Archives for posts with tag: Harissa

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Spicy Pumpkin Vinegar, made from pulps I could have thrown out.  A glorious enzymatic condiment for brightening, souring, finishing and … drinking!  Pumpkin Scrap-cum-Vinegar plus Fermented Chilli Pepper Skins is a match made in heaven…  or Upcycling Kitchen-Counter-Culture paradise, at least…

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Once upon a time we carved a pumpkin for Halloween, and instead of roasting the seeds, I fermented them for a scrap vinegar.  This is such an easy thing to do.  Cover your fruit scraps (in this case, the scooped-out pumpkin seeds embedded in the stringy stuff) in about triple the volume of water.  Add a tablespoon or two of sugar, which will inspire an alcoholic fermentation; keep stirring, periodically exposing your mixture to air, and  you will get acetic acid fermentation– that easy.  (The link above will give more detail if you don’t believe me.)

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A.K.A. Pumpkin Wild Vinegar, after lots of stirring and bottle-burping and exposure to air, and time:

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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…

Fermenting Harisa

I spent some really nice hours today with my friend Joe Purches, a talented portrait and landscape photographer developing a new interest in taking pictures of food.  I had announced to him my intention to begin making a harissa with lacto-fermented chilli peppers and garlic.   Harissa is an addictive North African condiment of pureed peppers, chilli peppers, sometimes tomato puree, and garlic, cumin, coriander and my favourite bitter back flavour: caraway.  Several years ago I experimented with different recipes, but none of my home-made ones were ever actually nicer, IMHO, than what comes in those tubes you can buy in Asian groceries.

Because fermentation will take several weeks, I can’t yet describe what I am going to do exactly, though I made the decision to refrain from adding the seeds (cumin, coriander and caraway) to the brine.  So basically my experiment is to make the paste with chillis and garlic that are fermented rather than fresh.  Today I chopped lots of hot red chlilis, a sweet red capsicum, added some dried chilis, and a head of garlic divided into cloves.  (And yes, I rubbed my eyes prematurely—-argghhahhhh.)  Stay tuned to see how it comes out.  This harissa was inspired by the delicious uses to which we put our fermented jalapenos.

Joe wrote a really nice piece on his blog.  He was amazing to work with, an incredible perfectionist really, but fun and light-hearted.  I feel in awe of people who have the patience– also the tolerance — to contrive a naturalness from their food-preparation scenes.   Everything looks different through the lens of the camera.  Good pictures for a blog take a lot of time.  I’m not sure it’s always going to be worth my time, but in this case, the gift of Joe was a blessing.

His photos are beautiful.  I feel really lucky.  Have a look!

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