3:01 PM EST
6:55 AM EST
A lot of folks get bent out of shape when it comes to English language words used to describe makgeolli (막걸리). This Korean spirit is commonly referred to as rice wine – which it isn’t (cheongju (청주) is Korean rice wine) – or rice beer, which isn’t accurate, either. Moreover, to boost its popularity overseas, the Korean government has pushed the admittedly silly sounding moniker, drunken rice. Since its fermentation process is unique and there are no suitable English names for it we’re actually fine with calling makgeolli a type of rice wine, though it is probably best to just call it by its Korean name, akin to the naming convention for Japanese saké, another rice-based beverage which technically isn’t wine.
Gyeongju Beop Ju Ssal (L) and Kook Soon Dang (R) makgeolli.
Made from boiled rice and nuruk (누룩), a traditional Korean fermentation starter (primarily Aspergillus oryzae and a number of symbiotic fungi), makgeolli has about the same alcohol content of most beers (6%) and the appearance of unfiltered saké (muroka, 無濾過). Makgeolli can also be either still or slightly effervescent. Its flavor is mild, crisp and pleasantly sour – though makgeolli is usually sweetened to offset the yeasty, sour flavor and ginseng and various fruits can also be added at the end of its simple brewing process.
Korean advertisement for powdered nuruk (누룩) used by homebrewers to make makgeolli.
Makgeolli was commonly made at home and like beer in the United States, this practice is experiencing a resurgence (there’s even a group, Makgeolli Mamas & Papas, which offers classes and provides a forum of enthusiasts). We were told manufacturing technology has improved drastically over the past few years; consequently store-bought makgeolli tastes much more like delicious homemade brews.
Note: Like most Korean words, makgeolli has been transliterated in a number of different ways including makkeolli, makkoli, makoli, makguli, and makuly. They are all the same thing. It is also called takju (탁주) – opaque liquor – and nongju (농주) – farmers’ liquor – and is nearly indistinguishable from dongdongju (동동주), a spirit of higher alcohol content made during the makgeolli brewing process. To add to the confusion yakju (약주) – medicinal liquor – is made exactly like makgeolli but carefully filtered to produce a clear finished product.
9:50 AM EST
Sichuan-Style Pickled Snake Beans have to be one of the most exotic looking dishes we’ve presented on the blog. Reminiscent of snake wine (蛇酒), these pickled beans also pack quite the punch owing to the recipe’s healthy quantity of garlic, ginger, white peppercorns, Sichuan pepper and crushed red pepper flakes. Either eat them like an ordinary pickle or chop them up and add to stir-fries.
Purple and green organic snake beans at the Union Square Greenmarket. When cooked the purple beans turn green.
Are you wondering what snake beans are? Also known as yard-long beans, Chinese long beans or, in Chinese, jiang dou (豇豆), they are a type of vine bean grown throughout Southern Asia. They are thinner than Western hericots verts (i.e., green beans / string beans) but can be prepared in much the same way. Snake beans are available at many Asian groceries but if you have trouble finding them feel free to substitute fresh string beans.
Finally, most American canning recipes assume Ball or Kerr canning jars will be used. The problem with these jars is that they are rather narrow, making the dramatic twisted packing of snake beans a bit onerous. We use Weck canning jars instead which require a slightly different preparation but no separate canning procedures. For more on Weck jars check out the great tutorial over at Food in Jars. If you can’t be bothered feel free to use standard canning jars though you may need to chop your beans.
• 4 lbs (1.8 kg) snake beans, tips removed
• 6 cloves of garlic, smashed
• 6 ginger coins (i.e., slice of fresh ginger)
• 1 tablespoon whole white peppercorns
• 1 tablespoon Sichuan pepper
• 1 tablespoon crushed red pepper flakes
• 2 whole star anise pods
• 3 cups white vinegar
• 3 cups water
• 3 tablespoons soy sauce
• 4 (500 mL) Weck jars or 5-6 standard pint canning jars
Combine all of the ingredients in a large pot and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat and allow the ingredients to stand for 5-10 minutes. Divide the garlic, ginger, star anise pods and other spices evenly amongst the jars (break apart the star anise pod, slice the garlic/ginger as needed). When beans are cool enough to handle but still hot, twist a bunch into a prepared jar. The jar should be tightly packed but there should also be a half-inch (1.3 cm) of headspace between the beans and rim. Add some sliced beans to the center of the jar to fill it out. Finally, pour in the reserved vinegar solution, again leaving a half-inch of headspace. Process in a water bath canner for 10 minutes.
P.S. Need a reminder on how to safely can? Check out the website for the National Center for Home Food Preservation (http://nchfp.uga.edu/). You don’t have to process these beans in a water bath canner if you don’t want to but you’ll need to store them in the refrigerator and consume them within a few weeks.
6:52 AM EST
The test kitchen’s favorite cooking magazines (in alphabetical order):
…Anything foreign. Even if we can’t read the text, magazines from different countries are fascinating. The different ways food is presented, the volume of text dedicated to instruction (usually surprisingly little compared to the US), how “ethnic food” in the magazine’s home country is approached, and advertising are all incredibly interesting.
Garden & Gun. If you’re not familiar with this lifestyle magazine it is like chic Southern version of Country Living. Wonderful editorials, luscious photography and fantastic regional food and cocktail features.
Martha Stewart Living has really stepped up its culinary game over the past few years. Beautiful photography and food styling, interesting seasonal recipes and, as always, Ms. Stewart’s love of cocktails.
Saveur celebrates authentic cuisine by applying a journalistic approach to its content. Think National Geographic rebranded as a cooking magazine. Stories typically feature an author’s personal journey and stand on their own as literary essays. Consequently, these stories provide rich cultural context for the accompanying recipes. Digital content is also excellent. By far our favorite journal of the bunch.
…No Longer On Our List: Bon Appétit promotes smoking, the leading cause of preventable death, by regularly advertising cigarettes in its pages. The magazine has also become somewhat of an uninspired recipe clearinghouse. Needless to say, we haven’t renewed our subscription.
6:23 AM EST
Know Your Ingredients: Charoli (चारोली)
The seeds of an evergreen tree (Buchanania lanzan), Charoli (Hindi: चारोली; Marathi: चारोळी; Gujarati: ચારોળી), also known as Chironji (Hindi: चिरौन्जी; Urdu: چرونجي), have a lovely almond flavor. Grown primarily in northwestern India, they are added to various desserts (e.g., chironji ki barfi) and batters but are also used to thicken and lend richness to savory sauces. Like pine nuts, which they bear a striking resemblance to, charoli can be eaten whole but their flavor improves when lightly toasted.
Charoli are available at larger Indian grocery stores (we buy them at Jersey City’s Apna Bazar).