Food to Power

First, an introduction. This is Food to Power’s first recipe column in the Southeast Express and we are excited to be here. Based in the Hillside neighborhood, Food to Power used to be known as Colorado Springs Food Rescue. Since 2015 we’ve been moving food from where it is abundant to where it is needed. 

During the past few years our mission is to foster a thriving, equitable food system in the Springs, not just redistributing food. We now offer composting, educational programs, and are building a food hub and urban farm right in Hillside in addition to our grocery programs. We can’t wait to invite you to our grand opening, when construction wraps up. We’ll use this space to share recipes, food preservation tips and other food-related advice.

For October, it is harvest time! At Food to Power we are all about reducing waste, so at this time of year we look for ways to preserve the garden bounty to ensure we can taste summer all year long.  One of our favorite low-tech ways to preserve food is through fermentation. Fermentation shows up in food cultures across the world. Cheese, dill pickles, kimchi and amba are just a few examples of fermented foods we love. 

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Erin Taylor

Fermenting vegetables takes control of the natural process of microorganisms (in this case, lactobacilli) breaking down the sugars or carbohydrates in our foods. These microorganisms exist naturally in many of our favorite vegetables. By controlling the salt, oxygen and temperature in their environment, we can control how fast they convert those sugars into acid and carbon dioxide and create delicious and complex flavors. 

This year our summer FLY interns helped care for the community garden at the Hillside Community Center. In September the garden was overflowing with beautiful hot peppers, so we decided to try out a fermented hot sauce. With just the peppers, salt, water, and some garlic we ended up with a big jar of hot sauce we can dip into all winter to remember the delicious heat of our summer together. 


 Ingredients

1 cup hot peppers (of your choice)

1 tsp salt

3-5 cloves of garlic

Water

Equipment

Knife and cutting board

A small bowl

A clean jar, or any glass or ceramic container (don’t use plastic)

A plate to go under the jar while you’re fermenting

Something clean to weigh down your peppers, such as a smooth clean rock or a resealable plastic bag full of water

Blender, food processor, immersion blender, mortar and pestle, or some other way to crush the peppers at the end.


 Directions

Clean all of your equipment! When fermenting, it’s important to make sure we are only introducing the microorganisms we want to introduce. It is important to thoroughly clean knives, cutting boards, and your container with soap and water to make sure no other microbes get into your sauce.

Chop your peppers and garlic coarsely. You’ll end up blending them at the end, so don’t worry about how finely you chop. If you don’t have access to a blender or food processor, mince the veggies finely at this step so that you do not have to do any more chopping later.

In your small bowl, dissolve the salt in about ¼ cup of room temperature or warm water. Do NOT use hot water. Hot water will kill the microbes that do the fermenting.

Put the peppers and garlic into the container you’ll be using for fermentation. A glass jar is great, but any glass or ceramic container will work. Metal and plastic are affected by the chemical process of fermentation so they are not ideal. 

Pour your salt water over the peppers and garlic. Then add more water until all of the veggies are submerged. 

Place your weight on top of the veggies to make sure they stay under water. Fermentation is an anaerobic process, meaning it has to happen without oxygen. Putting everything under water keeps air, and oxygen, out. Filling a sealable bag with water and placing that on top of the vegetables is an easy and inexpensive strategy.

Set the container on top of a plate or tray and put it in a spot where it can sit for a few weeks, or even a month. As the peppers ferment, they’ll produce gas and bubbles. So, the water will spill out a little bit, which is why you need a plate. 

After 3-4 weeks, your vegetables are fermented! If you have a blender or food processor, strain out the water and pulse your peppers until you get the texture you want. Then, taste it! You can add sugar, more salt, or other flavors as desired. Seal your container and put it in the refrigerator.

This recipe was adapted from the fermented hot sauce instructions in Sandor Katz’s “The Art of Fermentation.” 

Erin Taylor is the education director at Food to Power.