Or should I say how to make pickled ginger and pickled galangal, or how to make a mushroom stock for a stew? This is the story of a garden and pantry adventure which lead to the making of three items instead of one.
Did you start off making one dish only to find that another evolves from the remnants of your efforts? My connection with the restaurant industry has been brief, but I always remembered that you do not let something go to waste. This adventure begins with my daughter, Katya, and I harvesting the galangal. This is the spicier cousin of ginger. We had quite a bit of work digging out them out, preparing the bed for the next year, and replanting some tubers for the next year’s harvest. We were left with about ten pounds of roots. I love using pickled ginger as a condiment, so I thought that the galangal may work well too. In the preparation for the pickling, I ended up making a soup stock and a version of my favorite bread spread, peasant’s caviar.
After cleaning the tubers, I began the preparation to make pickled galangal. The process is the same for ginger. The galangal tuber does have thicker side roots that need to be snipped off. Peeling the skin is the same as peeling ginger. Use a spoon to scrape the skin off. Since I am working with several pounds at once, I place the cleaned pieces into a water bath. Once all has been cleaned, I thinly slice the galangal, placing these slices into fresh water. I have placed ginger slices directly into the prepared vinegar solution, but I thought of using an older recipe that I had. I do not taste much difference in the final product though. In the direct method, I let the ginger sit in the vinegar for a week before using he slices. In the second method (the one I decided to try today), the ginger (galangal) soaks in water over night. The next morning I clean the scum that forms on the top of the water. This is the white foam on top of the water. I pour the water through a strainer into a pot. This is the beginning of the stock. The galangal goes into a glass jar. The usual practice is to take rice vinegar,red miso, and honey for the pickling. You want the vinegar to have a sweet taste. These are boiled together, and poured over the ginger. Let this cool before placing the jar into the refrigerator. Do you have to use honey? I find that sugar gives me the same taste, but I like using a local. Do you have to use rice vinegar? Probably not. Vinegars do have their own flavors, and this will be imparted to the pickle, but I have always used the rice vinegar. I found quite a bit of red wine vinegar in the pantry, so I did use it this time. Why the red miso? I do not always use the red miso or any miso. The red color comes from tuber reacting with the vinegar. The red miso adds a certain flavor element. I have used a light brown miso. I have gone without miso. For this preparation, I added a little sea salt. I have used herbs or spices from the garden, but I enjoy the cleaner taste of little added. After a day, the ginger or galangal has a nice flavor. You may be thinking sushi for its use, but I like using this condiment on any meal where I would use other condiments.
Making vegetarian stocks is a simple process. I do like making chicken stock, and every so often I may may beef stock. Stocks are great for soups and sauces, or you could braise items in stock, so having stock on hand is a great way to speed the meal preparation along. Wen in my pantry, I found a package of dried mushrooms. Mushrooms make a great darker soup stock. I went back into the garden to harvest some parsley and onions. I had about a cup of dried mushrooms, a cup of chopped parsley, and a quarter of a cup of chopped green onions. I let the ingredients simmer in the galangal water for forty minutes. I wanted a lightly flavored stock that could be used for a number of dishes. More onions would help make a better stock for soups. I could have harvested some celery or carrots too. This stock was good for a vegetable stew that I was making that evening. I did add a little salt to the stock at the end. I completed the stock preparation by straining the stock into a storage container.
Finally, I had the ingredients for a type of peasant’s caviar. I do not see people making these spreads much anymore. Eggplant is the common main ingredient used for this dish. I think if people like baba ganoush that they may like peasant’s caviar; however, maybe people stay away from the spread because of the eggplant. I have had other versions of this caviar, and I think the mushroom based version is great. I took the ingredients from the strained stock into a blender. The mushrooms came out to be two cups when reconstituted. I used a quarter cup of olive oil and two teaspoons of a dark soy sauce. This was blended together. I added a little salt and pepper to taste. I have added a little garlic to this blend as well in the past. There are different types of caviar that are quite inexpensive, and vegetable spreads may not sound to appealing, so maybe that is why peasant’s caviar fell out of favor, but I love this spread. If you do want to try the eggplant version, roast the eggplant first. I always add the garlic to the eggplant version, where this flavor is optional for me when using mushrooms. I may add a bit more onion. Sauteed onion goes well in this spread. As for herbs and spices, parsley is the standard for me, but I could have used any herb or spice. Tarragon would be good, as would thyme. I guess that I will use those next week.
I still have more galangal. Maybe I should candy some? Maybe grate it into a paste to store in the freezer. We will see. I hope that you try the peasant’s caviar. I find that some people have problems with mushrooms in a meal, but they enjoy this spread. As you can see, harvesting one item can cause you to have more work in the kitchen, but that is not a bad thing.