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The Latest Fermentation Experiment

This evening I decided to try a new fermentation project: Kimchi.  This is a Korean side dish that I’ve eaten a number of times and quite enjoyed.  It is essentially spicy pickled cabbage with some other veggies such as radish and carrot mixed in.  My sister-in-law is Korean and I had planned on sending down a sample of this homemade kimchi for her to evaluate.  However, it’s production is a bit more involved than I expected and so I have postponed the taste test for now.  I will make this batch and then try it out myself and on my local family members.  If we like it, I will then send some on to Ithaca.

The recipe I have for Kimchi is from the book Wild Fermentation, which I am enjoying immensely.  I have found a number of recipes I hope to try in this book, but the Kimchi is the first.  I decided to explore this in part because of my Korean connection, and in part because I had a napa cabbage, daikon radishes and some bok choi in my CSA box a couple of weeks ago.  All of these are key ingredients for Kimchi, and quite frankly I really didn’t know what else to do with them!

The recipe calls for the soaking of chopped cabbage, radish, carrot and bok choi in very salty brine overnight.  It only took me a few minutes to coarsely chop the veggies in question and submerge them in the salt water.  They will sit there overnight and tomorrow morning I will finish the procedure.  This involves making a paste of hot chilis, garlic, onions and fresh ginger – yes, this is a spicy dish! – adding it the soaked and drained vegetables, and then packing it all very tightly into liter jars with lids, and left to ferment.  A very simple initial assembly process, but baby sitting of the jars makes this process a bit high maintenance.  The same is true of making sauerkraut.  For the first week you must check the jars once or twice daily.  Gas forms as the fermentation process starts, making the whole thing bubble.  This pushes the veggies above the surface of the brine.  You must “burp” the jars and then push the veggies back down, once or twice a day for the first 5-7 days.  Eventually the bubbles stop and you can just let it sit and ferment until it achieves a flavour to your liking.  At that point you put it in the fridge to slow the fermentation right down.

I am almost through my last batch of sauerkraut and need to make some of that up as well.  I had wanted to bring along the ingredients since I have them all my extra fridge at home.  But I simply did not have room in my car for a big basket of veggies and a box of jars.  Fortunately the key ingredients all last a long time in the fridge and should be fine still when I get home in early January.

I have also been waking up some sourdough starter as I need to make bread.  Unfortunately I left my cookbook behind.  Tomorrow or Monday I will spend some time searching on the internet for a replacement recipe and give it a try.  Oh, I guess that means I need to also buy a pizza stone as I forgot to bring that as well (mine is broken and I have been meaning to buy a new one for ages anyway).  Hopefully they will have some at the mall, which I reluctantly need to visit tomorrow to buy food.  Unfortunately I don’t have the connections here in Niagara that I have in the Southwest and must shop at the grocery store.  I am almost out of yogurt and need to get some milk to make more, and a few other basics to carry on.

I will report on the results of the Kimchi experiment in a week or so, after it’s had time to ferment for a while.  Hopefully I’ll be able to produce something at least marginally resembling the dish I am attempting!

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