This is our first month participating in the Canadian Food Experience Project which began June 7 2013. As more than 80 participants share our collective stories across the vastness of our Canadian landscape through our regional food experiences, we hope to bring global clarity to our Canadian culinary identity through the cadence of our concerted Canadian voice. This months theme is Preserving. You can see all of our posts in this series here.
It is ironic that I had difficulty choosing a post for this month’s theme of the Canadian Food Experience. The theme is Preserving : Our Canadian Food Tradition. Given that we write a lot about preserving, this would look like a topic that should be an easy post for us!
It is the frequency that we’ve written about preserving that makes this difficult. We have more than 400 preserving recipes on the site; how could we choose just one to fit into the context of this project? What would be special enough to include as an entry to represent Canadian Food Traditions.
I started my selection process by focusing on the word tradition. When it comes to preserving, it’s one I struggle with. While ‘tradition’ can be a beautiful word celebrating the past, it can also be a term associated with something that’s past it’s prime. It can make preserving sound quaint and relevant to the past but less than connected to the present. This isn’t the intent of the Canadian Food Experience of course but I tend to be overly analytical of the word ‘tradition.’
When I speak to people who grew up with preserves, many tell me the stories of long days of labor in hot kitchens. They associate preserving with making big batches of food and often feel like they don’t have time to return to their roots. Many are surprised and excited to learn of preserving methods for smaller batches that are made in minutes. I think it’s important to learn that food preserved with simple techniques in order to fit within the context of modern life and busy schedules.
As I continued to brainstorm I thought of making something that would feature maple syrup or something else notably ‘Canadian.’ As I walked through my farmer’s market I ran into this:
Daikon Radish is a common ingredient in Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese and other cuisine. There are several varieties (Korean cooks often use a rounder version of the plant). It’s denser than a carrot and has less bite than horseradish.
Daikons aren’t often found on postcards picturing beavers, Mounties, Maple Leafs and Maple Syrup. But that’s what makes this country what it is; we are a cultural mosaic and not a melting pot. Canada is a unique place that, on it’s best days, celebrates cultural diversity and embraces traditions from all around the world. I love to take visitors on driving tours of Toronto and show them how they can travel the world by crossing our city; this is especially true when it comes to food.
If you’ve never used ghost peppers, they are extremely hot. The burn is almost other-worldly. You can replace the hot pepper with something milder (including dried peppers or chile flakes) or omit altogether.
Fermenting food is fantastically easy. The most difficult part is finding good water. If your city adds chlorine to your tap water you’ll want to boil it and allow it to cool before using. Some places use chloramine (which will not evaporate); in that case you’ll need to use purified, spring or other pure water. I boil Toronto’s tap water and do do not have problems.
FERMENTED DAIKON WITH GHOST PEPPER – INGREDIENTS
- 1 large daikon
- 1 tablespoon non-iodized salt (I use sea salt)
- 1 ghost pepper (optional); remove the top (but seeds are fine)
- Purified water (per above)
FERMENTED DAIKON WITH GHOST PEPPER – INSTRUCTIONS
- Wash the daikon, cut it into 3 or 4 equal sections.
- Carefully cut a single slice from the radish; this will form a stable base to cut strips from.
- Mix the radishes with the salt.
- Place the strips upright in a clean jar. Add the pepper when convenient. I prefer to use a narrow-mouthed mason jar (like in the photo) as it allows me to place a layer of horizontal radish strips (which prevent things from floating).
- Fill with water, ensuring everything is submerged.
- Cover with a cloth and leave in a warm spot in your kitchen, out of direct sunlight.
- Taste after 2 days and continue to ferment until you are happy with the taste (the longer you wait, the more sour the food will become).
- If any foam or mold appears, scoop off with a spoon and discard (this is normal in many type of fermenting, including making cheese).
- When you are happy with the taste, cover with a lid and store in the fridge. It will last a year or longer.