Fermenting My Way Through Summer: Pipinola/Chayote

For those growing in Hawaii, we know Pipinola, also known as Chayote, but we may not know what to do with it.  This squash relative is a big climber, which can be a blessing, or not so much, depending on where it is growing.  Edible from the chestnut like seed, to the fruit, leaves, and even the tasty stem tips too.  Like all squash, every single bit of it is useful, and edible. Even the pig adores them, as she crunches them like apples.  They do not have a great deal of nutrients, nor do they have a lot of flavor, which brought me to ask, “what do I do with a bushel of them?”  When conditions are right, they will produce a lot at once.My method is to harvest, and follow by pruning the vines heavily twice a year.  The green material is perfect for adding to your compost, the lush vines help to conserve garden moisture, and they make for a very useful pig food/bedding making for what I call Hannah’s edible bed. The vines will soon produce more than you know what to do with, or at least that is how it was, but now this changes everything.

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As I was sorting through vine and pipinola fruit, separating the split sprouting fruits out so to replant, or fed to the pig. The small medium and even larger ones seemed to have untapped potential. An idea popped into my head:  could this be fermented? I kicked off the rubber boots and looked it up online.  In the Americas, expats often use them for kraut.  There were several references to how they are available in Mexico, Central, and South America, by the bag or bushel.  Elisa Fusi charmed my idea with this wonderful blog post about her organic farming and cooking while visiting Panama.  More and more recipes turned up as I sat by the computer.  I was growing excited, and needed to begin.  I keep couple cases of jars on hand at all times, because, you just never know when a storm is going to hit and you need to put up a bushel of something.

The recipes varied primarily in the way they let the fermentation take place.  Some used jars with lids, some used crocks, one used a bowl covered in plastic wrap.  I decided to use the jars, since my counter space is limited, and having them ferment in the jars seemed one step closer to being completed.

Each recipe called for a slightly different amount of salt as well.  So here is how I did it:

Washed down counter, cutting board, and selected a knife.

Pulled a box of kosher salt and a large glass bowl out of the cabinet.

Washed jars, and set them aside with new lids

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I pulled out the ol’ trusty thrift store Cuisinart, and selected the shred blade, feed tube pusher, and the tool that slides into the shred blade and fits it to the machine. I made a nice work area with several clean dish towels up and out of the way.

I washed and sorted the pipinola/chayote, then quartered or halved them to fit in the food processor feed tube.  I left them clean and in two colanders so to keep them close at hand.  There is no need to dry them.

Next, I rifled through the spice drawer looking for underutilized, but fresh spices.  Several recipes called for caraway seed, which I use in my Irish Beer Bread.  I am sitting on a goldmine of fennel seed and lemon grass too. I pulled some garlic too.

Then I started shredding until I filled the whole container.  Then emptied it into the glass bowl.  I added about 4 teaspoons of salt, to over a quart of shredded squash, a dash of caraway seed, and minced two garlic cloves.  I massaged it all together for about 5 minutes.  In that time, the pipinola begins to foam and release liquid.  I then loaded the soon to be kraut into jars, leaving an inch of room at the top, and pressing the mixture down firmly.  Liquid should cover the kraut.  The lid is screwed on, and they were placed one after the next onto a shelf out of the sun.

I could have walked away at that point, but instead, I kept going.  I had just bought fresh seaweed, and the orange Habanero were producing, and I cannot make anything without pumpkin, I was skidding into a creative buzz.  So I kept going, and trying all kinds of made up combinations.  I treated each in the same manner, of packing the solids down, and having enough brine to cover them.  I backed off on the salt when adding salt-laden seaweed, I pumped up the garlic and chilis to make a sort of “Squash-chi” kraut kimchi combo.

fermentation 101

Each day has begun with my taking five minutes to open them all, release any air pressure that built up, and then smoosh down the solid material so to keep it pressed together, and below the brine line.  We are now at day 4, and I have already eaten a pint through my daily sampling, so do make plenty.  I have just gifted jar today, and I am sure there will be some requests for trades.

I made a trade today, exchanging my pumpkin for zucchini, I thought that that may be nice to use as well.  I picked up some Hawaii grown Sweet onions too.  So the day is filled with promise for fermentation, since I still have most of the bushel of Chayote still to go.  Overall, it was easy, fun, and I felt like it made a great product out of a rather extraordinary harvest.

Three Squashkraut
A gallon jar from a restaurant makes the job easy. A trade with another farmer makes my range more interesting. This is 3 squash kraut with sweet onion.

These will all be refrigerated in the next week.  They will then keep in the fridge for months.

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