Pork and Pickles

These are a few of my favorite things


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Beefy Borscht

There’s something about the middle of November that just screams “make soup EVERY DAY!”, and who am I to deny an urge like that? I had some stew meat thawed and awaiting inspiration, along with beets, cabbage, and – oh hey – some beef marrowbones in the freezer. CLEARLY it was time to make borscht. Now, I’ve only actually had chunky (Russian-style) borscht once, and I wasn’t eating beef at the time, so this is my interpretation of it with some help from my favorite cookbook ever, The Joy of Cooking.

To start, I had to turn those bones into broth, which I hadn’t done since cooking school. Everything I read said to just put bones in water at first, since they throw off so much scum. They were NOT kidding. The only thing I wish I’d done differently was to have also put the stew meat in with the bones – I added them later, with the veggies, and ended up with a lot of gunk in the broth that I just couldn’t scoop out. Oops.

Not clear and pretty like I wanted, sadly.

So you simmer the bones/meat until they stop throwing off scum (which you need to scoop out with a skimmer of some sort), then you add your vegetables. I threw in an onion, unpeeled and cut into eighths, a couple chopped carrots, a couple celery ribs, a couple garlic cloves, parsley, peppercorns, bay, clove, thyme. Keep this at a bare simmer for as long as you can – the longer you cook it, the more collagen dissolves from the meat and bones, plus there are a lot of vitamins and minerals that leach out of the bones. Strain it and chill it if you’re not going to use it right away. Pick the meat out from your pile of bones and spent veggies and reserve it for the soup.

When you’re ready to make the borscht, you’ll want to gather up the following: beets, cabbage, carrots, potatoes, onion, garlic, canned tomatoes, tomato paste. Start by boiling the beets until they’re tender, at which point you can just slip the skins off. Set them aside to cool. Melt some fat (butter’s good, and I augmented it with some of the fat skimmed from the stock) in your biggest soup pot and throw in a sliced onion. Cook that for a bit and add sliced garlic, then a couple tablespoons of tomato paste. Cook that for a bit to concentrate the flavor, then throw in chopped cabbage, potatoes, and carrots. Saute for a couple minutes, adding a good bit of salt, then add your broth and a can (or jar, if you’ve canned your own) of whole tomatoes with juice. Bring it up to a boil and then simmer until the potatoes and carrots are tender. At that point, cut up your cooked beets and toss them in, along with the meat reserved from the broth. You might need to add extra water to thin out the soup (I did!) – you want this to be fairly brothy.

This really needed more water added to it, but I was nearly out of room in the pot!

Traditionally, borscht is served with sour cream and fresh dill. I have creme fraiche (SUPER DUPER EASY TO MAKE YOUR OWN!) and dried dill – they certainly made for a more-than-passable garnish for the soup.

All set to eat!

I just ate breakfast and now I’m hungry again. I think I know what’s for lunch!

Borscht

  • 2 quarts beef broth, either homemade or purchased (chicken stock is fine, too)
  • 2 TB butter or other fat
  • 1 medium onion, halved and sliced into 1/8″ pieces
  • 2 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 2 TB tomato paste
  • 1/4 head cabbage, sliced thinly
  • 2 carrots, halved lengthwise and cut into 1/2″ chunks
  • 2 medium potatoes (yukon gold or red are good choices here), halved and cut into 1/2″ pieces
  • 1 28oz can whole tomatoes in juice
  • 3 medium beets, boiled, peeled, and sliced into 1/4″ chunks
  • 1-2 cups cooked beef (simmer stew meat in commercial broth until tender before starting the soup if you don’t make your own stock)
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • sour cream or creme fraiche and fresh or dried dill fronds for garnish

Melt butter/fat in a large pot and saute sliced onion until softened. Add sliced garlic and cook until fragrant. Add tomato paste and stir for a couple minutes, until slightly darkened. Add sliced cabbage, carrots, and potatoes, then tomatoes (break them up with your hands first) and broth. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until potatoes and carrots are barely tender. Add cooked beets and beef and simmer 15 minutes to heat through and meld flavors. Finish with lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste.

Serve, garnishing with sour cream/creme fraiche and dill.

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Kimchi

I got up this morning and said “You know what sounds like a good project for today? Sauerkraut!” We got a head of cabbage in our CSA box this week and I don’t really love it cooked, so I’ve been struggling to find a use for it since my favorite cabbage roll recipe really let me down the last time I used it. Sauerkraut is always a good use for cabbage – aside from being delicious, it’s very nutritious: cabbage is high in Vitamin C and fermenting it gives an end product that’s full of beneficial bacteria (lactobacillus, among others, which is important for digestion).

You’ve noticed, though, that this post is titled “Kimchi” – in paging through my copy of Nourishing Traditions to see what they had to say about fermenting vegetables, I found the kimchi recipe, which sounded WAY better to me than sauerkraut. I don’t know about you, but to me garlic, ginger, and chilis > caraway pretty much every day. Plus, I had all the ingredients on hand! (Scroll down to the bottom for the TL;DR version)

Clockwise from upper right: Cabbage, knife, 2 TB sea salt, carrots, dried chili pepper, garlic, ginger.

The measurements on the vegetables are pretty flexible, but you’d be wise to use the amount of salt specified below. Everything gets shredded or grated or minced and mixed together, then squeezed or pounded to release the liquid from the veggies.

I started by grating the carrots and ginger. I peeled the ginger because it wasn’t organic and also because I rather enjoy peeling ginger. I did not peel the carrots because they’re organic and I’m selectively lazy. I grated both on the fine side of the box grater, but it would have been just fine to do it in the food processor instead.

Shredded carrots and ginger. The spoon was for peeling the ginger – do you know this trick? It’s so cool! I also used the spoon to scrape the ginger off the grater, since the fibers got stuck on there pretty well.

Once you’ve got the carrots and ginger grated, it’s time to start on the cabbage. To start, cut the cabbage into quarters, then remove the core.

Before

After

Just cut along that diagonal line from the center of the cabbage down to the base and either compost the core or save it for snacking. Once you’ve got the core out of there, cut the cabbage quarter in half from top to bottom. Technically this isn’t a necessary step, but since I don’t like long strands I cut the cabbage into eighths. Slice the cabbage as thinly as you possibly can. A good sharp knife helps with this, but mostly it just takes practice. They make special tools for this, which can be great if you’re doing a large quantity, but for just one head of cabbage I’m not going to the basement to dig that thing out.

This is the first quarter of the cabbage, with the carrots and ginger.

Now, one head of cabbage takes up a lot of space once it’s shredded. In order to not have a huge mound of cabbage to work with at the end, I worked in batches. Shred a quarter of the cabbage, put it in the bowl with a quarter of the salt, and squeeze the heck out of it. Repeat three more times.

This is all of the cabbage, plus the carrots and ginger, shredded and salted and squeezed.

At this point, all that’s left to add is the garlic and chili.

This is roughly 3 large cloves’ worth of minced garlic. Maybe 1.5 TB or so.

You guessed it – throw it into the bowl and squeeze the veggies. You should have a noticeable amount of liquid collecting in the bottom of your bowl by this time – keep it all in there, because it’s going to cover your vegetables as they ferment!

This is what you want to see!

Divide your vegetables and liquid between two clean and sanitized (either boiled or chemically sanitized) quart jars and press down on the veggies until they’re covered with liquid. Put a lid on the jar and set it aside for several days to ferment.

See how the liquid is covering the veggies?

I posted about this project on Facebook this morning and several of my friends chimed in with suggestions based on their experience. One person suggested using white plastic reusable jar lids, of which I have an ample supply. Another friend shared a link to a DIY airlock lid project, which uses the regular two piece jar lids and an airlock (which you can get from a homebrew supply store, such as Northern Brewer). I was all set to use that when another friend commented that she ferments in regular Mason jars (as opposed to wide-mouth) and uses a #12 stopper and airlock to seal the jar. Since that was a bit easier than the DIY project, I stopped by Northern Brewer for some stoppers and airlocks. I’ll still try the DIY project, since NB didn’t have stoppers big enough for wide-mouth jars and I would like to ferment in half gallon jars, which of course only come in a wide-mouth version.

All ready to go!

This really is simple – you just put a little water in the airlock and insert it into the stopper, then insert the stopper into the mouth of the jar. The airlock allows the fermentation gases to escape while keeping outside air from entering the jar. You can absolutely ferment this in an unvented jar, but you may want to vent it once a day or so (more frequently if your house is warm) to avoid damaging the lid.

Nourishing Traditions suggests letting this ferment for 3 days, then transferring to cold storage. I’ll probably let it go until the airlock stops bubbling, and then it’ll either go in the back of the fridge or into the basement with the other canned goods. Our basement gets pretty chilly in the winter, so it’ll keep nicely down there. You could heat process this to seal the jars for longer-term storage, but that would kill all of the beneficial bacteria that developed during fermentation. Plus it would lose the great fresh crunch of a raw product.

Korean Sauerkraut, aka Kimchi (adapted from Nourishing Traditions)

  • 1 head cabbage, cored and finely shredded
  • 1 cup grated carrots
  • 1 TB grated ginger
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 TB sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp crushed pepper flakes (I used some dried chili we had, about 2 peppers’ worth)

Combine all vegetables and salt and pound or squeeze until vegetables have released their liquid. Pack into sanitized quart jars and press down on vegetables until they are covered by their own juices. Cover (either with an unvented lid or a lid with an airlock as discussed above) and allow to sit at room temperature 3 days or until fermentation has slowed. If using lids with airlocks, replace with unvented lids. Move kimchi to cold storage until needed. Eat!