Monday, November 17, 2014

Deborah Balmuth: Fermented Fennel Chutney for Turkey Leftovers

Fennel bulb. Photo © cyclonebill
Over the past weeks at my year-round CSA from Sawyer Farm in Worthington, Massachusetts, I’ve watched the boxes of shiny peppers and eggplants be replaced by big shiny heads of cabbage, hearty daikon radishes, potatoes, onions, leeks, kohlrabi, and fennel bulbs. And every week I’ve filled my bag with the latest crops.

But we haven’t been eating it as fast as we’ve been gathering it and last weekend the cabbage level reached crisis proportions! I opened my copy of Fermented Vegetables and got to work. To my amazement, it wasn’t much work at all: chop the cabbage; add salt, garlic, and spices; massage well (fun — like kneading dough, but less fussy!), put it in the crock and curtido — a Latin American variation of kraut — should be ready by the end of the week.

What’s next? With six fennel bulbs loaded in one of the vegetable drawers, I searched for a quick way to clear them out and discovered the recipe for fennel chutney, incorporating dried cranberries, raisins, and garlic with the fennel. Yum! The alluring anise scent brought my husband and my cat into the kitchen as I massaged and pounded the fennel to release the brine. Packed into a large canning jar with a ziplock bag of water acting as follower and weight to keep the vegetables submerged in the brine, here’s what it looks like after day two.
Fennel chutney in progress
One to two weeks in process, this is going to be perfectly timed for spreading on post-Thanksgiving turkey sandwiches.

Fermenting has quickly become my favorite preservation method — forgiving, easy, and a good workout for the hands. Now it’s on to Vietnamese Pickled Carrot & Daikon and Kohlrabi Kraut. There are solutions here for all my vegetable stockpiles!

Fennel Chutney

Yield: about ½ gallon
(fermentation vessel: 2 quarts or larger)

Fennel stalks finish a bit woody, but you could slice some very thin and add to the mix, if you like. This chutney goes well on turkey sandwiches, in cream cheese wraps, or as a condiment in a brunch spread.

10 fennel bulbs
2 sweet onions (but any type is fine), diced
1–2 tablespoons unrefined sea salt
1 cup dried cranberries
½ cup raisins
5–6 cloves garlic, minced

  1. Thinly slice the fennel bulbs and cores with a knife or mandoline. (For a finer texture, chop the slices.) Put the fennel in a large bowl and add the onions. Mix well. Sprinkle in 1 tablespoon of the salt, working it in with your hands, then taste. It should taste slightly salty without being overwhelming. Add more salt if needed. You may need to pound this mixture a bit to get the brine; if it’s stubborn, let sit, covered, for 30 to 45 minutes. Add the cranberries, raisins, and garlic. Toss and massage again for a few minutes to get everything mixed. You should see brine building at the bottom.
  2. Pack the mixture, a few handfuls at a time, into a jar or crock, pressing to remove air pockets as you go. More brine will release and you should see brine above the veggies. Top the ferment with a quart-sized ziplock bag. Press the plastic down onto the surface of the ferment, fill it with water, and seal; this will act as both follower and weight.
  3. Set aside on a baking sheet, somewhere nearby, out of direct sunlight, and cool, for 7 to 14 days. Check daily to make sure the vegetables are submerged. You may see scum on top; it’s generally harmless.
  4. You can start to test the ferment on day 7. It’s ready when the flavors of the dried fruits have mingled with the slight sour of the ferment.
  5. Store in jars, with lids tightened, in the fridge, leaving as little headroom as possible, and tamping the ferment down. This ferment will keep, refrigerated, for 8 months.

Recipe excerpted from Fermented Vegetables © 2014 by Kirsten K. Shockey and Christopher Shockey. All rights reserved.

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