Sunday, February 14, 2010

Hunting Ornamental Kale

I attended a workshop recently through Trade School that taught me how to make suerkraut from ornamental kale.  You've probablly seen ornamental kale; it's used in winter landscaping.  It looks like this:

You can pick it, cook and can it; or pickle it like you would cabbage.  Or eat it fresh.  Sadly, the kale in my neighborhood is all limp, floppy, and brown.  If you can find some crisp kale in your 'hood, harvest it and stow it away for the challenge!

Below are some tips and a recipe from my teacher, EmCee CM:

Technique: collect leaves before they brown or wilt, larger, outer leaves first. If you collect from a variety of plantings you can fill your basket without disrespecting anyone’s display, and, more to the point, you can allow the plants to continue growing for future forays and for other foragers.

Ornamental Kale Sauerkraut

Wash your harvest in cold water (mix in vinegar or baking soda if you like for extra cleaning power). Chop kale fine and pack in a large jar, Tupperware container, or for a big batch, a five gallon food-grade plastic bucket works great. Layer the kale with plenty of salt and any other veggies and herbs you like.

Press firmly the whole business to the bottom of the jar and weigh it down with a smaller jar full of water (capped) inside the big jar. Or use any other press strategy you can think of for the container you’re working with (for a big bucket a dinner plate with a milkjug full of water as a weight works great). The goal is to keep the kraut submerged in its brine as it ferments. Over the next 24 hours, the salt and pressure will draw moisture out of the veggies, making a natural brine for the kraut to soak and ferment in.

Let it sit on the counter for a week checking regularly for taste and texture and mixing it around so it ferments evenly. It should remain somewhat crisp and crunchy and always submerged. Any bits that stray up above the brine level will dry out and could possibly form mold. Just discard them. During this week, leave the cap of the big jar loose so that air can escape.

When it tastes ready to you, refrigerate as you use it. It will keep for many months. Or you could can it in sterile jars and a boiling water bath for long-term shelf storage. Follow the instructions that come with the jars (Ball jars and Mason jars are available in some hardware stores and grocery stores and online). Eat it as a side dish, with hotdogs, as a soup ingredient, as a filling for crepes and savory pastries, etc!

p.s. A great resource for fermented foods is Sandor Ellix Katz’s book Wild Fermentation.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

How Does Your Garden Grow?

A Preview of my proposed garden.

I thought I'd show the fine readers and friends of this site my proposed garden space at my home. In full disclosure, I may have two different plots: The one above and a much larger plot at my mother's boyfriend's farm. Since one is certain and the other is only possible, I've decided to just explore this one for now.

What you're seeing via the link to a Google Spreadsheet are my plots. I've decided to use the Square Foot Gardening technique for a majority of my vegetation needs. I don't lose a lot of my small backyard, and I have quite a bit of versatility. Each whole number in the sixteen individual squares is a single plot. Most of the western most plots will be things like radishes, lettuces, and things I can harvest quickly, and will have fast turn around. From seed to vegetable, I can probably get at the very least 4 crops of radishes.

The boxes starting with H are herb boxes that will go on my wooden fence sometime this summer. I use quite a bit of cilantro, chive, basil, oregano and thyme throughout the year, and it will be wonderful to head to the garden and gather some of each.

The boxes labeled C aren't boxes at all, but are in fact 5 gallon pails that I use for homebrewing. Each year, I'd ideally like to replace my pails to ensure that if they're hiding any nasty bugs in low lying scratches, I don't make myself sick drinking tainted beer. For the pails, I'm going to grow tomatoes upside down as well as some lettuce in the tops of the containers. Use all the usable space I can, right? They'll also be mobile so that I can make use of the most sun possible each day.

My biggest issue is unseen in the diagram, but, will likely pose a threat to my home crop, and that's the 100+' maple tree I have in my back yard. The canopy is immense, and while I get full sunlight in my backyard, most of it is filtered through the trees. Thankfully, the leaves aren't broad, and they still provide a good bit of light. In the height of summer, most of the place I've chosen won't be too covered by shade, thanks to the angle of the tree and the sun together.

I'm expecting most of this challenge for 2010 to be experiementation, and if I can get a good 50% of my meals via things I've grown, I'll call the challenge a success.

Participants, tell our adoring public about your garden plans. Kathy's garden plan is fantastic, and far better than my GoogleDocs picture.

Looking for Better Recipes?

Maybe you've scoured the internet, looking for ideas for recipes using the ingredients you plan on growing, but have come up short. Truth is, most of the bigger sites on the internet (,, etc.,) have a very staunch outlook on most meal planning. Meats and Proteins are chief and vegetables are meant to be side dishes and salad toppings. So, how is one to find recipes?

Enter Food Blog Search.

Less a traditional recipe site and more concentrated search site powered by Google Search, over three thousand blogs are indexed and pulled from. A sizable majority of the blogs are maintained by vegetarians, locavores, vegans, and people uninterested in the traditional hierarchy of cuisine. I use it quite a bit for my non-challenge dishes, to check variations on recipes I want to try, and most are adaptations of two or more recipes. A little less salt here, a dash more soy there, and I've got my own recipe with very little work, aside from a few keystrokes.

Next time you're looking for something, give it a try. It's Pete tested, Pete approved!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Happy Birthday, Pete!

Happy Birthday to yoooouuuuu,
Happy Birthday tooooo yoooouuuuuu,
Happy Birthday Dear Pete
Happy Birthdaaaaayyyyyy toooooooo yooouuuuu!

Saturday, February 6, 2010


The 1st 1/2 lb of soybeans were used to make 2 recipes: soybeans with fennel, thyme & oregano and dry-roasted soybeans (soynuts).

I used frozen veggie broth that I made a few weeks ago for the 1st recipe. If you decide to make this, make sure you keep adding water once it boils down. I lost track and before I knew it the soybeans stuck to the bottom of the pan and burned. Not all was lost though. I transferred most of it to a new pot and added the tomatoes, thyme & oregano. Because it burned, the onions carmelized which gave it a smokey, baked bean flavor. In my opinion, the beans could go without the thyme and oregano.

The dry roasted nuts were very simple to make and have a good flavor.

Here are the links to the recipes:,,


The first pound of cornmeal was used to make Roti (cornmeal flatbread), tomato fritters & fried okra.

I also made a blueberry salsa. I came across the recipe while searching for blueberry bbq sauce recipes. The salsa has an interesting mix of sweet and spicy flavors.

I came across a couple interesting sites while looking for recipes using cornmeal. Mark, you may like this one called "Early Texas Cuisine" It has a recipe for fried squirrel. If anyone likes mush, there is also a recipe for cornmeal mush.

Snails, anyone? If you want to hunt down garden snails because your other hunting skills are lacking, check out "Garden snails as escargots - recipes"

Thursday, February 4, 2010

My Corona

Just picked this beauty up on Ebay - a Corona corn mill. With shipping it ran about $35. It took 4 passes to get a good fine cornmeal (having to sift it through a mesh strainer to keep the big bits for further grinding.) About 90% of the material is meal, the rest is still a little too coarse so I'll save it for the next time I'm grinding corn up. This pound is going to Sharon, along with 1/2lb of dry soybeans. Lets see what culinary delights the test-cooking department can create!

Further Rulings

I feel there are further rulings for clarification. These came about from further research of refining soybeans into other edible products.

Ruling #1 - This is an extension of the earlier ruling re: salt. This rule will be extended to include any naturally occurring mineral that is used in food production. Thus baking soda, gypsum, and other food-use minerals can be use for processing foods up to 15 days prior to the beginning of the challenge.

Ruling #2 - This ruling is regarding the use of molds and yeast strains grown for specific purposes. You may purchase a starter, culture, etc. of any microbe, but must process it through at least 3 generations with at least one day of rest in between cultures. The second and third generations of the culture must be made on cultivated products only. For example - you can buy a packet of Red Star yeast at the local store and use it to make a loaf of bread on Tuesday, save a bit and make a second loaf (using cultivated products) on Thursday, save a bit and make a third loaf of bread which is 'challenge approved'.

Ruling #3 - The equal substitution rule - should you gather a mineral in the wild of questionable purity, you may make an equal substitution of food-grade material, which can be used during the challenge. Thus salt boiled from the waters of the Atlantic can be substituted for an equal weight of table salt, crushed shells can be substituted for food-grade calcium carbonate, etc.