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A fermented food you never heard of (probably)


In every culture, there are practices that focus towards extending the life of our garden produce using one method or the other. Some examples are:



Sauerkraut from Germany

Pickled veggies from USA, Russia, Middle East, Mexico etc

Sun dried tomatoes from Italy

Kimchi from Korea

Fruit leather from Middle and far east

Pickles and chutneys from India

 

So on and so forth.  Here in Houston area, many of us gardeners have an abundance of produce, even after sharing with friends.  We struggle to come up with recipes to prolong the life of these veggies and fruits from our gardens.


Another important reason to extend the life of garden produce is because of their non availability in winter, unless of course you want to buy the green house grown veggies at the grocery stores. 


The easiest way to preserve them is to freeze them.  You can either chop them up, spread them on a cookie sheet, freeze the individual pieces and then scoop them up into a Ziplock bag so they will not freeze as one big lump, or you can blanch them before freezing.  However, we may soon run out of freezer space.

Then we move on to other preservation methods/techniques such as


Drying (either in the Sun, which we have an abundance of in Houston, or use the oven or dehydrator)


Pickling – most commonly used for veggies like cucumbers, jalapenos etc


Fermenting – this is a great choice since this also works as a super food for our gut bacteria.  Some common fermented foods are Sauerkraut, kimchi, salsas etc.


Over the years, I have used most of the above methods to preserve and extend the life of my garden produce.


Each culture has something unique to themselves when it comes to the topic of food preservation.  I originally hail from India and adopted the United States of America as my second and permanent home.  This exposure to two different cultures gave me a tremendous advantage of learning and benefiting from both. 


I also lucked out by living in culturally vibrant and diverse metropolitan cities such as New York, Boston and Houston.  World cultures melt and meddle and create a vibrant hue of tantalizing tastes.  Another very  important factor of my luck is my mother living with us – she is a wealth of knowledge in these things and has been there done that, many times over.  She is now 93 and in good health – major contributors being yoga and gardening.  Now you know where I inherited these genes from.



This year I decided to try my hand at one particular recipe called “Majjiga Mirapakayalu” or “OOru Mirapakayalu” in my native language.  If you notice only the first word is different but the second word is same in both – this second word means green chillies.  The first first word – Majjiga means buttermilk (thinned yogurt) and the second first word means fermented.  So basically green chillies are fermented in slightly thinned yogurt and dried in the Sun for several days, until they absorb all the yogurt and spices.  Being soaked in yogurt mixture tones down the spiciness of the green chillies. This final product can stay on the shelf for an year or so.


And now comes the best part – how do we use these fermented and dried green chillies?  We deep fry them and add them to plain hot rice with lentils, or yogurt mixed with rice and use these green chillies as a condiment – a direct transport to heaven, if there is one.


Now let’s look at the recipe

 

Ingredients:

  • Green chillies – pick the variety based on your spice tolerance level. Banana peppers are bland, Thai peppers are very spicy.  I used Serrano which is in the mid-range on the Scoville scale.  Also remember that repeated soaking in the yogurt will leach out some of that spiciness.  It is preferable for the green chillies to be longer and a bit thicker

  • Buttermilk or less dense yogurt (double the quantity of chillies)

  • Caraway/Carom/Ajwain/Vamu seeds – about 5% of the quantity of chillies

  • Salt – about 20% of the quantity of chillies or to taste


Method of preparation:



  • Wash and dry the green chillies indoors

  • Slit the chillies in the center, making sure not to slit all the way through

  • Arrange these chillies in a glass container

  • Prepare the yogurt mixture – crush the carom seeds and add them to yogurt.  Add the salt and run this in the blender

  • Pour this seasoned yogurt on to the chilles and ensure they are fully submerged

  • Keep this container aside for 3 days (fi the yogurt is sour, soaking for 2 days is enough) – each day make sure the chillies are fully dipped in the yogurt mixture

  • On the 4th day, spread a plastic sheet in full sun (I use a shower curtain), and arrange the chilies separately, so they don’t clump together

  • After sun down, bring back the chillies and resoak them in the yogurt mixture

  • Continue this process daily until the chillies are completely dry

  • Once they are totally dry, you can store them in a clean jar


If you have left over yogurt mixture, you can thin it and drink it as a fermented lassi on a hot day or soak a different variety of green chillies and make some more of the same.



When you want to use these dried green chilles, just deep fry them but make sure you don’t burn them.  The color has to be slightly brown but not dark brown.


Hope you will be adventurous and give this a try. Do let me know how it turns out and what sentiments this topic evoked in you.

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