(Reprinted with permission from the Terroir Seeds Knowledge Library.)
Fermented chile paste is one of my favorite toppings or condiments: I use it on eggs and sandwiches, and in soups, stews, and of course, stir-fry. Most of the chile pastes found in Asian markets will be fermented to some degree, with those made in America less so. Fermenting your own puts you in the driver’s seat, as you get to choose what flavors go into the process and how hot or mild the result is. After you’ve made a batch or two, you’ll reach for your “special sauce” before anything else!
We’ve just made a different type of fermented chile paste and wanted to share the process with you. This is completely different than our other chile fermentation recipe, Fermented Pepper Sauce. This method is still a lacto-fermentation, but instead of depending on the natural lactobacillus bacteria on the chiles, it uses organic whole milk yogurt to jump-start the fermentation process. What we’ve found is that this method really adds to the complexity and roundness of the flavors while decreasing the heat considerably. This is so delicious that a small dollop goes well on top of real vanilla ice cream!
This is a very quick recipe – our fermented chile paste was finished in just about four to five days, instead of a couple of weeks to a month for the more traditional lacto-fermentation. We hardly saw any bubbling in the air pockets, with none on top. Because of the yogurt culture providing the fermentation engine, we didn’t need to cover the chile mixture with water and then strain it out later.
The chiles we used were heirloom Anaheim and Serrano chiles, with only about ten percent being Serranos. I used the Anaheims for the mildness and well-rounded flavors, with the Serranos providing a different flavor dimension and some good heat. I just cut the stems off of the Anaheims, but seeded, de-veined, and de-stemmed the Serranos, and the initial mixture was still pretty shockingly hot! The heat was an immediate, front-of-the-tongue heat, which is typical for Serranos. The initial odor was unmistakably sharp fresh chiles and garlic, but after one day it smoothed out and had a very pleasant odor. After two days it started to smell very mellow with sauerkraut overtones and the chile/garlic combination fading. When it was finished the two odors were pretty well balanced, with the flavor being remarkably smooth, rich, and long lasting. The heat had really mellowed to a very moderate background that never intruded or was uncomfortable, only adding to the experience.
Fermented Chile Paste
2 – 3 quarts fresh chiles, any type you prefer
2 – 3 cloves garlic, or for more garlic flavor, use the whole head
1 – 2 ounce piece of ginger, optional
Fresh lemongrass stalks, chopped – use the bottom parts that are more tender, optional
1 – 2 teaspoons organic sugar, optional
1 – 2 tablespoons Thai or Vietnamese fish sauce, optional
1 – 3 tablespoons natural salt, such as Redmond RealSalt or Himalayan salt
1/4 cup organic whole milk yogurt (you want as many live cultures as possible)
Make sure the half-gallon fermentation jar is extremely clean — wash with very hot soapy water and rinse very well.
Wash and de-stem the chiles, removing the seeds and veins if you want. Remove any bad spots. The seeds and veins contain the capsaicin, or heat. Milder chiles won’t add much heat, but hotter ones will. I usually remove the seeds and stems from the really hot chiles for a better flavor that more people can enjoy.
Peel the garlic cloves.
Add the chiles, garlic, and ginger, lemongrass, sugar, or fish sauce to the food processor. Pulse until finely chopped into a paste. Use your judgment as to how fine of a paste to form. Stop and scrape the bowl down to make sure everything is chopped well. If the mixture gets thick and won’t move in the bowl, add 1/4 cup water to make it looser.
Add the salt – if the processor is full, add 3 tablespoons, if over half full, add 2 tablepoons and if half full, add 1 tablespoon.
Add yogurt and pulse again to mix.
Transfer the paste to the 1/2 gallon jar for fermenting. Replace the screw lid loosely to keep insects out but allow pressure build-up to vent.
Place the jar where you can observe it daily while it ferments, but not in the refrigerator yet.
Daily, remove the lid, stir, smell, and taste the mixture. You will see some bubbles and possibly some mold forming. White mold is good — do not be worried with white mold! Any other color is cause for concern, usually due to the jar not being extremely clean or the chiles not thoroughly washed. Stir any white mold into the mixture.
Store in the refrigerator to slow down fermentation and enjoy!
When the flavors are to your liking, it is done. If left alone, the fermentation will continue for a month or more, but don’t feel you have to wait on it.
Make sure that you have at least one full inch of headspace between the top of the chile paste and the lid, otherwise it can bubble over and make a mess.
We started with fully ripe heirloom Anaheim and Serrano chiles – the Anaheims for flavor with the Serranos providing a nice heat.
The next step was to remove the ‘heat’ from the Serrano chiles by removing the veins and seeds. These contain the capsaicin which is a yellow oil in the seeds and along the veins.
A butter knife worked well to slip into the chile and remove seeds and veins all at once. Note the disposable gloves to protect my hands now and eyes later!
After the chiles and garlic were chopped up in the food processor, the yogurt and salt were added, then pulsed to mix in well. Be careful when pushing the chile mixture down to keep your face away from the opening, as it can be quite pungent, depending on your chile selection!
After the yogurt and salt are added, the chile mixture is transferred to the fermenting jar. We started with the quart jar, but it was too full so we transferred to a half gallon to give it enough space.
After about 5 days, the fermented chile paste was ready to go. The aroma started to mellow after the second day, and by the fourth it had a sauerkraut odor with undertones of chile – surprisingly delicious! We transferred the paste back into a quart jar to store in the refrigerator.
The final product glamor shot!
Stephen Scott is an heirloom seedsman, soil building advocate, locavore, amateur chef, artist, and co-owner, with his wife Cindy, of Terroir Seeds in Chino Valley, Ariz. He has been involved with heirloom seeds, environmental education, habitat restoration, soil health, and building local food pathways for more than twenty years. He’s an author, speaker, and educator on seed, soil, food, and health and how they relate to and strengthen each other. Their motto is “From the soil to the seed to the food you eat.”
Week one of our contest presented some tough decisions for our editorial team. We were all impressed with the variety, beauty, and technical accomplishments of this week’s entries. John Morey’s moody Breaking the Sorrows of the Storm, Lack of Precipitation at Willow Lake by Jag Fergus, and the serene Mid-winter at Bosque del Apache by Dawn Santiago were some of our favorites.
In the end though, we all agreed that the balance of light and dark, the starkness of the cinder cone contrasting with the watercolor clouds and the pine trees, and the eye-catching subtle rainbow were an excellent representation of this week’s theme of precipitation.
Congratulations to Bob Miller! Please email aarond – at -rionuevo dot com and he’ll get one of our fine books in the mail to you. Your photo will become a finalist for the grand prize.
This week’s theme is open for submissions — show us what Back to School means to you. Post your photos to our Facebook timeline before midnight MST on Wednesday October 22. We’ll announce the week two winner on the 24th. And don’t forget to remind your friends to vote for their favorites — the people’s choice competition will run throughout the entire contest.
Thanks to everyone who entered week one of the contest. We judges have our work cut out for us! We’ll announce the winner tomorrow, but in the meantime, the people’s choice competition continues, so encourage people to like your photos.
Fall is a bittersweet time if you’re a kid, but it’s also exciting — new books, new shoes, new and old friends, football, and early mornings waiting for the school bus. Our theme this week is Back To School. Show us what that looks like in your world, whether it’s the lunch you pack for the kiddos every day, or your Wildcat (or Devil, or Bruin, or Buff) pride before the big game. Be creative!
Post your photos to our timeline — no more than three per person, please — any time between now and midnight next Wednesday. We’ll announce the winner next Friday. Happy shooting!
Ah, Oktoberfest. The scorching heat has finally broken here in the desert, and we also have a good excuse to eat brats and drink German beer. What could be better? Having experienced the real Oktoberfest in Munich, which has no match, I tried to think how I could bring a little of that to my home in Tucson without overworking myself too much. Pretzels! Those delicious, giant soft pretzels (Brezel in German) are wonderful and something I had never before attempted to make.
Lye is what gives pretzels that delectable, golden brown outer skin, but it is hazardous to work with and not for the amateur. I was pleased to find that baking soda is a viable and commonly used alternative. I settled on Alton Brown’s recipe, since I love his show Good Eats, and I have always had good luck with his recipes. The procedure is actually quite simple—you just have to follow the steps exactly. Soon enough my house was filled with the delicious smell of pretzels, and they didn’t come out half bad for a first attempt! I quickly found that a low, wide pot is much easier to work with than a tall one for the baking soda bath, and make sure you have a large sturdy spatula—one that is too flexible won’t lift out the fragile pretzels effectively.
The next order of business was to seek out some quality bratwurst or other sausage. The Sausage Shop in Tucson was just the ticket. They have just about every kind of brat you could ever want, plus many other specialty sausages. I was in there for about five minutes and smelled like smoked meat for several hours (a pleasant smell though it kept making me hungry).
If you can’t make it to Munich this year (and everyone should at least once!), try your hand at baking pretzels. They aren’t very difficult, but the result is impressive. Pair with some good mustard and they will go fast.
Here is what our staff is reading this month. We would love to hear what you are reading, love it or hate it, too!
review by Jim Turner
I told the owner of Book Tales, in Encinitas, California, that I like “bookworm mysteries” that cover bibliophiles, history, or time travel, like John Dunning’s Bookman series, Josephine Tey’s Daughter of Time, and Jack Finney’s Time and Again. She recommended Joanne Dobson, who writes a series about a contemporary assistant professor of english, but Dobson also writes history mysteries. Face of the Enemy: A New York Wartime Mystery takes place right after the Pearl Harbor bombing. A Japanese artist (daughter of a Japanese cabinet minister), is immediately interned on Ellis Island as an enemy alien, and she’s also accused of murdering an art gallery owner. Dobson weaves WWII public hysteria toward Japanese and Germans throughout the book, and also includes pro-German and anti-war factions. The story is told through the eyes of a nurse turned detective and her roommates, including a woman reporter and a Katharine Hepburn–style strong-willed socialite. The plot was tricky enough that I wasn’t sure I had the right culprit until the end. Once again, asking a bookseller what to read definitely paid off.
Slow Learner: Early Stories, by Thomas Pynchon
In the Introduction to Slow Learner, Pynchon gives every reason he can think of why the stories the reader is about to devour are simply no good. They are immature, amateurish affairs, he claims. At first I thought, “But that’s absurd. He’s one of our finest living writers, if he is, in fact, still living that is.” The first story suggested he was being overly modest. Of course it’s brilliant! It’s Pynchon! But as I read the next four, and they got progressively incoherent, less masterful, and rather boring, I decided that maybe he was correct after all and that we should have listened to him from the start. In fact, because he’s such a recluse with so little known about him, the Introduction, which at least gives a bit of insight into his methods, turns out to be the most valuable work in the book. So if you stumble across this book, read the Introduction. And then toss it aside and read The Crying of Lot 49 instead.
review by Sylvia Leon
If you are not into the average, young love story, then As Simple As Snow is the book for you. Author Gregory Galloway takes you on mystery ride with hints and codes for your eyes only. Within the first paragraph you know you are about to read a love story unlike any you have ever read before, but with that being said, I hope you are be able to figure out the story better than I did. I appreciated the unique approach to love but I found myself with more questions than answers by the end.
Welcome to the first week of our Fall photo contest. Moisture, or the lack thereof, is always front-of-mind for people living in the West. Whether it’s a wildly dramatic thunderstorm in the desert, a paralyzing blizzard in the Rockies, or the parching drought in California, precipitation is a frequent topic of conversation.
For this week’s theme, show us your favorite images of precipitation, it’s after-effects, or the impact of not having any. Post your entries (no more than three per/photographer, please) to our Facebook timeline by midnight (MST) Wednesday, the 15th. We’ll announce the winner on the following Friday.
One note — the time around, the people’s choice award will be determined by the largest number of Facebook likes during the four weeks of the contest, so after you post your photos, encourage your friends to like them. Let’s build some buzz!
We’re looking forward to seeing your creativity. Good luck!
By Linda McKittrick
Sleeping is sweet here in the Old Pueblo this time of year, with doors and windows opened to October air. Of course, when we open to one thing, we open to others as well, and the smell that wafted in the bedroom door just now as a band of javelina meandered past was so potent it awakened me early this morning. I never saw nor heard them. Unable to return to sleep, I walked outside – the constellation Orion is twinkling as he arises in the eastern sky, as I write.
Yesterday at the front door, a small crew of hardworking men appeared in want of a quick meal. Not exactly prepared for this, I rooted around for whatever was on hand to work/cook with. A bottle of beer had strayed from its pack and offered itself up. The fridge held a bag of shrimp that were in need of cooking or of perishing a second time. Red chiltepin drying on the table called out to be used. An idea began to bubble up and form froth on top. I love feeling in the midst of a new invention, even if it is new only to me. It’s highly likely this recipe has been made a a hundred times in a hundred variations before it ever occurred to me. I had some red quinoa on hand, as well as some early spicy arugula from the garden, so I decided to cook the shrimp in a beer-chile broth and make a hearty salad. I considered adding some pomegranate seeds for a tart-sweet crunch.
Drunken & Spicy Camarones Cerveza
Half a small onion, chopped
2 tablespoons chopped garlic
2 tablespoons olive oil
12 chiltepin or cayenne to taste
2 tablespoons or more fresh herbs, one for cooking and one for flavoring once cooked
1 bottle cerveza, 12 ounces
One dozen shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 cups cooked quinoa or wild rice
4 cups fresh greens
Pomegranate seeds and fresh herbs for garnish
Cook the onion and garlic in the olive oil along with the chiltepin, adding some basil from the garden (or any fresh herb of your choosing) for a bit of flavor. It’s probably wisest to add the herbs and chilies at the end so the flavors don’t cook out, but I wanted to create a bubbling brew of multiple flavors, so I added it all in.
As the shrimp cook in the bubbling mixture, they transform from a gray color with a straight posture to pink and curled. Make sure the shrimp is cooked through before serving. I added a bit of salt at the end, along with more chile and herbs.
Remove from heat and toss together the cooked shrimp, quinoa, and greens. Garnish with the pomegranate seeds and fresh herbs. Serve immediately.
Note: I had enough of the spicy beer-shrimp broth left over (and did not want to add it to my shrimp-quinoa-salad), so I added it to a pot of tomato soup and it was DELICIOUS. Have it with sandwiches (grilled cheese and shrimp sandwiches, perhaps).
While the shrimp were transforming in their beer-brew in front of me, the aroma invited a question: Where did the word cerveza originate? I quickly looked up the word origin for cerveza and found this:
“The Romans called their brew “cerevisia,” from Ceres, the goddess of agriculture, and vis, Latin for “strength.”
Ceres. Goddess of Agriculture. It is amazing who you can meet hiding quietly inside a word.
One more note: I HIGHLY encourage you to read Paul Greenberg’s book, American Catch: The Fight for Our Local Seafood. There have been several great interviews with him on NPR if you prefer to listen. The Mother Goddess would, I feel, encourage us to empower ourselves with such knowledge. Then we can more skillfully impact our food systems.
Linda is both an urban and a rural food producer. She ranches in the Sierra Madre foothills in Northern Mexico. She also keeps honeybees and fosters native bee habitat in the urban Southwest. She enjoys raising poultry, with a special fondness for heirloom breeds. She sees herself as an extension of the hives, flocks, and herds among which she lives. A version of this post originally appeared on her blog, Savor the Southwest.
“Ghost Riders in the Sky” has to be one of the most recorded songs in history, its global popularity spanning more than half a century. The range of artists who recorded it is even more remarkable, from the Norman Luboff Choir and Lawrence Welk’s dance orchestra to Finnish black metal groups like Children of Bodom and Impaled Nazarene.
The original version by songwriter Stan Jones was recorded in late 1948. Stan’s new friend at the time, best-selling “Nature Boy” composer Eden Ahbez, sent the song to Burl Ives, who recorded it for Columbia Records a year later. It was on Billboard magazine’s “Best Seller in Stores” chart for six weeks, peaking at number twenty-one.
Vaughn Monroe, the popular “Baritone with Muscles,” dropped the word ghost from the title and recorded “Riders in the Sky” for RCA Victor in 1949. It hit the charts on April 15th, skyrocketed to number one by May 14th, and stayed on the charts for twenty-two weeks. Bing Crosby and Peggy Lee recordings also did well. Bing’s reached number fourteen in sales and Peggy’s rendition reached number two on Billboard’s “Most Played by Disc Jockeys” list. Spike Jones and his City Slickers poked fun at RCA stockholder Monroe, then laughed all the way to the bank with their own profits from their parody line, “ ’cause all we hear is Ghost Riders sung by Vaughn Monroe, I can do without his singing but I wish I had his dough.”
Those recordings did so well that not many challengers appeared in the 1950s. However, because of its opportunity for resounding guitar solos, surf rockers picked it up again in the early 1960s. In 1963, Dick Dale and the Del-Tones released the album King of the Surf Guitar with a two-minute version of “Riders in the Sky” with future recording stars Glenn Campbell on back-up guitar and Leon Russell on piano.
The Ramrods’ twangy guitar instrumental, awash with sounds of cattle mooing, cowboys shouting, and whips cracking, made the Billboard Top 30 in 1961, and hit number eight on the United Kingdom pop charts as well.In keeping with the surfing theme, The Ventures and the Mexican band Los Beatniks caught the wave and each recorded the song in 1961. The Baja Marimba Band, Frankie Laine, and even Tom Jones also took a crack at it in the 1960s.
Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash both recorded “Ghost Riders” in the 1970s, with Cash performing it on the Muppet Show in 1980. The southern rock band The Outlaws’ recording reached number thirty-one on the charts in 1980.
In the 1990s, Debbie Harry (lead singer for Blondie) and horror film star Christopher Lee put their spins on the now iconic Western ballad. A wide variety of artists continue to record the song to this day.
The Blues Brothers performed the song in the 1998 movie Blues Brothers 2000. In 1999, musicologist Ned Sublette included a merengue rendition on his album, Cowboy Rumba. Judy Collins, with the Nashville Rhythm Section, covered ”Ghost Riders in the Sky” on her 2010 album Paradise. And finally, Gorlock, a Utah death metal band, covered it on their 2011 EP entitled Despair is My Mistress.
The Boston Pops Orchestra, R.E.M., Roy Clark, and The Tubes also recorded it, and many more. But that’s not all; the song’s centuries-old legend, devilish focus, and haunting melody echoing “When Johnny Comes Marching Home,” has caused European bands to record the song in droves for several decades now. The Swedish instrumental band the Spotnicks rocked it in 1962.
Pedro Vargas, a movie star in Mexico from the 1930s to the 1970s, recorded a Spanish language version, “Jinetes en el Cielo,” for RCA Victor. Los Baby’s, a Yucatan (Mexico) rock band, also recorded “Jinetes” in the 1960s.
In England, The Shadows’ version reached number twelve on the UK Singles Chart in 1980, and Australian band the Fabulaires put it on vinyl about the same time.
Capitol Records’ teen idol Dean “Red Elvis” Reed (whose politics drove him to move to East Germany in 1973) recorded the song there and in Czechoslovakia in 1982. Die Children of Bodom, a melodic death metal band from Espoo, Finland, recorded it around 1993, as did Impaled Nazarene, a Finnish black metal/grindcore punk rock band. Apokalyptischen Reiter (The Apocalyptic Horsemen), a German heavy metal band recorded it for Nuclear Blast recording studios in Europe and The End Records in North America. And of course, “Ghost Riders” was the perfect song for Danish cowpunk band Disneyland After Dark (later just D-A-D) to record in 1986.
Up in cowboy heaven, “Ghost Riders in the Sky” composer Stan Jones must be amazed and delighted by the phenomenal trajectory of this simple song he picked out on his Martin tenor guitar under the stars on his ranger cabin porch in Death Valley sixty-six years ago. To learn more about the song and its composer, check out Rio Nuevo Publishers’ new book, Ghost Riders in the Sky: The Life of Stan Jones, the Singing Ranger, by Mike Ward.
Jim Turner is an historian, editor, teacher, researcher, and author. He received his masters degree in U.S. history from the University of Arizona and is now an editor for Rio Nuevo Publishers. He writes history articles for various newspapers around the state, and his pictorial history book, “Arizona: Celebrating the Grand Canyon State,” was named a “Top Pick” for Southwest Books of the Year by the Friends of the Pima County Library. You may reach him at email@example.com.