Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Aw, just scrape the mold off, it'll be fine

I admit that I have myself uttered these very words (to myself, under my breath), usually in relation to a nice cheese that I'd lost track of in the fridge that I couldn't bear to throw out or, depending on how flat broke I was, stale bread that I would run under some water and then toast. (Now I just stick the hunk of stale bread at the bottom of a bowl of hot soup and pretend I'm French. Scraping any mold off first, of course. I mean, I have some standards.) The mold scraping is something I would only do in the privacy -- okay, the secrecy -- of my own kitchen, as mold on things is generally frowned upon and not something to admit to in public. (I would never serve mold-scraped food items to others, mind you.) But last week I attended my first workshop on fermenting foods at Common Good City Farm and wouldn't you know it, mold scraping one's food came up. Turns out it's nothing to be embarrassed about. (Whew!)

Now, in the case of homebrewing -- which I hope to undertake as soon as I get my hands on the remaining materials -- mold getting into things is cause for concern. But for fermented fruits and veggies, it seems, mold growth is quite common, especially in warmer temperatures, and its presence is no big deal. The key to mold prevention is to keep the fermenting produce under a layer of liquid -- usually brine (aka saltwater) -- "But if mold appears on the surface," our workshop leader, Bradley, smiled, "simply scrape it off and dig in. Everything's fine." Yep, skim off the mold and keep eating. Sounds kind of, I dunno, contrary to our modern, shiny, germaphobe culture. But who am I to judge? (The Ledroit Park folks likely already have us pegged as a bunch of dirt-loving, food-obsessed, activist hippies, which is not entirely off the mark.)

Bradley, and her capable co-leader, Dave, talked a group of us through the basics of fermentation: ingredients (produce + salt + water), equipment (glass or ceramic vase/jar + mashing implement), techniques (mashing + submerging + covering), things to watch out for (smells like dead rodent; otherwise ok). Then, after having us taste and discern between canned vs. fermented pickles, the pair demonstrated the process of making cucumber pickles and kimchi. The workshop concluded with the fermentation newbies making our own little take-home batches of kimchi using chinese cabbage, scallions, chili pepper, and minced garlic and ginger. And lots of salt and elbow grease. Mash, mash, mash, add salt, mash, add salt, mash.... If you mashed hard enough, and the produce was fresh enough, you wouldn't even need to add water. (Sounds like good stress relief to me!)

Ollie and I brought our first fermented food back to the apartment and I checked my little jar on the counter regularly for the next two days. (I think the worms were glad to be out of the spotlight for a couple of days, frankly.) When Mike and I tried the inaugural kimchi as part of yet another eclectic what's-in-ibti's-fridge dinner we agreed that it was pretty good. Hooray!

With this early success, you'd better believe I promptly got things together for my own lactobacillus experiments. Stay tuned for part two of fermentation madness....

Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

1 comment:

  1. Of course, we DC residents are more than familiar of the dead rodent smell, haha

    Cheers, Mer


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