I hope you’re not getting sick of my (slight) obsession with fermentation lately. Between all the brassicas I keep getting from my CSA workshare at the farm and the cool temps that help to keep ferments from spoiling, it’s hard to find a reason to NOT ferment.
I’ve written about Mr. Lebovitz’ kimchi before, but have been using Mr. Katz’ technique and ingredient guidelines for some time now. As those beloved tender summer crops stop producing with the prospect of frost later this week (bye bye eggplant, peppers, and beans), my focus has switched back over to greens, roots, and stems. Sandor’s guidelines for kimchi, a nutrient-rich dish typically featuring fermented Asian cabbage, leave the door open for endless flavor and texture experiences to try out before the snow flies.
Yields about one quart
- 1 lb Chinese cabbage (Napa, bok choy, pac choi), roughly chopped
- 1 daikon radish or a few red radishes (can also substitute or add kohlrabi or salad turnips), sliced thin or grated
- 1-2 carrots (can substitute or add foraged burdock root)
- 3-4 cloves garlic, finely grated (I use a microplane grater for all fine grating)
- 1-2 small onions, leeks, shallots, or a small bunch of scallions, finely grated or sliced thin
- 2-4 hot red peppers (I used two smallish red ghost peppers, seeds removed), finely grated or sliced thin
- 1 small apple or pear, with or without peel, finely grated
- 3 tbsp fresh ginger, finely grated
- 1-2 tsp chili powder, if desired (I used New Mexican chili powder for added color)
- unchlorinated water (I used distilled)
WARNING: I STRONGLY suggest you wear food-safe gloves when preparing the hot peppers and hand-tossing the kimchi as certain varieties of hot peppers can burn and sting your skin and eyes.
Prepare the cabbage, radish, and carrots (or any substituted veggies) as indicated and combine in a large, non-reactive bowl or pot. Add enough brine (1 tbsp salt : 1 cup H20) to cover the veggies; use a clean plate to keep the veggies submerged. Soak the mixture until the veggies soften slightly; the amount of time this takes depends on your ingredients (could be a few hours, could be overnight).
While the veggies soak, make the kimchi flavor “paste:” you can do this by buzzing all of the paste ingredients, whole, in a food processor or the old-fashion way, finely grating and stirring your ingredients together. I have a food processor now but would rather just put in the extra few minutes to do it with the grater, which is small and easy to wash (I’ve only once lived in a place with a dishwasher, and that was a short three months). Set the paste aside until your veggies are ready.
When softened, drain the veggies, reserving the brine. Taste the vegetables for saltiness, which Sandor terms “… decidedly salty, but not unpleasantly so.” If they are not salty enough, sprinkle with a teaspoon or more salt, mix, and taste again; if too salty, rinse, drain, and taste. Place the veggies back in the large bowl and toss with the paste (and scallions or hot pepper, if you sliced these) using gloved hands or tongs until the vegetable pieces are well-coated with the paste.
Pack into a sterilized jar so that brine rises above the vegetables; if needed, add enough reserved brine to do this. Place a clean weight (i.e. a saucer, or a jar or zip-lock bag filled with water) to keep the veggies submerged; you can also use clean fingers or a clean spoon to push down the ferment every day. Cover the jar with a clean, breathable cloth secured with a rubberband to keep out dust and flies. Set aside; sample daily, transferring the kimchi to the refrigerator when it tastes ripe, about one week.
Recipe slightly adapted from “Baechu (Cabbage) Kimchi” guidelines set forth in Wild Fermentation by Sandor Katz.