Wednesday, January 26, 2011

A Taste of Summer

For a little glimmer of summer in the midst of deepest winter, try one of the following counter-top fermented salsa recipes. Once you have the process down, you can tweak it to do your own thing; but because they are fermented at room temp, you may want to stick to one of the originals for your first try.

What does counter-top fermentation mean and why do it? Good questions. When we ferment foods prior to eating them, they pre-digest a bit, and they also grow a colony of pro-biotic cultures that help us digest more efficiently everything else we eat. This leads to better over-all health because we are getting more nutrients into our blood stream.

Those who advocate using fermented foods recommend starting the day with a tablespoon or so of fermented food and then including little something at each meal. The more traditional American choices would include dairy type items such as yogurt, raw cheese, kefir, buttermilk. But don't limit yourself to dairy. Sauer kraut, kimchee, or any kind of pickled vegies, if eaten raw (not canned), will do the same.

For more information on counter-top fermentation, see Sally Fallon's Nourishing Traditions or the featured titles.

And now on to salsa. Making salsa with this method results in one of the freshest, summeriest foods I've ever eaten. Hope you enjoy it.  The first two are just cut and pasted from other sources.  The last one is what I do.  Roughly.

Cat's Salsa
Based on Emillio's TexMex Cafe` recipe in Blissfield, Mi.
2/3 cup of onion
4 cloves of garlic
2 tsp celtic sea salt
2 serrano peppers (more if you like hot hot hot less if you like mild)
1-28 ounce can of diced tomatoes, drained
2 tablespoons of whey
1 handful of fresh cilantro leaves or 2 tablespoons dried

Place all ingredients in a blender or processor, blend until a fine puree is obtained. Ferment 2 days. (If you can. Mine rarely makes it that long before someone is eating it)

Cilantro Salsa From Eat Fat Lose Fat:
Makes 1 quart, about 20 calories per 1/4 cup

28-oz can organic whole peeled tomatoes, liquid drained off
1/4 large onion, coarsely chopped
2 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
1 serrano chile, seeded and coarsely chopped
1 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp dried oregano
Juice of 1 lemon or 2 limes
1/4 cup homemade whey
1 large bunch fresh cilantro, coarsely chopped

Place all ingredients except cilantro in a food processor and process until smooth. Stir in cilantro. Place in quart-sized wide mouthed mason jar. The top of the vegetables should be at least 1 inch below the top of the jar. Cover tightly and keep at room temperature for about three days before transferring to the refrigerator.
Bulk salsa
6lb 6oz can28-oz whole peeled tomatoes, liquid drained off
1 large onion, coarsely chopped
8 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
4 died chiles
4 tsp sea salt
1 tsp dried oregano
Juice from 8 limes (or do a couple of lemons instead; or use a combination)
1 cup homemade whey
4 large bunches fresh cilantro, coarsely chopped

Combine everything in a large bowl and mush a bit with an immersion blender.  A food processor or traditional blender would also work.  Process to your preferred chunkiness.

Cover loosely.  I usually set my bowl on a round pizza pan if it's really full.  The contents may grow a bit as it ferments.  It's advisable to catch the mess if it should occur.

Stir frequently (perhaps every 3-5 hours).  This keeps the pro-biotic cultures and the lactic acids mixed evenly as the fermenting takes place.  We had one batch spoil on the top layer because we forgot to stir it.  

You can taste as you stir.  It will keep getting better and better.  The time it takes to fully ripen depends upon the temp of the counter area at which you have it sitting.  Ours usually take 2-3 days.

When it's ready, refrigerate.  

To answer, "When is it ready?" is a bit hard.  It will get more tangy as it's fermenting. And the flavors blend and ripen (they actually seem to grow in richness).  And it may be a very slight bit bubbly.  But if it starts to taste like beer or wine or yeast, it's probably beyond its prime.  It is still usable, still pro-biotic.  But it's not as palatable at that point, and the flavor will continue to deteriorate once it reaches this point. 

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