Thursday, January 08, 2015

Fiery Fermentations to Fight Future Frosts

Winter can be a very long stretch, especially here in the North Country, and especially without a lot of seasonal fresh foods to cook and eat. But thank goodness for long keepers like cabbage, kale, and root crops! I may not be doing a lot of canning right now, but I can still do a little fermenting in the bleak midwinter.  First of all, I made two quarts of fiery kimchi. Though it's below zero outside and the house is cool, if you place the jars in the path of the kerosene monitor, you'll be bubbling away in no time!

My second fermentation project may have me crossing over into witch's brew territory. This is fire cider or fire tonic or master tonic, and if you renounce your faith, join a coven, and drink a bit of this every day, apparently you live forever...or something like that. We'll see in a month or so. But even as I was shredding the fresh horseradish, it was clearing my sinuses, so it's making me healthier already!

I used the following recipe, which is extremely similar to every other such recipe on the interwebs. The only changes I made were to use half as much horseradish (I simply had to quit halfway through the grating of the root as it was killing my eyes and nose, so I cried "uncle"), and to use fresh tumeric not ground. I scrubbed it well and grated it along with the horseradish and ginger at the beginning.

Fire Cider
(Source: Foodie with Family)

1 large horseradish root, about 7 inches long (scrubbed very well)
1 large ginger root, about 7 inches long (scrubbed very well)
1 large onion, root and stem end removed and peeled
1 large orange (I used a blood orange because I had one on hand)
1 lemon (I used a Meyer Lemon because that's also what I had on hand)
16 cloves of garlic, peeled
2-4 habanero peppers, stems removed (I only used two small ones, split in half)
1 tablespoon ground turmeric (I used fresh tumeric, about the same amount as the ginger)
raw apple cider vinegar
raw honey

Grate the horseradish and ginger roots (and fresh tumeric, if using). Roughly chop the onions, orange, lemon, garlic, and habanero peppers (I cut the habaneros in half but did not chop them). Stuff everything into a half-gallon glass jar with a tight fitting lid or divide evenly between two quart sized canning jars. (I sterilized my jar by pouring boiling water over it before filling.) Sprinkle the turmeric in on top, dividing evenly between the two jars if using quart jars. Pour the raw apple cider vinegar in over the contents, allowing it to settle in through the crevices and adding more so that the contents are submerged. Lay a piece of parchment paper over the rim of the jar, then screw the lid tightly in place. Let the mixture sit in a dark, cool place, allowing it to marry and infuse for four weeks, shaking once daily. (I have not been shaking mine, as everything is suspended beautifully in the jar.)

After one month, pour the contents into a muslin or cheesecloth lined colander positioned over a stable pot. Let it drain for 30 minutes, then gather the corners of the cloth, twisting and squeezing until you cannot release any more liquid. When it's fully strained, add honey to the liquid to taste and pour into a sterilized wine bottle, flip-top bottle, or canning jar. (Tip: You can find gorgeous, inexpensive bottles and jars at T.J. Maxx, Home Goods, and Marshall's.) Store in a cool, dark place for up to a year, shaking well before using.

Some people take a shot of this stuff every day to help them stay healthy, especially during cold and flu season. I think it smells great, but if I can't bear to drink it straight when it's done, my plan is to mix it into a Bloody Mary and also to whisk it with olive oil to fashion a vinaigette for a salad. Other fermenters have also advised me to save the strained solids, and dehydrate and grind them for a zesty seasoning blend. I might try that! Stay tuned...

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