I soaked some beans overnight, (for once) obviating the need for pressure-cooking, and allowing them to get extra soft and luscious over the course of two simmerings: the first, just with water and a piece of kombu, the second in the company of papaya juice, tomato paste, herbs, maple syrup, three different vinegars, salt, and smoked paprika. As I pondered the seasonings for stage two, I considered the spectrum of beans; a couple of spices make them Mexican, while some pork fat and the sweet/sour opposition yield the Bostonian variant. Since Mexican chorizo was on the menu, courtesy of the farmers’ market, I naturally chose the counterintuitive route and got all kinds of retahded with the beans. The result was handsome enough, with dense and toothsome legumes under fat, juicy sausage with wilted greens beside, but honestly I’m not really feeling it in the kitchen these days. My urge to experiment and take risky leaps of imagination has been sapped by the heat. Plus, it’s all I can do to keep up with the garden; pick, cook (as little as possible), and eat is the rule right now.
In this season of vegetable excess, even our gardenless neighbors are not sufficient to absorb the surfeit of green goodness that pours forth from within the hallowed fence out back. So I’ve been making jars of pickles, since they’re way more interesting than blanching and freezing. Which I’ll also be doing, as soon as standing in front of a huge boiling pot of water seems like a rational proposition.
My Grandfather made excellent dill pickles, and even though I wasn’t particularly attentive to the process a few key things took hold in my memory. Now that I’m pretty well acquainted with lacto-fermentation, I’ve been tinkering ever so gently with his master recipe. To start, I use a less-salty brine than he did. He used round rocks, boiled to sterilize them, as weights to keep the food submerged and away from any mold. I use ziptop bags filled with brine, unless I’m using the big crock which has its own weights. I leave them in the brine for a little less time so the result has a better crunch. But it’s the flavor of his that imprinted upon me, and which will always be the baseline for the genre.
The first cilantro planting has gone to seed, so I’ve been coming up with uses for green coriander. In this case, mixed in with shredded beets and carrots and the first ripe cayenne pepper. They’ll add complexity, sure, and help tug the resulting flavor towards places distant and exotic, but let’s face it: I really just put them in because they’re so pretty against the vivid roots.
Below, from left to right: The dill pickles with lots of garlic (which I just dug up), sauerkraut flavored with mustard, pepper, juniper, and caraway, and the beet-carrot mixture. I stuck them down in the crawl space under the house after a day or so at room temp to really kick-start the hot microbial action. The best thing about doing different batches in jars like this is that it frees up the big crock for another huge-ass batch of kimchi. Which is next in line.