To The Farm We Go (But Can We Eat The Bounty?)

Take a cue from "Can It & Ferment It," a cookbook that helps extend the produce of the season.

My life is governed by farmers’ markets.

If it’s Sunday morning, for instance, I am meeting my friend Laurie at 8:50 am in the far side of the parking lot at The Galleria in Red Bank, where we prep our market bags and proceed first to two of the organic farms selling forth at the Red Bank Farmers’ Market.

Laurie’s a regular, like me, but sometimes my pal Marcel, who is learning to cook with the seasons, makes the trip. Yesterday, my friends Kristin and Greg, longtime aficionados of good-quality, at-peak foods, joined us. We always bump into friends—folks from Laurie’s gym or my food-loving neighborhood. It’s social.

But when I’m at the stalls of E. R. & Son Farm or Hauser Hill Farm, business meets pleasure. I zero in: first, on what’s just in for the season; next, on all that is peaking. Then, for good measure, I go wild for pure flavor. Laurie doesn’t shy away from anything, either.

“It’s a lifestyle,” she tells me every Sunday.

We buy mushrooms and granola, eggs and charcuterie, seafood and flowers. But, mostly, we buy produce.

Homecoming, however, can be such sweet sorrow as reality sets in: Can it all fit in the kitchen? Is the fridge full, the larder bulging, the shelves overwhelmed?

Can it all be used?

That’s the question. That’s why a new book called Can It & Ferment It by Stephanie Thurow (Skyhorse Publishing, $16.99) intrigued me.

I have many and myriad books on preserving produce, but this one focuses on small-batch preserving and adds to the genre, the craft of fermentation. It’s organized by the season, meaning it’ll take me not just through summer—early, high and late—but also through fall, winter and spring, when I might be digging into a stock of root vegetables or mining the supermarket for lemons to make a soggy, chilly March day feel a tad sunny.

Because Can It & Ferment It has a plethora of ethnic recipes (think kimchi as well curtido, the signature El Salvadorian cabbage salad, and giardiniera supplemented by beet kvass, the Russian drink that aids digestion), it inspires me to do more than put up simple pickled cucumbers or jars of tomatoes. It’s a book that stretches my produce world.

It’s just what I need in this season of irresistible bounty.

CARROTS WITH LEEK AND THYME
(Adapted from Can It & Ferment It by Stephanie Thurow)

1 pound carrots, skin on, cut into medallions
½ leek, thinly cut
2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves (adjust to your liking)
1 tablespoons kosher salt

In a large glass or other nonreactive bowl, mix the carrots and leek. In a separate, smaller bowl, mix the thyme and salt.

Add the thyme-salt mixture to the carrots and leeks; mix well with your hands. Let sit for 1 to 2 hours as the natural brine is created.

Transfer the mixture and its brine into a quart jar. Use a weight to push the vegetables under the brine. Cover with a breathable top. Store in a cool place and ferment to your liking. Makes 1 quart fermented carrots.

Note: Use these carrots in salads, as part of a cheese or charcuterie board, eat as a side dish or a snack.

Click here to leave a comment

Get dining articles like this delivered straight to your inbox

Read more Eat & Drink, Table Hopping articles.

By submitting comments you grant permission for all or part of those comments to appear in the print edition of New Jersey Monthly.