My Hungarian Grandma

A Welcome From Dor

Dor photo by David Crow

I have never done a formal study on the demographics of Suppers meetings, but I’m going to say with unscientific confidence that we attract a disproportionate percentage of non-American-born women.

This makes sense to me. They seek us out because we have a food ethic that more closely resembles that of their country of origin and they bond readily with others who share more traditional values around food.

Actually – and to tell you the truth — I’m smug about it.

I savor the righteous indignation that I shouldn’t be feeling as the founder of Suppers because it’s Oh-so-judgmental to feel that way.  I enjoy the holier-than-thou feelings that rise when the New York Times “exposes” things you and I have been saying for years about processed foods.  I’m going to re-double my efforts to actively practice non-judgment for everyone but traffickers of junk food.  In the meantime, let Eva and Allie inspire you to do something really important; it’s time to start making pickles.


Eva’s Story: My Hungarian Grandma

When I was a little girl in Hungary my grandmother used to preserve all sorts of vegetables from her garden. At that time fresh (which meant not processed, but not really fresh because they were imported) vegetables were not available in Hungary during the winter months and I was told to eat our pickled vegetables because they had lots of vitamin C. I did not need much persuasion; I loved the sour taste. Our favorites were pickled cucumbers, green tomatoes, peppers, and cabbage.

Sauerkraut was our number-one favorite in winter and in summer we loved pickled cucumbers best.

Starting in May we made pickled cucumbers almost every week. As soon as one jar was gone, the next was already out in the sun waiting to be “done.” It was not a big deal for us but a way of life. 

Now in America three decades later, I signed up for a fermentation course at a health food store. I did not know exactly what it was about (we never used the word “fermentation” in Hungary, we just pickled our vegetables) but it seemed interesting and healthy. The master fermenter gave a long introduction about the health benefits of fermented foods. He also talked about his childhood; he learned to ferment from his Slovakian grandmother. As Hungary and Slovakia are neighboring countries. I thought maybe I had heard about this process; it sounded very familiar. When he switched from “Why lactobacilli are healthy” to “how to ferment” I had a strange feeling of discovery – evidently I grew up “fermenting” vegetables. 

Only now do I realize the value of what Grandma taught me. My favorite sauerkraut has not only vitamin C but also vitamins B1, B2, B6, B12, E, K, niacin, iron, copper, and more. It regulates fat digestion and cholesterol, strengthens heart muscles, and stimulates cell growth. It has anti-cancer properties and, last but not least, is a very effective treatment for hangovers! 

I came to the Suppers program because I wanted to learn about healthy eating. I started reading the information on the website and I must adit it intrigued me. How can people live without wheat, dairy, and sugar? What is left to eat?

The Suppers Programs has been the best health investment I have ever made.

At Suppers we talk about the spirit of creativity, which to me means the healing force that rises when we feel we are actively participating in creating the program. This is how I felt when I brought samples of my fermented vegetables to share at a meeting. There was great enthusiasm among members who wanted to learn to do this. When I teach them how, my Hungarian Grandma will be sitting next to me, smiling. “These are just pickles.” Just?


Pickled Veggies for Eva, By Allie

48465d_e59e795f6cb742439f1316e9dd4a1081Uh, I don’t know about you guys but when I initially discovered home fermentation and looked at the directions, I was intimidated. Dor and Eva might be pros but Allie O’Brien (and a bunch of folks I talk to, too) did not begin her education on home fermentation with confidence.

Sure, probiotic rich foods are good. Sauerkraut that comes out of plastic bags is yucky. Fermented foods have, like, all of the B Vitamins and give you all the right tools. But it’s a murky, mysterious world in those jars. And I’m like…

“What is that, is that mold?!?!?!”
“We’re supposed to sanitize EVERYTHING when it comes to wine and beer but we don’t even WASH vegetables when fermenting? Uh…”
“What is schtooping? We’re supposed to ‘schtoop’ the cabbage? I thought that was a bad word in Yiddish?”
“I’m scared.”

So I started with pickles, myself, it just seemed easier really. I did want to get better at making kraut and in actuality Dor has totally demystified that process for me by offering visual cues: cabbage should be streaming with water, that’s not enough salt, put some kale in there, that’s too much salt (this one has little recourse unless you have more cabbage or more vegetables). So I’m learning.

But it’s just…her kraut is about 900 times better tasting than mine. Not only that but also I constantly discover millions of different types of krauts that come churning out of her kitchen with astonishing regularity and I get to taste them! My favorite is when she does the kraut with the kumquats in it – omg. So good. I call it “orange juice sauerkraut” and I can actually enjoy the flavor again finally because straight OJ hurts my tummy and I’m allergic to it, no matter what Ned and Farmer David say. I’m allergic to orange juice.

You guys. Dor is the queen of sauerkraut. Seriously.

So I figure I should probably stick to pickles. Last summer I had an overabundance of cucumbers (I know, huge problems over here) and decided to have my GSCK kids try out some pickles. Since I had never made them before I looked through some of my cookbooks: Nourishing Traditions, Alice Water’s cookbook, and Cook’s Illustrated, and in the end I did what a lot of people do: I went on the internet.

Ted Allen (not Tim Allen, that’s the Home Improvement guy – TED Allen is the foodie dude from Queer Eye for the Straight Guy). He had a recipe for Refrigerator Pickles and it looked pretty easy. 

Well folks, it just reaffirmed things: fermenting vegetables is straightforward but not easy unless you are trained by hand. His amounts were WAY OFF – so off that I have spent almost a year making this recipe again and again and again, trying to justify the amounts suggested in his recipe and then fix them accordingly and today I almost got it. So let’s do it. In the world of fermentation, this is probably as simple as it gets. 

Pickled Pickles Pickled Pickles Pickled Pickles! Yay!

Step One: Prepare all your vegetables. We’re using Kirby Cucumbers, carrot, broccoli, garlic, cilantro, and scallion. You can use jalapeño, summer beans, dill, fennel, etc. You can use anything, ok? Anything.

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Step Two: Boil 2 cups of water. Ted Allen first said to boil FOUR CUPS of water but that couldn’t have been more wrong. I was like, “Ted Allen, have you ever actually made this before?” Cause that’s how wrong it was. Boil, then simmer 2 cups of water and toss in the garlic, let it cook for 5 minutes or so.

It still made too much brine so if you are feeling adventurous, boil 1 cup water and see if that is too harsh with the vinegar. That’s ultimately what you have to balance with the water.

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Step Three: Take out two 1-quart jars (I’m using plastic containers because all of my jars are occupied, I know, plastic = bad, glass = good) and measure spices into the jars. Add any sprig you are using – today I’m using cilantro because I want to see if it works or if it is too delicate and gets slimy.

Once you’ve done that, pack veggies TIGHTLY into jars – Ted Allen was also wrong about the amounts of veg suggested. He must have magical Mary Poppins jars where you can add like triple the amount of things that would normally fit. Or he didn’t recipe test. Just add until you can’t add anymore and save whatever is leftover for another cooking project.

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Yes that’s coffee ok I didn’t get to the blog until this morning I’m sorry!

Step Four: Finish the brine with vinegar and salt, then separate out the garlic into jars and pour the brine. Cool, refrigerate, enjoy within a few hours! Pickles always taste better the next day and they last up to 3 months! If they make it past a week, that is.

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Refrigerator Pickles

2 cups water
10 cloves garlic, peeled and slightly crushed
6 teaspoons salt
2 cups white vinegar
4 sprigs fresh dill, anise, thyme, or cilantro (success pending)
1 teaspoon celery seed
1 teaspoon coriander seed
1 teaspoon mustard seed
1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
6 kirby cucumbers, halved lengthwise
1 large carrot, peeled and thickly sliced
1 large scallion, thickly sliced into coins
8 broccoli florets
*additional items include 1 cup summer beans, 2 jalapeño peppers, summer squash, kale, cauliflower, bell peppers, red onion – you name it

  1. In a medium saucepan, bring 2 cups water to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and add garlic. Allow garlic to cook for 5 minutes. Add vinegar and salt, raise heat to a boil, dissolving salt. Remove from heat.
  2. In two 1-quart jars, separate sprigs of herbs. Divide seeds and peppercorns between jars. Then remove garlic cloves from the brine using tongs or a spoon and separate evenly between jars.
  3. Pack jars full of vegetables very tightly.
  4. Pour brine over vegetables to cover completely. Let cool on the counter, then cover and refrigerate. Pickles will taste good after a few hours but will be much better after a few days and will keep up to 3 months.

To all of you who came out for the Suppers Founder’s Day Fundraiser and supported The Suppers Programs – thank you!!!! Give us some love by checking out our Instagram @suppersprograms and here’s the link to our Facebook page and our website too!

 

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