Saturday, October 1, 2016

Soured Radishes

From March to May, My wife, son, two dogs, two cats and I lived out of the upstairs bedroom while the rest of the house was a construction zone. We had a microwave and use of the adjoining bathroom. I was waking up early to run into Eugene where I had taken a job in a tiny kitchen making Pho and Bon Mi. The shift in work was stressful but at least I was getting out of the house. As soon as our kitchen was finished I was digging through stacks of boxes looking for my crocks. I needed to get back to fermenting.

Arriving at the downtown Eugene farmers market I felt like Charlie walking in the edible Wonka garden. Of course I was overreacting. I was starving for some comfort, familiarity and a peek into what the Willamette Valley had to offer. We literally 'bought the farm' here and we aren't moving. I was meeting the local produce which I would use for the rest of my life. Remember we moved so quickly I hadn't really researched the local farming activity here. And yet I depend on my local farmers and what they grow for the inspiration which ultimately shapes my direction so this felt like an arranged marriage albeit there are a lot of farmers markets in this beautiful state. I admitted to overreacting. So anyway this was a big moment for me. I was excited and actually ready to make a ferment. Now to find the inspiration.

I walked away with red radishes, baby turnips and garlic scapes. The big, bright red radishes rose in bunched towers of assertion. There was an instant need in me to encourage their peppery bitterness to fester. The baby turnips on the other hand looked inviting like plump, soft marshmallows so of course I had to grab those. I found myself so drawn to these ingredients I needed to look behind the veil of this plane to reveal any possible meaning. Wikipedia had nothing but I did read a few more reputable sources on vegetable lore that would discuss how radishes were thought of to bring conflict and turnips were related to evil spirits. So I believe my first ferment in Oregon was more than a inaugural event. I was reaching out. To a dark place. Sure, but what a beautiful display of the creative process and subconscious content.

Soured Radishes

This BIG BATCH recipe yields 12+ pints of soured radishes and turnips. Perfect for Chefs, restaurants or having plenty to pass around.

4 quarts red radishes
2 quarts baby turnips
12 garlic scapes
3 cloves garlic
3-4 green cabbage leaves (I use cabbage leaves along with weights to help keep my ingredients submerged under the brine)
3/4 cup kosher salt
1/8 cup brown mustard seed
1/4 cup yellow mustard seed
2 teaspoons black peppercorns 
2 star anise
1 cinnamon stick
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Approx. 1 & 1/2 gallons of spring water or distilled water. 

  1. Remove greens from radishes and turnips. Soak radishes, turnips and garlic scapes in cool water for 10 minutes and then gently rub under water to remove any soil or debris. Rinse and drain. With a pairing knife trim off the root and sprout end of radishes and turnips. Trim off cut end of garlic scapes. Smash the 3 cloves of garlic and peel. Set aside radishes, turnips, garlic and garlic scapes. Compost trimmings.
  2. In a large saute pan combine brown & yellow mustard seeds, black peppercorns, star anise and cinnamon stick. Turn heat on to medium and toast, stirring occasionally until spices begin to toast and become fragrant. When spices are quite fragrant or you begin to see the smallest about of smoke rise from the pan, turn off the heat and continue to stir spices in the pan, toasting them until they cool. Once cool add the red pepper flakes.
  3. Dissolve the salt into the water to make the brine. Set aside.
  4. In a 2 & 1/2 gallon crock add half of the spice mixture, half of the garlic scapes and finally half of the radishes and turnips. On top of this add remaining half of spice mixture, garlic scapes the smashed garlic cloves and finally the remaining radishes and turnips. Cap all of this off with your cabbage leaves and pour the brine into the crock covering all of the ingredients with an extra 2 inches of brine above them.                                                                                                       * I added more brine to this with the intention of packing smaller jars so I could give them out to folks thus needing more liquid. Plus the fermented brine is fun to cook with. If you are going to be working/eating out of a crock or large vat you can just add enough brine to submerge the ingredients.
  5. Once everything is submerged add your weight and airlock or secured bandana. Stash your crock in a cool dark nook where it won't be disturbed yet you can easily access it for peeking in on the progress.
  6. TIMING: Check your crock each day for the first 2 days to make sure everything is submerged and always secure your airlock or bandana. After that if you are using an airlock check every so often to make sure it is secure. If you are using a bandana you will want to make sure to check the surface of your brine every 3 days to keep it clean of any possible growth by skimming if necessary. 
  7. At 2 WEEKS  pull the crock out and carefully remove a radish/turnip from the crock to test. Now this is your ferment so really there is no tradition on what end you are looking for except what you like. So cut open the radish/turnip your retrieved and take a look and taste. Your radishes and turnips have been fermenting and are alive and happy. What you want to look for is the texture, tanginess of brine and how much the brine has penetrated the vegetables. Put them back in their nook and keep checking until you are happy or store in refrigeration to slow the fermentation process and begin enjoying your ferment. *Remember refrigeration will slow the fermenting (not stop it) as well as crisp up the vegetables once they are chilled. I fermented my angry spirits for 4 weeks which was a little longer than I intended. They were delicious, but I would really examine my options at 2+ weeks should I ferment radishes again.  
  8. This ferment will keep for quite a while in refrigeration. Up to a month or more. You will notice a change in the texture and flavor of the radishes and turnips as time passes. They will eventually become sub par in quality and you will most likely discard any remains before they spoil.   HAVE FUN!