It takes guts to get through this life in good shape; in particular, guts full of hard-working helpful microbes.
The scientific evidence, like a good sourdough starter, just keeps growing. Good pickles, sauerkraut, kimchi and other fermented foods are not simply tasty but may boost immunity, cure intestinal ills, make food more digestible and lower levels of anxiety.
A few generations back, every house had something fermenting on the kitchen counter, from sourdough starters and beer to pickled turnips. Some of us grew up with the unsettling image of our parents drinking pickle or sauerkraut juice. Like pie-making, fermenting skills aren’t being passed down between generations of home cooks.
Luckily, the artisan fermented and pickled food movement is hot in the Boulder area. Look in the refrigerated section for the real thing from local makers including Trü Pickles (Littleton), Five Points Fermentation (Denver), MM Local Foods (Brighton) and The Real Dill (Denver). Ozuké in Lafayette packs everything from umeboshi plums and kale and collards kimchi to citrus and ginger kraut. That doesn’t include all the folks making jun, water kefir, kombucha and other fermented products.
The important thing to know about pickles is that there are two types: those packed in vinegar and those that are fermented in brine. If you want the probiotic benefits, look on the jar label for the term “naturally fermented pickles.”
If you want to learn how to make pickles, there is a slew of local fermented events and classes coming up, including:
• The fifth annual Feast of Fermentation Sept. 23 at Boulder’s Avalon Ballroom will feature local canned, pickled and fermented foods and beverages with proceeds benefitting Boulder Food Rescue. (boulderfoodrescue.org/feast)
• Ozuké’s Mara Jane King will conduct a pickling demo and introduce A Journey through the People’s Republic of Fermentation, a documentary about Chinese fermented food traditions Sept. 29 at Boulder’s Flatirons Food Film Festival. (flatironsfilmfest.org)
• Hatch Lab hosts a hands-on class, “Field to Jar: A Fermentation Collective,” Oct. 1, 15, and 29 at Boulder’s Cure Organic Farm. Bring your knives. Leave with jars of pickled vegetables. hatchlab.net
• Cooks can learn to make pickled vegetables, preserved lemons, gravlax and confit tuna Oct. 23 at Food Lab’s Pickling and Preserving workshop. foodlabboulder.com.
If you want to make pickles and taste them today, try the following easy recipe for Pickled Red Onions adapted from one created by the Greeley-based National Onion Association. (Colorado ranks fifth among states in the U.S. in onion production.) These pickled onions are great on sandwiches, grilled foods and tacos and the same recipe can be used for carrots, cucumbers and more. Consider giving jars of them as artisan (but cheap-to-make) holiday gifts.
Pickled Red Onions
2 cups red wine vinegar
2 cups water
½ cup sugar
½ teaspoon allspice berries
½ teaspoon whole black peppercorns
½ teaspoon mustard seed
1/4 teaspoon whole cloves
1 bay leaf
2 cinnamon sticks
¼ teaspoon salt
2 medium red onions, very finely sliced
In a large saucepan, combine the vinegar, water, sugar, allspice berries, peppercorns, cloves, bay leaves, cinnamon sticks and salt. If you don’t have these spices on hand you can also pick up small quantities of each at a store that sells bulk herbs or buy a premade pickling spice mixture. Heat over medium-high and simmer five minutes to infuse the vinegar with the spices. Toss the onions in the hot pickling liquid. Cook about two more minutes. Turn off heat. Make sure onions are submerged in the liquid. If needed, weigh the onions down with a pan or plate. Let the mixture cool completely. Refrigerate until served. Makes about six to eight servings, depending on use.
Note: This recipe can also be used with skin-on pickling cucumbers, English cucumber slices, whole peeled garlic cloves, chile slices, fresh herb sprigs (including dill), and thin carrot and other vegetable slices.
Scobie Do: High quality scobies and starters are essential for making fermented foods at home. Many folks acquire these microbial items from friends who introduce them to the craft, but, if not, then experts I talked to recommend these websites as good sources:
Local Food News
McDevitt Taco Supply restaurant is open in The Meadows at 4800 Baseline Road … Some of the most exciting buzz in food and drink locally is happening outside Boulder’s city limits. Be sure to fill out the Food and Drink categories for the 2017 Best of Boulder East County survey by Sept. 30 at boulderweekly.com. Results appear Oct. 26. … Plan ahead: The Whiskey Summit on Oct. 7 in Estes Park features bourbon, single-malt, rye, vodka, gin, rum and other artisan sips from 40 producers in Colorado, New Mexico and Wyoming. whiskeysummit.org.
Tastes Like a Cow
I found Castle Wood Reserve “artfully crafted,” fully cooked, “Angus Flavored” Roast Beef in the deli aisle of King Soopers. What does “Angus” taste like? Is it anything like “ranch” flavor? Is this cow-to-table cuisine?
Taste of the Week
You’ve heard of thumb drives. How about thumb pies? Hostess’s new snack-size fruit pies are bigger than a pizza roll, smaller than an eggroll, with 12 pies per box. Each is a miniaturized version of the familiar hand pies except that whole cherries are hard to find in the tiny amount of red slurry filling. The taste is identical down to the familiar Hostess sugar-fat glaze coating on your tongue. Each 100-calorie, three-bite “pie” contains 10 percent of your daily recommended saturated fat intake. Hostess says that four of these pies constitute a serving.
Words to Chew On
King Alonso: “How camest thou in this pickle?”
Trinculo: “I have been in such a pickle since I saw you last that, I fear me, will never out of my bones.” — The Tempest, William Shakespeare
John Lehndorff has hosted more than 1,000 episodes of Radio Nibbles at 8:25 a.m. Thursdays on KGNU (88.5 FM, streaming at kgnu.org). Comments to: firstname.lastname@example.org.