Suddenly Sauer: Preserving Food and Tradition in a Modern World

Dilly Beans and A Happy New Year!
September 8, 2010, 1:30 am
Filed under: food, Pickled Anything, Producers

Alright… it might be a little far fetched to claim that lacto-fermented Dilly Beans are the perfect treat for this year’s Rosh Hashannah festivities, but they’ll be gracing my family’s table where dates, beets, and honey occupy the spreads of Jews across the globe.  And I’ll give you one simple reason why… they’re totally delicious.

I first learned to make Dilly Beans at ADAMAH: the Jewish Environmental Fellowship run out of Falls Village Connecticut’s Isabella Freedman Retreat Center.  I apprenticed at the Fellowship’s pickle kitchen for a spell in 2008 and, needless to say, my life has never been the same.  One of the many things I was introduced to there was a deep respect for the rhythm of the seasons, and the way that Jewish Holiday’s beautifully capture the ebbs and flows we all experience in a year.  Rosh Hashannah, a holiday that celebrates the New Year with sweetness, freshness, and all things at their burst blooming peak of life, is full of delicious food traditions.  The mass consumption of apples dipped in honey is the one most strongly crystalized in my memory.

But this year, alongside the sweet things that will fill our table, I’ll be setting a little bowl of dilly beans with all their fantastic flavor just within arms reach of my family.  I love these beans, not only because they’re complexly sweet and sour, or because they never fail to impart the perfect crunch, but also because they’re simply the best thing to come out of the crock lately.  They’re ready NOW and NOW is the time to CELEBRATE!

I picked up the beans for these dilly’s from Earthworks Urban Farm‘s Medlrum Fresh Food Market

Then I brought them home, and fermented them with gusto.

Dilly Beans

(2 Gallons)

1 gallon+2 cups H20
1 cup salt
8 quarts green beans
1.5 cups peeled garlic
10 dill flowers
20 cayenne peppers
Spice mix (bay, cinnamon, orange peel, anise, clove)

I chopped the stems off all the beans, mixed a brine with the salt and water, placed all the ingredients in the crock, and poured the brine over them until they were submerged.  Then I put on one of my lids with a boiled stone for a weight, and put the whole crock in the basement (68 degrees) to ferment.  I plan to let them go three weeks, after two weeks they’re already divine.

I am really looking forward to sharing these beans with my family and friends.  I know it’s a little late to ferment them for this years’ holidays, but I highly suggest it for the future!  Nothing says new year like a batch of bright tasting pickles that are sure to keep you fed in the months to come!


Tamarind Ice Cream for Neighborhood Noodle
September 1, 2010, 7:20 pm
Filed under: food, Ice Cream, Producers | Tags: ,
ice cream in the making

Tamarind Ice Cream meets its maker.

I think this post needs to begin with a bit of context.  There is a new noodle shop in town, operating out of a ground floor teeny little apartment (teeny for Detroit, anyway) where you can go on Monday night to carry out creatively and lovingly prepared Asian noodle dishes.  The proprietor of this new shop asked if I’d prepare an Asian style Ice Cream for this week’s event and I excitedly obliged.

Once of my more repeatable ice creams creations is a Thai Ice Cream with a coconut milk base, flavored with tamarind and hot pepper, sweetened with agave, and thickened with egg yolk (making it a dairy-free custard style ice cream).  I instantly knew this was the one I wanted to make for Neighborhood Noodle.  It also seemed appropriate to take this opportunity to use this blog as a space to tell my consumers what I’m making for them- both through the process as well as the producers who grow the food.

Thus began my journey to bring you delicious, sweet, sour, icy cold Ice Cream.

Of the relatively small list of ingredients in this ice cream, the most contentious one is certainly the eggs.  With Salmonella scares in the millions and concerned vegans aghast at the thought of eating baby animals, I wanted to highlight my egg producer, for whom I have the utmost respect and trust.

Will and I worked together at the Greening of Detroit as Urban Ag apprentices until the end of this summer.  As I’m striking out on my own to work towards being a full time pickler (yes, it’s true…!) He’s working full time on his community and market garden project: Edgeton Community Garden.

With almost 2 full acres in Northeast Detroit, Will is one of the more production focused farming operations I’ve gotten to traipse around in the city as of yet.  He’s got it all: livestock, veggies galore, compost, irrigation, community focused space and production space.  It’s a truly inspiring operation.

So I drove out to Will’s to pick up 2 dozen eggs for the Ice Cream and I snapped a few shots of him with the chickens and their environs.

Will with one of his hens.

This is where the magic happens (i.e. this is where they lay)

Once I got my eggs home, and gathered the rest of my ingredients from the suburbs (I’m still waiting for a food co-op downtown…) and picked up some tamarind pods from Honey Bee Market, I was ready to make the Ice Cream.

Tamarind Coconut Milk Ice Cream

(for a 1.5 quart batch)
1 can whole coconut milk
Water to bring total liquid to 4 cups (about 2 cups)
3/4-1 cup agave nectar
3 Tbs Tamarind (or about 6 whole pods)
1 hot pepper (if you like)
2 egg yolks
A few tablespoons of toasted coconut flakes

Bring the coconut milk/water mixture to a soft boil with the agave, tamarind, and hot pepper.  Once it’s cooked for about 30 minutes and the tamarind is soft, pour the mixture through a fine sieve and press the tamarind until most of the pulp is soft and can be stirred back into the coconut milk.  Discard the seeds.  Ladle one cup of hot liquid into egg yolks, stirring constantly, and then pour the tempered yolks into the pot of coconut milk tamarind mixture.  Stir constantly in one direction over low heat until mixture coats the back of a wooden spoon.  Cool.  Churn.  And top with toasted coconut flakes.


I ended up making 3 gallon sized batches, each churned in my one gallon hand crank ice cream maker:

Cranking the Ice Cream

And this is what I ended up with!  67 6oz servings and a lot of cranking later… I hope the folks @ neighborhood noodle enjoyed!

The Finished Product!!!

Angela’s Cucumber and Green Tomato Relish
August 3, 2010, 3:59 pm
Filed under: food, Pickled Anything, Uncategorized

Green tomatoes and their accompaniments, soaking in cold water pre-fermentation

Last week’s makers faire, a nationwide series of events highlighting DIY projects in cities across the country, kicked off with an event called Can Do Camp, where Detroiters with a “can do” spirit were invited to mingle and listen to speakers all day long.  They were also invited to feast, and feast WELL at that!

The event was catered by Detroit Evolution, an organization that provides scrumptious catering among their many offerings.  My friend Angela is the caterer, and her ability to make magical food has been proved to me, time and again, through her catering as well as her work organizing and head chef-ing the monthly Corktown Community Brunch.

Angela got in touch with me and asked if I could make a couple of Suddenly Sauer Delights for the Can Do Camp event, and I happily obliged.  Besides 2 gallons of yogurt (with calder dairy milk) and 8 pounds of my oil free/date sweetened granola, she also asked for some pickles.  and pickles I provided!

I sold her one gallon of the pickled baby beets, and as we sat in the kitchen debating the crowd appeal of a batch of pickled turnip greens, my mind wandered to the 10 greatly oversized pickling cucumbers my friend Rachel had just pulled from her garden and gifted to me.  I instantly proposed to Angela a cucumber and green tomato relish (the green tomatoes were coming on strong in my own garden) and she heartily agreed that it had great potential.

The next step was figuring out what it was I was actually going to make.

I decided to brine the cucumbers and green tomatoes whole, with traditional pickling spices, garlic, and dill flowers, and some hot peppers to give the relish a mild kick.  My plan was to let them ferment for as long as possible, realizing that meant somewhere in the neighborhood of 48 hours.  When we made pickles at the Adamah pickle kitchen where I apprenticed in 2008, we would brine our half sours for 48 hours and our full sours for a full week.  Operating on that principle, I hoped 48 hours would be enough to give these fatties a bit of sauerness while preserving their cucumber nature.  I planned to chop them into relish after the 48 hour period.

Angela’s Cucumber and Green Tomato Relish

(in a 3 gallon crock, yield: 1 gallon relish)


1.5 cups pickling salt (with NO additives/preservatives/anti-caking agents)

1.5 gallons water

Add salt to crock, add 4 cups hot water and whisk with salt until dissolved.  More hot water might be necessary for total dissolution, but keep track of how much you’re adding.  Once salt is dissolved in hot water, add the rest of your water cold to bring the temperature of the brine down to room temp.

Then begin to add your ingredients:

2 cups (fresh from my garden) garlic, smashed

5 dill flowers (the flowers make great pickle seasoning!)

6 hot peppers

1.5 Tbs pickling spice (in a spice sock, which can be bought in most brewing stores)

8 overgrown cucumbers

2 quarts green tomatoes

Measuring the garlic to throw in the brine

Peppers, dill, spice sock, and garlic, all afloat in the brine

and the green tomatoes, the last thing in before the cucumbers.

I only added the cukes and green tomatoes until there were at least 2 inches of head space in the crock.  At that point, I put one of my seasoned wooden crock lids on top, weighed it down with a ceramic bowl filled with bagged dry beans (obviously just an improvisation, you could use whatever you like!) and let it sit in my kitchen for 48 hours (hotter than usual because I wanted it to ferment quickly, more like 80 degrees rather than my usual high 60’s/low 70’s).

At the end of two days, I chopped all the cucubers and tomatoes into 1/2 inch cubes, placed then in a 1 gallon jar, poured brine over them, and let them sit out overnight with the lid slightly ajar to let their flavor develop a bit more and allow the newly exposed inner parts of the cukes and tomatoes to soak in more brine.  Also, because the cukes were so overgrown, their seeds were pretty nasty so I cut the insides out of all the cucumbers before slicing them for the relish. 

Ultimately, I served the relish at the event in these nifty little dishes and i think it looked pretty swell.  I felt grateful to Angela for giving me the opportunity to showcase my pickling prowess and I’m really looking forward to more pickling adventures in the coming months, as we get deeper into the harvest season.

Angela’s Cucumber and Green Tomato Relish at the Can Do Camp Event

roots in a brine, it’s springtime!
June 28, 2010, 3:39 pm
Filed under: food, Pickled Anything

Baby Root Veggies in a Brine

Spring has sprung and the summer solstice is truly upon us here in Detroit.  The weather here has fairly consistently been a couple degrees above sweltering and there has been some severe weather afoot, coupled with intense daytime humidity, and a lot of sweaty faces.  Why bother mentioning the weather in a blog post about root vegetables and fermentation?  Quite simply put, these baby veggies are my first pickles of the season made from garden produce (as opposed to store bought veggies).  And the things that made them possible, other than a broadfork, compost, the sweat of my brow, and some open space, was a lot of rain and some early season heat.  Yes there’s no looking back now, it’s growing season!

Part of my work with The Greening of Detroit is managing a 1/2 acre plot in a park in Southwest Detroit.  We (the other apprentices and myself) have an acre under cultivation, which  is split into two plots.  One half is used for nutrition education and the other is grown primarily for market, I manage the market half.  Mostly, I grow salad mix and other greens, but in a couple beds very near and dear to my heart, I am growing golden beets and chioggia beets.  These two beet varieties are stunning and delicious, golden beets being the most brilliant variation of bright orange yellows, and chioggias displaying concentric circles of magenta and white (think Target).

The other day I set about the task of thinning these lovelies, a task which involves pulling beets up so that there is only one beet every inch or so, giving the roots room to grow larger.  This process left me with no small number of baby beets, none more than a 1/2 in diameter, which needed a new purpose in life.


I decided to return to a brining method, since lately I’ve only been making “kraut-style” ferments.  This means, rather than salting a vegetable and allowing it to sweat out its own brine, you first mix up a salt water solution and then pour it over  your veggies.  still simple, just slightly different.

The first step in this process was cleaning all my baby beets.  It took forever, and as you can see in the photo below, I had to remove a lot of beet matter to get what I was looking for.  I didn’t want to remove the skins completely because they’re not only home to much of the veggie nutrients, they’re also the most brilliantly colored part.

The roots, stems, and leaves I cut away to be left with….

These beauties!

Once I’d trimmed, rinsed, and packed all my baby veggies into a 1/2 gallon jar, I mixed up a spice mix and a salt water brine.

My spice mixture was: 1 Tbs pickling spice, 1 cinnamon stick, about 10 cloves, and 5 cardamom pods.

Pickling spice being measured into a muslin spice bag (can be purchased from any brewing supply store)

Once I’d made my spice mix, I tied the muslin bag and packed it in with the jarred beets.  I tried to get it into the middle rather than just setting it on top to make sure the flavors infused throughout.

Roots packed with the spice bag (you can see it on the right hand side of the jar)

Once all the roots and spices were packed in, I mixed up a brine using the same ratio I use for cucumber pickles: 1.5 Tbs salt to 2 cups water for a 1 quart jar of pickles.  Since my jar is 2 quarts, I doubled this, first dissolving 3 Tbs salt in about 1/2 cup hot water, then adding the rest of the water cold and 1/4 cup whey to make 4 cups total brine.

I poured the brine over the pickles until the jar was full, stuck a pint jar full of water one top to keep the beets below the brine’s surface, covered this with cheesecloth and a rubberband, and then stuck it in my basement where it’s about 65-70 degrees.  The brine overflowed a bit as the roots began to break down and compress, allowing the pint jar to sink in further and displace the solution, but this has little effect on the effectiveness of the brine.

One week later, I uncovered my jar, removed the pint jar water weight, and tasted my baby root pickles!  They were crunchy and delicious, well seasoned and zingy.  Unfortunately, the magenta dye from the chioggias totally took over and died not only the white rings of the chioggia beets, but also muddied the golden beets and the turnips.  Now, instead of the brightly colored veggies I put in the brine a week ago, I have a jar full of delicious root vegetables that are a slightly unappetizing shade of mauve.  yuk.

My future plans:  to repeat this whole process making one jar of just golden beets (in hopes that they retain their brightness) and one jar of dark red beets (cultivating that rich red color).  I’d also do some turnips with the goldens or the reds, or separately.  Their spicy undertones were a nice thing to discover amongst the sweet beets.  The flavor and crunch was a total success, but the color and overall appearance of the veggies definitely needs work.

Would you like some culture with that dairy?
April 18, 2010, 9:08 pm
Filed under: food, Pickled Anything

I’ve heard the same story again and again, “I bought milk, it spoiled, I washed it down the sink as my stomach sank, then I cried.”

Ok, so maybe there were no tears involved, and maybe this is a bit more hyperbolic than most of your dairying experiences, but the point remains… that sweet fresh milk only lasts you a few days… and what then?  what to do then…

This past friday, myself and a gathering of individuals attempted to answer this question at the kickoff event for Urban Ecology Detroit, a group dedicated to urban ecology, an intentionally loosely defined topic, which hopes to draw enthusiasts of all sorts together for the common goal of learning.  The subject matter for this inaugural class was culturing dairy: what could be more universal than the desire to preserve our milk?  only the vegans were disappointed…

Quark becoming Quark (a cultured cream cheese)

Most simple dairy cultures are just a matter of adding things and waiting for things to change: sometimes 6 hours, sometimes 24, sometimes a few days.  In the class we talked about Cultured Butter, Buttermilk (both traditional and cultured), Clobber (wild cultured milk), Quark, and Yogurt.

I’ll spare you the nitty gritty details from the class, but there are a few introductory elements I’ll replicate here.

Culturing dairy is a timeless technique common in cultures where dairy animals have been a predominant part of everyday subsistence.  Culturing dairy (adding bacteria that yield certain desirable characteristics, or allowing the bacterial flora that naturally populate unpasteurized milk to flourish under ideal living conditions) yields a dairy product that is much easier for us to digest, and that is naturally preserved.  The ease of digestion comes from the fact that bacteria digest milk sugars (lactose) and convert them into lactic acid, and because the bacteria essentially begin the digestion process for us, leaving less work for our digestive tracts.  Lucky for us, cultured dairy also tends to be delicious: pleasantly tart, creamy, textured, sweet, and all other complex flavors abound.

I’m posting recipes for the items we discussed in class here– most of them are extremely simple, and, strangely enough, difficult to find instruction for.

Creme Fraiche

Pour cream slowly off the top of your non-homogenized whole milk.  If it’s raw milk and your kitchen is warm enough (about 70 degrees), cover with a cheese cloth and let sit until cream thickens (a few days).  For pasteurized cream, or for culturing cream at cooler temperatures, pour off cream and add 2 Tbs cultured buttermilk to your cream.  Allow it to sit and it should thicken in 24 hours or less.  Once the cream is thickened (regardless of method), scrape it out of the container it was setting in and save it in a jar.  Keep in the fridge, where it will continue to ripen.


This is the stuff that’s left after you scrape off your cultured cream.  The milk that separates our of the heavy cream and sinks to the bottom also thickens up (after 24 hours when started with buttermilk, and after a few days when left to spontaneously ferment).  I read that clobber was traditionally eaten with molasses, nutmeg, and cinnamon for breakfast (by whom I don’t know), but I mostly use it to create quark


Quark is a German word, which until my recent google search I understood to mean cultured cream cheese.  Turns out, I’m not entirely correct.  Nonetheless, I like the name and feel that it works, so I’m going to choose to let it stick.  I make quark by simply straining the whey out of clobber.  I line a strainer with cheese cloth, allowing the whey to drip into the bowl housing the strainer, and I place the whole contraption in the fridge for a day, spooning out the quark once its dry enough.  I like to whip my quark with salt and sundried tomatoes, or lemon zest and honey.  But truly, the possibilities are endless.  I also save my whey at this step and use it as a starter for other ferments.

me squeezing lemon juice into my little quark whipping contraption

Cultured Butter

While making a successful batch of butter didn’t happen in the workshop, I did manage to make up a batch when I got home, and because it was my intention to make butter, I’m still going to include directions here.  Once I’ve saved  one quart jar full of creme fraiche, which usually takes about four gallons of raw milk, I make butter!  Take chilled cream and pour it into a food processor, press the on butter, and wait.  The separation will take longer than you expect, you may even panic and think it won’t happen, but after 15-20 minutes, an unmistakable change will take place– all the butterfat will begin to clump together and be suspended in milky white buttermilk.  When this happens, strain the butter solids out and save the real buttermilk (if you desire), then pour the butter solids into a bowl.  Press the butter mass with a spatula and watch how it continues to exude buttermilk.  Press the butter, pour off the buttermilk, and repeat this until the butter stops exuding milk.  You may dribble a bit of cold water over the butter and press again just to be sure it runs clean.  When you’re satisfied, place your butter in a container and enjoy!

Buttermilk (Cultured)

One of my favorite fermented dairy products is cultured buttermilk.  While traditional buttermilk comes from the butter making process (as explored above), cultured buttermilk is the result of a buttermilk culture being added to whole milk.  I like buttermilk not only for its delicate flavor, but also because it is an immensely helpful starter for other dairy ferments.  In order to make your own buttermilk that can be saved as a starter, you must pasteurize your milk.  This means you need to heat your milk to 190 degrees and then cool it down to room temperature before adding your culture.  If you don’t pasteurize your milk, the naturally present bacteria will eventually overwhelm your buttermilk starter.  Then you’ll just be making clobber.  yummy… but now quite the same.  You’ll need a buttermilk culture in the beginning.  I get mine from Calder Dairy, but you might also buy a starter online from New England Cheesemaking Supply Company if you don’t have a local supplier.  Once you have your cultured buttermilk starter, add about 1/4- 1/2 cup to a quart of pasteurized milk.  Let it sit at room temperature for 24 hours, agitating every so often, then stick it in the fridge.


Yogurt has become something of a holy grail of dairy culturing for me, perhaps because I’ve been trying to perfect it for about 2 years now, and probably also because it figures so prominently in my diet.  In the class we made 2 quarts of yogurt.  First I lightly pasteurized the milk by heating it to 190 degrees, stirring it consistently once it began to form a skin on its surface.  One of the participants mentioned that she holds her milk at 190 for ten minutes when pasteurizing, which further improves the texture of her yogurt.  After using fully pasteurized milk for yogurt for the first time, I have come to believe that her suggestion is absolutely correct.  Whether you have the patience to keep your milk at 190 for ten minutes is another story.

Regardless of what you decide, the next step is to use a cold water or ice bath to cool your milk to 95 degrees.  The temperature at this step should range anywhere from 90 to 110 degrees.  On the lower end, your milk will culture slowly (6-8+ hours) and develop a less tart flavor. On the higher end, your milk will culture quickly (2-3 hours) and it will be more tart.  I would suggest cooling to 95 so that in the time it takes you to complete the next few steps, you loose a bit of heat but not enough to drop below 90 degrees.  Once your milk is cooled, take 2 Tbs – 1/2 cup of starter (can be store bought or saved from a previous batch) and add 1 cup of your milk to it.  Stir to homogenize.  Add mixture into the rest of the milk, stir, and then pour into your incubation vessel.  The yogurt now has to be kept between 90 and 110 degrees, undisturbed, until it has finished fermenting.  I use a fancy (read: Styrofoam) contraption called a yogotherm to incubate my yogurt, but you could also place yogurt in a yogurt container and put it in an insulated bag with a hot water bottle, or in the oven with the pilot light left on.  Experiment with your own kitchen and supplies.  When you think your yogurt is ready (based on temperature of milk when you added the culture), open the lid, taste what’s inside, and either let it continue to ferment or stick it in the fridge.  The yogurt will thicken up slightly once it’s refrigerated, so don’t judge it tooooo harshly.

There are a few things to keep in mind about culturing dairy, and they mostly have to do with the relationship between your homemade product and the kind of cultured dairy available in stores.  Many commercially produced dairy products have thickeners such as pectin or guar gum added to them to achieve their consistency.  This means that a) you shouldn’t necessarily expect your homemade products to be as gelatinous/thick as store bought cultures and b) you should be careful when buying dairy cultures as starters because some additives may inhibit your fermentation.  Choose products with live cultures listed in the ingredients, and avoid as many additives as possible.

Without a doubt, the highlight of the dairy culturing class was tasting all the dairy products perched atop Gwen’s whimsical sweet breads!  You should definitely check out her recipes, and consider baking up a loaf, to be enjoyed with a side of quark.

Thanks to Eve VanDalsen for the lovely photos, and happy fermenting!

When Life Gives you Lemons… Pickle Them!
March 11, 2010, 1:41 am
Filed under: food, Pickled Anything

Coincident with the first truly sunny week of spring (always a risky thing to say in MI), I set out to preserve some of that brightness in a jar.  I’ve had Moroccan preserved lemons on the brain ever since I visited the Cultured Pickle Shop in Berkeley, CA, where I ate some of the most magical fermented foods on offer in this here world.  Turnip Tangerine Kombucha, Mustard Greens with Turmeric, Garlic, and Fennel Seed, pumpkin kimchee… the list went on and on.  But sometime around lunch, when the employees sat down together for a cultured smorgasbord, I tasted a true delight.  A single sardine waited unassumingly in my shallow bowl, sprawled languidly aside one small quarter of a pickled lemon.  The two tasted fantastic together, I was instantly hooked by the oily, tangy, sauerness.  Which brings me back to my experiment… I want some pickled lemons of my own!

So, for better or for worse, here in Detroit the only place lemons grow on trees is at the Belle Isle conservatory (a beautiful place to visit, but not exactly a place for foraging).  So I swallowed my pride and bought a bag of organic California lemons from whole foods– I’m especially diligent about using pesticide free produce when pickling, I’m wary of the pesticides becoming even more concentrated as they ferment (yuk) and I think pesticides are meant to be anti-bacterial/anti-microbial, which is really no fun for the little guys doing all the dirty work.

The process, stolen from the internet, was easy:

Preserved Lemons

9 lemons

non-iodized, additive-free salt

Wash lemons well.  Slice off both ends on the lemon, leaving some of the rind intact, and then slice the lemon into quarters, BUT taking care not to cut all the way through the lemon on one end, so that the quarters stay together and you are left with a lovely sort of lemon flower.

Add 1 TBS salt to a 1 quart jar.  Rub generous amounts of salt over the insides of the lemons and squish them into the jar, packing them tightly.  Squish until enough lemon juice has been pushed out to cover the lemons completely.

Place the lid on the jar lightly, so that some air can still escape but no bugs or dust can get in.

Place in a cool dark place and allow to ferment.  I’m not sure how long for because I’m posting this a day after I put them in the fermentation chamber (i.e. the cupboard next to my fridge).

I’m so eager about my lemons that I couldn’t wait until after they were pickled to make a post about them.  I’m thinking maybe I’ll edit retroactively with more info about length of ferment and some photos of the finished product.  For now, I’m adding pictures of the process up to to the point of fermentation.





As you can see, there is nothing quite so sunny as salted lemons.  With spring in the air, it seems like an appropriate sort of celebration.   There has also been mention of a possible pickled lemon and mint sorbet.  More on this to come.

Hamentashen. Purim Potluck Comes Home
February 27, 2010, 8:22 pm
Filed under: food

It began because Amit wanted to make vegan hamentashen.  These traditional Jewish Purim treats, modeled after the Purim story villain Hamen’s three cornered hat, have honestly never been that exciting to me.  Nonetheless, I always acquiesce when desert is involved, and I was more than happy to help her realize her kitchen dreams.

I found a recipe from Elana’s Pantry, a blog that always provides when I’m looking for alternative baking recipes, and especially so for Jewish treats.  Sure enough, her recipe for vegan hamentashen was simple as pie (actually, easier than pie) and Amit set about making the batter immediately.

In the food processor we blended:

2 cups pastry flour
2 cups bread flour
4 Tbs honey
2Tbs vanilla
4Tbs water
4Tbs walnut oil

Once it was sticky enough to hold together, she stuck it in the freezer to chill.  A half hour later, she tried to roll out the dough but it was too crumbly.  Instead she ended up rolling individual balls, pressing them into disks, spooning raspberry jam into their centers, and folding and pressing the sides together to make a triangle.  I added some more water to the dough as we shaped it, which helped make the process easier.

This is what the dough looked like before we added water… it was too crumbly to work with- note the cast aside rolling pin in the background

The finished product, however, was beautiful.  And the dough was good and crunchy, the perfect compliment to the jelly filling!

When dinner was over, Amit treated us all to a retelling of the Purim story, complete with audience participation, loud booing whenever Hamen’s name was spoken (we didn’t have gregers (spelling?) but we tried anyway) and all manner of side stories, reminiscences, and feminist re-interpretations.  All in all, it was a successful first attempt at celebrating Purim since the bygone days of congregational Purim carnivals.  No free goldfish, but lots of good company.  Beginning to create a vibrant Jewish community, with the help and participation of Jews and non-Jews alike, has been deeply satisfying.  Thanks to everyone (Amit especially) who continues to partake in this revitalization.  I can only hope it continues.