On Tuesday, April 21, 2015, Chef Ernest Miller lead a cooking class at Melissa’s Produce in Los Angeles, CA. Chef Ernest is the CEO of Rancho La Merced Provisions where their mission is to feed and inspire both body and soul with classes and products that reflect the rich culinary agricultural history of California. He is a natural public speaker and educates his audience with classes at museums, schools, and kitchens throughout Southern California. Chef Ernest is also the co-leader of Slow Food Los Angeles, on the speakers’ bureau for the Culinary Historians of Southern California, and lead instructor of the Master Food Preservers of Los Angeles County.
The class began with a historical lecture on fermented foods. After drying, it is one of the oldest forms of food preservation. Fermentation is the process where various microorganisms (yeasts, bacteria, molds) convert the carbohydrates in food into various byproducts, such as ethanol (wine, beer, mead), acetic acid (vinegar), lactic acid (yogurt, pickles), carbon dioxide (sourdough), and other permutations (kombucha). The texture, flavor, aroma, nutrition, and appearance is transformed and preserved for longer term use.
- Nutrition Fact: Sauerkraut is a rich source of Vitamin C. It was used by sailors to ward off scurvy.
After the history and nutritional lesson, the vegetable preparation began for Fermented Curtido and Baechu Kimchi. Chopping of cabbage, carrots, radish, onions, jalapenos, green onions, garlic, and ginger made an undertone beat that any culinarian could rock out to. Vegetables were piled in large stainless steel mixing bowls. Light green cabbage, bright green jalapenos and green onions, bright orange carrots, and deep purple red onions presented a kaleidoscope of colors. Spices were added and then the salt. A thorough toss of the vegetables with the spices and salt helps to incorporate the flavors and start the water extraction from the cabbage.
While we waited for the extraction, Chef Ernest talked about the various urns and vessels that different cultures use for fermentation from German ceramic/clay pots for sauerkraut, Japanese space-age looking food safe plastic contraptions, and stainless steel canisters for large batches. Each vessel has their advantages and challenges but work their magic for each fermentation recipe.
Once the water extraction was complete, it was time to stuff it in a Le Parfait Super 1.5-liter bail-and-wire-gasket canning jar. It was amazing that 2.5 pounds of vegetables fit into this jar. Once it was packed in, a 3% brine was poured over the chopped vegetables until all the air pockets were displaced. A glass weight was inserted on top of the vegetables and the jar was sealed. A 3-piece airlock is inserted on top so gases can escape from the fermentation process while not letting any oxygen in. In a week, a perfectly fermented product is ready to be eaten.
Melissa’s culinary team whipped up a great lunch menu including Muffaletta (using olive relish and Giardiniera), Pickled Deviled Eggs (eggs were pickled in sauerkraut brine and topped with ground dried sauerkraut), Pupusas topped with Crudito, Baechu Kimchi, and various fermented vegetables and crudites.
Melissa’s Produce ingredients and Chef Ernest’s Air-Lock Lacto-Fermentation Kit were the stars of this energetic and interesting fermentation class.
Upcoming events with Chef Ernest:
- Thursday, April 23, 2015 at 6pm – Make Your Own Kimchi Workshop at Whole Foods Market Valencia (24130 Valencia Blvd, Santa Clarita, CA 91355) – $50
- Saturday, April 25, 2015at 10am – All About the Rhubarb: Learn about Rhubarb and how to preserve it at LA Arboretum (301 N Baldwin Ave, Arcadia, CA 91007) – $30/$35
- Sunday, April 26, 2015 at 1pm – Romance of the Ranchos: History of wine-making at the Homestead Museum (15415 E Don Julian Rd, City of Industry, CA 91745) – FREE
- Sunday, May 3, 2015 at 5pm – Annual fundraiser for Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden where Chef Miller and Chef Paul Buchanan will cater featuring California native ingredients (1500 N College Ave, Claremont, CA 91711) – $125
- Thursday, May 21, 2015 at 6pm – Make Your Own Kosher Dill Pickle Workshop at Whole Foods Market Arroyo Parkway (465 S Arroyo Pkwy, Pasadena, CA 91105) – $50
- Saturday, May 30, 2015 at 9:30am – Children’s Workshop: Strawberry Preserves at Huntington Library (1151 Oxford Rd, San Marino, CA 91108) – $50/$60
- Monday, June 2, 2015 at 6pm – Make Your Own Kosher Dill Pickle Workshop at Whole Foods Market La Jolla (8825 Villa La Jolla Dr, La Jolla, CA 92037) – $50
For more information:
Rancho La Merced Provisions
Purchase Air-Lock Lacto-Fermentation Kits online or in these stores: King’s Roost (Los Angeles), Stein Fillers, Inc. (Long Beach), Fermentation Farm (Costa Mesa), and Whole Foods in SoCal region.