Chinese
Fermented Gooseberries

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Okay, this whole food adventure happened because of a show about food that led me to a book focused on fermentation! The show I stumbled upon was “The Bear”, the most bizarre and craziest show about chefs? catering business? food? Umm…I'm not sure, but it was totally fun to watch.

However, at a certain point one of the restaurant employees enters completely engrossed with a large recipe book in hand. After a quick screen capture and some furious searching, I realized this was a real-life cookbook, The Noma guide to fermentation. Oh. I had to get my dirty little hands on that book!

Once I finally managed to get a copy of the book, I devoured it and here was our first “creation” from the book, fermented gooseberries, spicy little explosions of intense flavor and texture. I've never pickled fruit before. Aren't they beautiful?!

Note: Conscious fermentation lovers! You have to check out this book! Clear explanations of the basic fermentation process, many different simple and more complicated ferments clearly explained with lots of photos, as well as simple ways to integrate ferments into everyday food. I read the whole book in a couple of sittings. Inspiring stuff!

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So we began our journey to ferment fruit. Gooseberries in particular. Apparently there are many types of gooseberries throughout the world. The only type I have ever seen in Hong Kong is the Cape gooseberry, named so because of the graceful cloaks of leaves each fruit wears. From my further research it appears that the Cape gooseberry is not a true gooseberry at all. But close enough.

Cape gooseberries (also known as golden berries or Peruvian ground cherries) are slightly sweet, slightly tart, juicy and full of tender seeds that create an amazing texture. We have used these berries with great success in making salsa verde, nom, nom.

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The coats must be torn and the berries washed. At this point you can eat them simply as fruit. My little girl really likes to eat them as is.

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The ferment for these gooseberries will be lactofermentation. Which is a fancy name for fermentation in brine. Brine inhibits oxygen, kills bad bacteria and then allows lactic acid bacteria, found on the skins of fruits and vegetables, to convert sugars into lactic acid. Lactic acid allows the preservation of the berries and also provides the characteristic flavor. Lactic fermentation is also how traditional dill pickles, sauerkraut, sourdough, kimchi and yogurt are made.

Amazing, I always think, that something as simple as salt can inspire so much creativity and food goodness. Salt as goddess of food!

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So simple to make the ferment. Only pickled berries. The amount of salt needed for the brine is calculated using the total weight of the grapes + the water used in the brine.

How to do this? Prepare a sterile jar and place it on a scale. Tar the scale (set it to zero with the empty glass jar on the scale). Add the gooseberries. Add enough water to cover. Record the total weight of the berries and water. Calculate 2% of that weight and that will be the salt needed for the brine. Pour in the water, mix with the salt and there you have it! Return the brine to the jar.

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The next part is always the hardest part of lacto-fermentation for me. It is extremely important to keep oxygen away from whatever you are fermenting. In other words everything must be completely immersed in brine! Any peek can ruin the ferment, most often creating a white biofilm called kahm yeast that is harmless but ugly and sometimes moldy, meaning it's game over and it's time to start again.

A couple of methods for preserving gooseberries. You could place a heavy plate on top of the berries, as I did in the photo above. Another method is to use a double-bagged ziplock (double-bagged in case of leaks) filled with water to tamp everything under the brine. In that case you should start with a larger jar.

Once all the gooseberries are tightly packed, it's time to get ready for bed. Cover lightly with the jar lid as gas will be released during fermentation and will need a way to escape. Find a nice warm, dark place and let the buzz begin!

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The fermentation is finished and now my favorite part finally arrives, the finale, the first taste! In fact this is the thing I like most about fermentation: that first taste when you discover how fermentation has changed the flavor of the original: enhancing, intensifying, creating new layers of flavor and new textures. Always surprising and pleasant to discover these new delicious nuances of flavor.

You'll find fermented gooseberries slightly salty, slightly sweet with an addictive tart flavor and deliciously soft, delicately textured flesh with small, tender seeds. There is an umami developed by the fermentation that has developed the flavor to a complexity that is quite addictive. You'll eat one and then crave another.

Ok, the good part of the show! Now you have a beautiful jar of fermented gooseberries in the fridge, waiting to be used. You can eat them as they are, golden globes with a spicy flavor. They can be really delicious when blended and made into a condiment. I like to add them sliced ​​into sandwiches as a tart accent. These golden berries are the perfect tart, textured accent to help up your food game! Also, let's not forget that fermented foods are chock-full of probiotics and prebiotics that improve our gut health and immune system. Long live fermentation!!

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Fermented gooseberry recipe

(makes 2 cups) Preparation time: 5 minutes Brewing time: 5-7 days

Ingredients:

  • 1 sterile berry-friendly jar with 2 inches left on top
  • 9 oz gooseberry260 g
  • water to cover berries by one inch
  • 1 3/4 tsp non-iodized salt10 g
Directions:

Remove the gooseberry skin, if present. Wash and dry the berries. Add the berries to the sterile jar. Pour water into the jar to cover the berries by about an inch.

Note: If the amount of berries is different from the recipe, simply use the method of measuring the total weight of berries and water explained in the post above to calculate the salt required for your specific brine and then proceed.

Pour the water into a clean bowl. Add the salt and mix until dissolved. Pour the brine back into the jar.

Use a clean, dry salsa dish or zip-top bag filled with water to press the berries until they are well formed All completely submerged in brine. This is important, the berries must be underneath and stay underneath. If you use the ziplock method, you should use a larger jar that can accommodate the water bag

Cover the jar with the lid but do not screw tightly. Leave room for fermenting gas to escape. Place in a dark, warm place and let it ferment for 5-6 days.

Starting on day five, do a taste test using clean, dry utensils. Once the acidity is to your liking, the fermentation is finished. Place it in the refrigerator where the cold will delay fermentation. Use within 2 weeks. Enjoy the excitement!

Fabulous ferments to Hong Kong cuisine:

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