My mouth begins to water just thinking about my homemade white kimchi. Still amazes me that just a few months ago I had never thought of preparing white kimchi or any other kind of kimchi. Especially since I had only tried it maybe once or twice in my life.
Gotta take a fermentation journey
Making sauerkraut had been on my mind since early last year. Having no place to store a crock, nor interest in paying over a hundred dollars for a crock, the idea faded to the background.
Everything changed in September last year while visiting our new grandson in Brooklyn. While researching the Brooklyn Botanical Garden I discovered a class on sauerkraut taking place there during our visit. I immediately signed up. From Michaela Hayes of Crock and Jar I learned how easily sauerkraut can be made and fermented in a glass canning jar. Plus I came away with a tasty recipe for Cabbage, Apple and Fennel Kraut and the desire to learn more.
An email awaited me in Bozeman. The founders of the local chapter of the Weston A. Price Foundation were giving on all-day Fermentation Basics Workshop. So glad I attended. I learned and tasted all manner of ferments from beverages to crème fraiche to waffles to fruits and vegetables. Thank you Rebekah Mocerino and Kaelin Kiesel-Germann. That’s where I tasted and immediately loved Rebekah’s White Kimchi. Ever since that fateful day I’ve been successfully fermenting vegetables, mustard, fig jam and (as of today) beet and carrot kvass.
Easy does it—natural fermentation in 8 basic steps
Each of this month’s recipes can easily be made in small batches in your own kitchen. Sharp knives, a food processor, a large bowl, a wooden pounder (or your hands) and some wide-mouth pint, quart and half-gallon canning jars are all you’ll need to get started. The quality of your ingredients matters. Do your best to use in-season, organic vegetables and fruits, high quality sea salt and pure water as lactobacilli require lots of nutrients to do their work.
The 8 basic steps to fermentation:
- Wash your vegetables and fruits. Peel them if not organic.
- Cut them up or blend them according to your recipe.
- Combine them with salt, herbs, spices and/or whey.
- Do a bit of mashing with your hands, a kraut pounder or a wooden pestle to break down cell walls and release juices.
- Press everything into an air tight container leaving 1½ to 2 inches of space between the ingredients and their liquid and the top of the container. This is important as the juices expand during fermentation.
- Weigh down the ferment to keep the ingredients completely covered with their juices. I like to use http://www.culturesforhealth.com/large-ceramic-fermentation-weight.htmlglass weights and small glass jars filled with water.
- Store at room temperature. While some ferments will take from 3-5 days, others without whey will take a number of weeks. Check individual recipes for recommendations.
- Transfer the containers to a refrigerator (or similarly cold conditions) for long-term preservation.
During the almost 4 months that I’ve been fermenting, each of my ferments has been successful. So I don’t have firsthand experience with a bad batch. I understand, though, you’ll know if it’s bad by a smell so strong that you won’t be at all tempted to try it. On the other hand, a good ferment will have some or a number of these qualities:
- Sour though aromatic smell
- Increase in liquid content
- Cloudy brine
- Dimming of color
- Softening texture
A Fermenting We Will Go
Natural fermentation is a sustainable, low-tech method of preserving food that offers incredible health benefits. There may be a period of fine-tuning as your body and palette adjust to the flavors and increased activity in your gut. I hope you enjoy the journey and begin adding these unbelievably healthy and delicious foods into your diet soon.
Inspired by and adapted from a recipe from Rebekah Mocerino.
This milder, fresher, easier version of spicy Korean Kimchi (pickled cabbage) is prepared without the red chile paste. Make this recipe as hot and spicy or mild as you like by increasing or decreasing the amounts of ginger, garlic and pepper to taste.
Kimchi has long been touted as a health superfood that can reduce the risk of cancer, lower cholesterol, aid digestion and fight infection. How much kimchi to eat is individual—start with 1-2 tablespoons and increase as desired.
Makes approximately 1 gallon
Active time: 45 minutes
Total time: 1¼ hours plus 3-4 days for fermentation
3½ pounds Napa cabbage
1½ pounds daikon radish
1¼ pounds carrots
2 bunches green onions
4-6 cloves garlic, peeled
3-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled, cut into chunks
1 large jalapeño or Serrano pepper, halved, seeded, quartered
¼ teaspoon Aleppo pepper or other red pepper flakes
2½ tablespoons high quality sea salt
½ cup whey OR 1 additional tablespoon salt
- Quarter the Napa cabbage lengthwise. Remove the core. Cut each quarter lengthwise in half again. Then slice crosswise into approximately 1-inch pieces. Measure the cabbage. You want 16-20 cups of cabbage. Place the cabbage into your largest bowl or large soup pot and sprinkle with 1 tablespoon of the salt.
- Wash the carrots and daikon. No need to peel them if they are organic. Trim off the root end. Slice in a food processor using the #12 disc. You want 6-7 cups of sliced daikon and an equal amount of sliced carrot. If you prefer the carrot softer, you can grate it instead of slicing it. Place the sliced carrots and daikon on top of the cabbage and sprinkle them with 1 tablespoon of the salt.
- Wash and thinly slice the green onions, using both the white and dark green parts. Add them to the rest of the vegetables.
- With the food processor running (with the “S” blade), drop the garlic, ginger and chile pepper through the feed tube. Process till minced. Add this mixture along with the pepper flakes and remaining ½ tablespoon salt to the vegetables. Mix everything together. Let the mixture sit for 30 minutes. The salt will begin drawing out liquid from the vegetables.
- Use your hands, a kraut pounder or a wooden pestle to mash the vegetables and draw out more of their liquid. This will take about 5-10 minutes. There will be a thin layer of liquid in the bottom of your container.
- Stir in the whey.
- Transfer the vegetables and all the liquid into 2 clean half-gallon, wide-mouth canning jars. Press down on the vegetables until the juices rise to the top completely submerging the vegetables.
- Leave 1½ – 2 inches of space between the top of the liquid and the top of the jar.
- Place a glass weight on top of the vegetables. Fill a small glass jar (that can fit inside the canning jar) with water and tighten its lid. Use this jar as a weight on top of the glass weight. Together they will keep the vegetables submerged in the liquid. I also like to put a plastic bag upside down over the jars. I then tighten the bag in place using a rubber band. Note that the plastic is not in contact with the food.
- Store the jars in a dark cupboard for 3-4 days (4 days during the colder months, 3 days perhaps during the summer—experiment according to your taste).
- Remove the weights, put a lid on the jars and transfer them to the refrigerator.
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