A season of contradictions, of mingled light and darkness, unseasonable warmth and the promise of rain on the horizon. A new year is beginning, and if our past is never fully forgotten, still we draw a clear line between one year and the next, and call it a new beginning, and another chance to start over. In the ground, beets and onions are swelling, full of their respective fire and sweetness. Burdock, that long, wild root, is drawing up strength and minerals from deep in the ground; we harvest some of all of these things, and use them in several ways in this journal, the first of the year.
But first, there is this.
The strangely named Hangover Dip came to us as a recipe for “Rusty’s Hangover Soup” (aka “Sauerkraut Soup” ) from a long-time customer, Joe; he had got it in turn from a knife forum that would not allow me, as a non-member, to investigate its origin further. It was prefaced with this memorable paragraph. “Rusty Slate was a hell of a man. One of the kindest and most gentle men I have ever had the pleasure to meet, and also one of the best armed…Anyway, this is one mighty soup, good for hangovers and whatever else ails ya, and every time I make it, I have good thoughts of Rusty. Technically, I suppose the ingredients should be cut up with a khukuri, but a regular kitchen knife will do in a pinch.” The recipe was written in a way that led to confusion as to the amount of various liquids to add; when we made it, it came out as the world’s best party dip. While the record was later set straight by our buddy Joe, we like to think that this was one of those happy kitchen accidents that was meant to be. Thanks to Joe, our customer, and to Rusty, that presumably kind, well-armed, probiotic weilder of kitchen implements and hangover cures.
Well how was that for a healthy start to the New Year? Did you perhaps have something more healthful in mind? Actually, so did we. This recipe for Beet Kvass fits the bill nicely. It is salty and satisfying, tart and rich and earthy in flavor. And that color! To call it merely ruby does not do it justice. We like to add some ginger and mint to the brew, sometimes, but it is perfect even its purest, simplest incarnation; the round red root, sea salt dissolved in water, and a few million lactobacillus.
Our celebration of roots is not over. In fact, it is just beginning. Consider burdock, that slender, witchy root. Its earthiness is different than that of beets; it is less sweet, more nutty, and more crisp. Like many taproots, it is particularly rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, which it draws up into itself from deep in the ground. Here, we pair it with the season’s best dandelion greens, a match surely made in some earthy, loamy heaven. While it is not so bright and bold in color as beets or carrots, burdock has an appeal that delves deeper than mere esthetics. Burdock is beautiful, on the inside. And tasty, too.
Here’s another way to incorporate those two garden friends, Burdock and Dandelion. They go well together, the bitterness of the dandelion matching the mild nuttiness of the burdock. Their effects are complementary, too, which is why they are often combined in many herbal preparations. Both are considered a tonic for skin, liver, and kidneys, as well as having digestive benefits. This earthy infusion steeps for several weeks in vodka, and is best sipped by itself, in a quiet moment of reflection. It has layers of taste and sensation that go way down, deep as taproots.
An onion, too, is built in layers, as Shrek reminded us, so many years ago. Peel away the papery skin, slice the pungent flesh into rings. This is how so many recipes begin; an onion is foundational to the cuisine of almost every culture. We don’t often think of it as a jam…but we should. This recipe makes it abundantly clear what we have been missing. This savory, vinegary, mildly sweet spread is the best thing to put on top of a wedge of brie. It is the only thing to put on a cold turkey sandwich. And it makes a mean glaze for roasted meats, too. Shall we go on?
You might have guessed we’ve been digging in the garden, based on the recipes we’ve been putting up this month. Here’s a look at what we have been getting up to in the demo garden.
That’s what the calendar says. It seems kind of hard to believe, at times. We will keep on digging in the garden, and cooking food for family and friends, and sharing recipes, thoughts, and ideas here. We will keep fermenting, and jamming, and exploring seasonal ingredients. We look forward to another year in community with you, dear readers. Keep in touch. Tell us what moves you, and what you want to know more about. We want to know these things, too. Like burdock that pulls up the deepest nutrients from the soil, like onions that accrete in spicy layers, humans have always been good at accumulating and dispersing information. This is just the latest iteration of traditions that go back centuries. Wherever you find yourself in time and space, you can always find us here, and search old issues of the journal for a particular favorite recipe or seasonal inspiration. You can also stop by the store, if you find yourself in the area. We’d love to see your faces. Thanks for all you do to make the world a better, more delicious place. We lift a glass, to your health and happiness. May it grow, strong and leafy and green.