder.

LATE CHIPOTLE ALERT!  

I decided a spicy Chipotle Rhubarb Ketchup might be something I’d be more likely to use, as a marinade and ingredient in sauces.  As remedial action, I softened three (dried) chipotle chilis in a little fermented brine (water, juice, vinegar would have been fine too) and repureed them through the ketchup.  Clearly one could just add the soaked chipotles to the original mixture! You could control how hot you want this.  I find fermenting lessens spice (does anyone know why?) so you can often add more spicy than you think you like.

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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.)

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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.

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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.

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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…

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I had loads more elderberries that I’d picked on that abundantly fruiting hedge.

Pontack Sauce, writes Richard Mabey in Food for Free,  is “a relic from those days when every retired miltary gentlman carried his patent sauce as an indispensable part of his luggage. Pontack’s was a famous restaurant … which was no doubt on these gentlemen’s town circuit, and from there this recipe was taken back to the country seats and adjusted to the owners idiosyncrasies.”

I’ve made some, barely adjusting to any of my own likely idiosyncrasies– just followed RM’s instructions below,  using a half bottle of neglected red wine instead of vinegar or claret.

“Pour one pint of boiling vinegar (or claret)  over one pint of elderberries in a stone jar or casserole dish. Cover, and allow to stand overnight in an oven at very low heat. Next day, pour off the liquid put in a saucepan with a teaspoon of salt, a blade of mace, 40 peppercorns, 12 cloves, a finely chopped onion and a little ginger.  Boil for ten minutes then bottle securely with the spices….  The Sauce was reputedly meant to be kept for seven years before use. ”

I love it:  not to be used before, rather than only good until…

Will it last this long with us?  Maybe!  RM writes that it’s delicious with liver, which I can imagine, while everyone else around the web talks about game.  We don’t really eat liver or game so often– sometimes rabbit (cheap and local) or pheasant.  Maybe this Pontack Sauce will occasion an Occasion.

A fingertip dipped in the sauce and licked suggests a hint of bitterness that gives complexity to a British style sauce, which usually are sweet and fruity, sometimes a little sour.   This feels different, so I understand why it might be in the category of the old-style ketchups and sauces like Worcestershire and anchovy-based condiments.  Somewhere I read Pontack Sauce is a wonderful base for gravies.  Seven years from now: my little boy might have a moustache, my daughter, moved away, and at some family meal we’ll all sit together and ponder where we were, seven years ago.  Seven years hence, these are my hugest wishes of today:

There will have been a moratorium on all new fossil fuel development, and any use of fossil energy will be galvanised to a renewable energy future.  Government and civil society will be benevolently oriented to a socially-just adaptation to the challenges a changing climate is wreaking, with rich countries taking responsibility for the damage our technological history has brought the rest of the world.  There’s been an incredible techno-fix that sinks Greenhouse gasses somewhere safe  (I’m allowed to want this– this is MY fantasy!).  We’re all about community and happiness and health, and everyone has enough to eat, and water, and clean air, and all species of bees have recovered in number.  My hollyhocks have spread everywhere around the garden.   I’ve gotten on top of those piles of paper.   All the yoga balancing poses are really easy for me.  The Pontack Sauce is more delicious than today I ever would have imagined.

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