Category Archives: Fermentation

Sauerkraut Stew: A Savory, Sour, Spicy, Sweet Flavor Combination You Need to Try

The first time I made this recipe, it was incredible. The second time I made this recipe, I decided that it was so good, there was no way it couldn’t be shared. While sauerkraut stew isn’t something you hear about often (if ever), it really is the perfect combination of savory, sour, spicy, and sweet.

Sauerkraut Stew | The Fresh Day

This past Christmas, I was lucky to receive a gorgeous fermentation crock so I could make large batches of sauerkraut and kimchi at home. Very large batches. The abundance of sauerkraut left me looking for some new uses for it, so when I saw this soup recipe I had to give it a shot. Using the ingredients I had on hand, I tweaked it and was very happy with the result. There’s a lot that goes into this recipe – sausage, potatoes, mushrooms, tomatoes, and more – but sauerkraut is the namesake for a reason. The delicious tang that sauerkraut offers is what makes this stew such a game changer.

Even though there are a lot of ingredients, this recipe is really easy to make. Different than other soups and stews, you add almost all the ingredients at once and then just simmer. It’s a simple, flavorful, and satisfying one-pot meal.

Sauerkraut Stew | The Fresh Day

Sauerkraut Stew

Makes 6-8 servings

Ingredients:
• 1 large onion, diced
• 8 garlic cloves, chopped
• 1 cup cremini mushrooms, chopped
• 3-4 white or yellow potatoes, diced
• 6 dried apricots, diced
• 3 cups sauerkraut, in brine
• 1 lb of fresh hot sausage, sliced 1/4 inch thick
• 6 cups chicken stock
• 15 oz can crushed tomatoes
• 2 pickled jalapenos (or 1 fresh jalapeno)
• 2 dried chiles, crushed (I used chiles de arbol)
• 2 tsp cayenne
• 1 tbsp paprika
• 1 tbsp caraway seeds
• 2 bay leaves
• sea salt and pepper to taste

1. In a large pot, combine the onion, garlic, mushrooms, potatoes, apricots, sauerkraut, sausage, and chicken stock. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, then turn the heat down to medium-low and let cook for 30 minutes.
2. After the 30 minutes, add the tomatoes, peppers, and spices. Let cook for another 20 minutes, or until the potatoes are soft and completely cooked.
3. Add salt and pepper to taste and serve.

Sauerkraut Stew | The Fresh Day
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Drink Local: The Best Hard Ciders

The Best Ciders | The Fresh Day

It seems crazy that I haven’t written about cider yet. If you know me in person, you know I can talk for hours about it. This fall, I’ve spent my weekends volunteering at my favorite cidery, fermenting my own, and, of course, drinking the stuff. When I speak of cider, I mean dry, sparkling, hard cider – nothing too sweet. A good hard cider should be reminiscent of a sparkling white wine or a sour beer, not apple juice. Cider is naturally gluten-free and one of healthiest forms of alcohol, with antioxidant levels the same as red wine. But the taste alone is enough to make it your new favorite drink. My personal mission is to spread the word of real cider; to crowd out what’s syrupy sweet and replace it with the good stuff.

Once upon a time, hard cider was America’s most popular drink. President John Adams was known to drink a tankard every single morning of his life. Ben Franklin was quoted saying, “It’s indeed bad to eat apples, it’s better to turn them all into cider.” But when prohibition came around, the apple trees died out. And once it was repealed, it was far easier and cheaper to start making beer using grain. So just like that, cider fell from popularity. Only recently is it making a resurgence, but unfortunately, most ciders on the market are far from what our forefathers drank. Instead of the real thing, you’ll find apple concentrate and high fructose corn syrup.

I highly recommend you stay away from those impostors.

But I’m not writing to tell you what not to drink – I want to share the good ones! With Pennsylvania being a huge apple producer, some of my favorite ciders are made locally. Here’s my top picks:

Frecon’s Cidery

What seemed like an innocent purchase at Headhouse Square Farmer’s Market has seriously changed my life for the better. Frecon Cider is what opened my eyes to what cider can and should be. Frecon comes from a family-owned fruit farm in Boyerstown, PA that devised an ingenious use for their extra apples. They have three main ciders and a few special releases, all in the range of 6-10% alcohol. They are very dry, complex, funky, with a slight taste of apples. Their Farmhouse Sour might be my all-time favorite. If you’re a craft beer lover (and particularly sour beers), these are the ciders to chose.

Find them at their store in Boyerstown, the Foodery at 17th and Sansom, or at Philadelphia area farmer’s markets during the season.

Jack’s Hard Cider (Original)

Jack’s Original Hard Cider is my go-to when drinking a few. If everyone else is drinking beer at a party, you’ll find me with a can of Jack’s in hand. Jack’s is dry, clean, and crisp, with effervescence that will remind you of a champagne. One of my the best things about Jack’s is that somehow, the 12 oz can contains 5.5% alcohol and only 100 calories. Lighter than most light beers, but way more delicious. Jack’s is made at Hauser Estate Winery in Biglerville, PA, a partially solar-powered, eco-conscious facility.

You can pick up Jack’s at stores throughout Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maryland, Virginia, and Georgia – including local Philadelphia distributors and Wegmans.

Commonwealth Ciders

If you live in Philadelphia, you’re probably familiar with Philadelphia Brewing Company. They make great beer, and now, great cider. I thank them for that. Commonwealth’s three ciders include Traditional Dry, Razzberet Tart, and Gregarious Ginger. The Razzberet is sharp and fruity, without being sweet. The Ginger is super spicy and incredibly satisfying, boasting only 1 gram of sugar. To put that into perspective, Angry Orchard Crisp Apple contains a cloying 23 grams.

You can find Commonwealth the same place you find Kenzinger – at the PBC Brewery in Kensington and most distributors throughout Pennsylvania.

I’m constantly seeking out new ciders and learning all I can. There’s no doubt you will hear more about my adventures on the farm and in fermentation. And if you want to know what I’m drinking in the meantime, you can find me on Untappd (@risanicole) racking up those Johnny Appleseed badges.

Spiced Swiss Chard Kimchi

Swiss Chard Kimchi

I had my first taste of kimchi in the summer of 2012 at food festival in Prospect Park, Brooklyn. It was Mother-in-Law’s Kimchi,  a brand made locally in New York City from a traditional Korean recipe. Ever since, I haven’t been able to live without it.

Kimchi is spicy sour fermented cabbage, and the national dish of Korea. Like other fermented foods, kimchi is full of probiotics that encourage digestive health among other benefits. Over the past few years, I have made a fair share of my beloved Korean kimchi at home. It wasn’t until recently that I thought, why not apply the same fermentation method to other leafy greens? Some experimentation led me to this swiss chard version, which is pleasantly simple and incredibly tasty.

For those who haven’t fermented vegetables before, this is a great recipe to start with. It is super easy to make and produces a mildly tangy yet flavorful result. But I must warn you, fermentation is highly delicious and highly addictive.

Swiss Chard Kimchi

Spiced Swiss Chard Kimchi

Makes 2 quart size jars

Ingredients
For Brine:
• 2 1/2 tablespoons of sea salt
• 4 cups filtered water
For Kimchi:
• 1 bunch of swiss chard, roughly chopped
• 3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
• 1 carrot, shredded
• 1 hot pepper, diced (I used a cubanelle)
• 1 tbsp fresh ginger, finely chopped
• 1 tbsp cumin
• 1 tbsp paprika
• 1/2 tbsp cayenne
• 2 tbsp fresh parsley (or carrot tops if you have them)

Equipment
• 2 very clean quart sized mason jars
• 2 sandwich sized plastic bags

1. Make the brine by combining salt and water, stirring until salt is completely dissolved.
2. Combine all kimchi ingredients in a large bowl and mix well.
3. Divide the kimchi mixture in the two jars. Pack down tightly using the back of a spoon.
4. Pour brine over vegetables until they are completely submerged. If there is leftover brine, it can be kept in a jar in the fridge and reserved for another use.
5. To ensure the vegetables remain submerged, create a weight using a plastic bag. Open the plastic bag and push the bottom into the jar, then fold the top of the bag down over the outside of the jar. Fill the bag with some water or additional brine, then screw on the cap of the jar.

Swiss Chard Kimchi
Plastic bag jar weight for submerging vegetables.

6. Leave the jar of kimchi to ferment at room temperature for 3 days, in an area that does not get sunlight. Once done fermenting, remove the plastic bag weight, put the cap back on, and store in the fridge. Enjoy your kimchi at any time starting now and for up to 3 weeks!

Kombucha: An Introduction

I couldn’t go too long without writing about kombucha. It’s one of my favorite things to make, drink, and share. Effervescent, sweet, and tangy, Kombucha is fermented tea. It has been around for hundreds of years (at least), and fallen in and out of fashion here in the US.

Kombucha is claimed to help with digestion, detoxification, treat arthritis, and boost your immune system. While the jury is still out on some of these benefits, kombucha is at the least a tasty, highly probiotic drink, known to be filled with gut-healing bacteria. Personally, I find it to be a great pick-me-up, sometimes replacing coffee. My boyfriend has said it cures his headaches. But above all else, I drink kombucha because it is delicious.

bottlesFresh bottled booch

I don’t remember the first time I tried kombucha, but after that first sip, I never went back. It’s both tart and sweet, with a deep fruit-like flavor. The scent is reminiscent of apple cider vinegar, which can be a deterrent for some. The first kombucha I had was GT’s, which is widely available and often blended with fruit juice. It’s a great starter kombucha. Unfortunately, the stuff is expensive, so once I was hooked it didn’t take long to think about making my own. Turns out, it’s remarkably easy, and there is no shortage of online resources to support you along the way.

Before brewing kombucha, you need to learn about the SCOBY. A SCOBY is a Symbiotic Colony Of Bacteria and Yeast. It’s rubbery, slimy, and generally unattractive, but this culture is responsible for making all the good stuff happen. In just a few days, the SCOBY will turn sugary tea into fizzy, beloved booch.There’s a few ways to get your hands on one. If you happen to know a fellow kombucha brewer, they are likely to have an extra on hand. Every time you make a batch, the SCOBY produces a second baby SCOBY that can be used separately. If you can’t get one from a friend, it’s just as easy to get a good one at a local home brewing store or online. Cultures for Health is a trusted online shop, but you’ll find tons more on Amazon. If you’re feeling particularly ambitious, you can make your own, though I don’t have any experience doing so myself.

scoby-closeMy odd-looking current SCOBY, a smaller mature one with a larger young one attached

Want to get started? Below is my tried and true recipe for basic kombucha.

Basic Kombucha

Makes 1 Gallon

Ingredients
• 14 cups of water
• 8 teabags or 4 tbsp of organic green or black tea (no flavored teas)
• 1 cup of organic sugar
• 1 SCOBY
• 1-2 cups of starter tea (reserved from another batch of kombucha or wherever you got your SCOBY from)

Equipment
• a large glass container with an open top (at least 1 gallon)
• a wooden or other non-metallic spoon (contact with metal will damage the SCOBY)
• a non-metallic strainer
• cheesecloth or a paper towel, and a rubber band

1. Bring 6 cups of the water to a boil, then remove from heat. Add the tea and let steep for 4 minutes. Then remove the tea and add the cup of sugar, stirring until it is fully dissolved. Add the remaining 8 cups of water to help bring the tea to room temperature.

2. Once the tea is at room temperature, pour it into your glass container (it is important not to be warmer to prevent damaging your SCOBY). Then add both your SCOBY and starter tea to the container.

3. Cover the top of the container with the cheesecloth or paper towel and secure with a rubber band. Your tea is now ready to ferment! Find a place for it that will remain at room temperature and out of direct sunlight. The fermentation process can take anywhere from 5 days to 2 weeks. The longer it ferments, the less sweet and more sour the kombucha becomes. I’ve found that 7-9 days is my sweet spot, but feel free to taste your kombucha along the way to figure out when it’s just right for you!

doublebrewstrain2
Brewing and straining

4. Once you like how your kombucha tastes, you are ready to move from fermentation to bottling. Remove the SCOBY with your non-metallic spoon along with 1-2 cups of the kombucha. You can start another batch of kombucha with this right away or store in a closed jar in the fridge for up to 3 weeks.

5. Pour the kombucha from your container into smaller, air-tight containers using your non-metallic strainer to filter out any of the slimy yeast that formed in the process. It’s safe to drink, but not necessarily enjoyable. Make sure to leave at least an inch of room at the top of the jar for air, to prevent your bottles of carbonated booch from exploding.

At this point, the kombucha is technically finished. However, I ALWAYS do a second fermentation to make my booch more bubbly.

6. For second fermentation, seal the containers and leave out at room temperature for another 24-48 hours, then move to the fridge. Do not leave out of the fridge for more than a few days, because again, all that carbonation could cause the containers to burst.

Second fermentation is also your chance to add fruit juice to make flavored kombucha. I’ll have recipes coming soon, but in the meantime I suggest exploring Phickle, my favorite blog. There are some fantastic recipes, including this seasonal Cherry Kombucha.

cherrybooch
Phickle’s cherry kombucha

I hope you enjoy the kombucha adventure as much as I do. If you run into any questions, leave a note for me in the comments, I would love to chat and help out.