My recent experimentation with fermentation was a great success which lead to new forays into this new (but ancient) world of preserving the harvest. Sauerkraut is easier than pie – cabbage, salt, and optional caraway seeds. Mixing red and green cabbage, adding grated carrots, red or daikon radish or just about any other vegetable you fancy are optional enhancements. Easy recipe for making sauerkraut in a mason jar here.

There are thousands of ways to make kimchi, but the basics typically have Napa cabbage, scallions, daikon radish and a mix of spices including ginger, garlic, fish sauce and gochugaru (Korean red pepper). I was fortunate in finding the gochugaru at one of my local markets, with the help of the Korean manager (who also gave me good advice on making my first batch of kimchi).  The recipe I used as a basis for making kimchi is right here. Once you get your kimchi going, try using it in this quinoa, kale and kim chi recipe, or check out these recipes.

Interested in more fermentation?  I recommend Sandor Ellix Katz’s Wild Fermentation as well as these two books he wrote:   The Art of Fermentation and (somewhat more  practical) Wild Fermentation.

Sauerkraut

Gardening in small spaces, making pickles, growing specialty crops, edible landscapes and healthy affordable food for all are just a few of the topics at the annual Rooting DC urban gardening forum. This day-long event – which includes panel discussions, workshops and talks –  is free (donations appreciated) and open to the public. The forum includes an info fair with lots of  great organizations coming to share opportunities and information.

Mark your calendar now for February 28th from 9:00am – 4:00pm at Wilson HS, advance registration is recommended.

rootingDC

What to do with an armload of basil?

First off, start off by making some basil vinegar. Here I used red wine vinegar, white wine vinegar and rice wine vinegar. Champagne vinegar is also a good choice. I’ve become a fan of the “not hot” vinegar method – the hot methods has you heating the vinegar prior to pouring it over the herbs. For delicate herbs like basil, I prefer to combine clean, dry herbs with the room temperature vinegar and letting it sit for two weeks or so in a cool place.

Making pesto is another good option – chopping basil leaves along with olive oil and garlic in your food processor then freezing. I usually add the Romano cheese and toasted pine nuts, traditional pesto ingredients, later.

You can also dry your basil – strip off leaves from the plant stem – wash and dry and then dry some more then place in sterilized jar or ziplock bag. Alternatively, cut whole stems and wash, dry and and hang in bunches upside down.  When dry, remove leaves from stem and place in sterilized jar or ziplock bag

And, be careful out there. When you look around, there will be a re-growth of the basil plant and many more possibilities for preserving  your delightful overabundance of Ocimum basilicum.

Basil         Basil vinegar and pesto

 

 

 

What’s old is new again and that includes canning. With the surge of interest in gardening, farmers markets and food security, it stands to reason that urban gardeners are interested in putting up their produce.

Once we’ve preserved an ample supply of basil, we turn our attention to tomatoes and different methods of putting them up – canning, drying and freezing.

Canning, or more appropriately called jarring since we now use jars instead of cans, is one easy way to preserve fruits and vegetables. Although it may seem daunting at first, canning is a relatively simple (albeit time consuming and sometimes messy) process. Heat tomatoes, place in sterile jars, process in hot water bath, cool and enjoy later. Easy, right?

Good resources on home canning can be found at USDA’s Guide to Home Canning and  Canning Across America. First published in 1909, the Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving is a classic resource book.

Oven drying is another option – this is good for paste tomatoes and for meatier cherry tomatoes like Juliets. Cut tomatoes in half and scoop out the seeds (a grapefruit spoon is helpful). Toss tomatoes in some olive oil, salt and pepper and place cut side up on a cookie sheet covered with parchment paper. Bake at the lowest oven temperature for about six hours until the tomatoes are dark and leathery. Store in air tight containers. These are great on salads, pizza or just eaten like candy.

Freezing is another easy option – you can freeze your tomatoes sliced, chopped or pureed. You can also freeze them raw or cooked, plain or in a sauce. Begin by washing the tomatoes, remove the skin,  core and removing the seeds.  Slice, chop, puree, cook etc then freeze in heavy duty zip lock bags.

Whatever the method, you’ll appreciate the reminder of summer’s bounty during the coming winter months.

Most of our herb plants are just starting to bloom which means they are at the peak of their flavor and it’s high time to harvest them.

Preserving basil is a “must do”  so we can enjoy a burst of basil flavor in the middle of winter.  We usually start by freezing some basil  – wash and gently dry the leaves and chop them in a food processor adding just enough high quality olive oil to make a paste. We also like to add some chopped garlic.

Freeze the basil in an ice cube tray & put them into a zip lock bag when frozen. Another option is to freeze the basil in a log shape so just the right amount can be sliced off.

This is a great base for pesto – thaw the amount needed and add Romano cheese and some  lightly toasted and chopped pine nuts.

Another nice way to preserve basil is to make basil vinegar for use in a soup,  sauce or salad dressing, adding to a meat marinade or splashing on some steamed vegetables.

Wash and thoroughly dry the basil (can include stem and flowers) then bruise with the back of a spoon or “wring out” the sprigs of basil to release the essential oils. Place in clean, sterilized jar.  Heat the vinegar (for best results, use white wine or champagne vinegar) but don’t boil.

Pour over the basil being sure the vinegar covers all the basil. Cool, then put on a lid and store for 2-3 weeks. Gently shaking the jar every so often is helpful. Strain and put into a clean sterilized jar. Note:  This process can be used to make other kinds of herb vinegars.

The third option is to simply dry some leaves – wash and dry and then dry some more, or cut whole stems and wash, dry and and hang in bunches upside down.  Remove leaves and place in sterilized jar.

Many ways to enjoy your Ocimum basilicum even after the last leaves have been harvested.