Jo Jo Jo!
I know, I know,…Jesus!! It’s been a long time since I have blogged. But I can assure the blogosphere now that it is not personal. Stop the binary tears. I have nothing against the cyber world at this point. Really! It is simply that, as of late, I have been a cyber taker instead of cyber-giver, and happily so. My summer of fun and blogging has slowly and gratefully transitioned into a sleepy winter of internet movies and lounging around…..and well yes..eating too. In light of the holiday season though, I have decided that I could find it within myself to give back to the blogosphere with a little bit of how I’ve been eating.
This installment is really about how I WILL be eating. As you’ll see there is some curing time involved in this one. In this little post here, Joelle and I will be walking you through how to make a really simple version of sauerkraut and kimchi. Both of these traditional ethnic delights (German and Korean respectively) involve a lot of the same basic science and ingredients; cabbage and salt. While Kimchi can really be defined by any of a wide variety of Korean pickled vegetables, it is most commonly known in the US to be some variation of lacto-fermented cabbage and spices. Lacto-whaaa?? Yeah, Lacto-fermented. Lacto-fermentation is the process where lactic acid is produced from sugar. Cabbage’s sugars are naturally converted to lactic acid in an anaerobic environment because of the bacteria that lives on cabbage known as lactobacillus. Traditional kimchi and sauerkraut are not pasteurized (pasteurization kills all of the lactobacillus and other bacteria) and are generally stored for months on end without refrigeration. Cured sauerkraut is extremely high in Vitamin C and contains many probiotics proven to balance vaginal, gastrointestinal systems and fight some kinds of cancer. Beyond all that, it tastes awesome! So here goes it:
Cabbage, Napa, Daikon, Carrot, Ginger, Salt, Basil, Chilis, Salt
Step 1: Get all of your ingredients together. For Kimchi, I use Napa cabbage, carrots, basil, daikon radish, chili peppers and salt. Any good chilis will do, but I usually go for spicier ones. In this case we used Scotch Bonnet and Serrano peppers (usually a 7 out of 10 on the hot scale). I like to use Kosher salt as opposed to pickling salt because it is generally a more accurate product. The general ratio (which we’ll go in to more later) for salt to cabbage is approx. 3 Tbls salt for every 5 lbs cabbage.
Step 2: Wash your damn jars!
Step 3: Wash Your Veggies!
Step 4: Chop em’ up fine! I usually cut the cabbage as thin as I can with a knife but a food processor can sometimes do a much better job at getting really thin uniform slices. As for the rest of the veggies in kimchi I like to have them in thin slices as well. They usually take a bit longer to break down than the cabbage so you don’t want them overly chunky. Thinner slices will allow the veggies to start to ferment as well as the cabbage.
Use a blunt wooden spoon for this bit. Nothing aluminum.
Step 5: Add all ingredients to a large bowl or pot and mash the shit out of it with a wooden spoon. Truthfully, I think it is easier to add your veggies in installments. Layer 1/3 of all ingredients in the pot and distribute salt evenly then mash. Repeat. You’ll know when you are done when the mashed mixture starts to produce quite a bit of brine; precisely enough to submerge the solids beneath it.
No double dipping!
Step 6: Taste For Saltiness. Using a clean spoon taste the brine mixture. It will be salty as hell but relatively palatable. If you can’t swallow it, frankly, you’re screwed; unless of course you’ve got some more cabbage on hand you can add. DON”T double dip your tasting spoon!! This is good practice anyhow but with laco-fermenting it is especially important to keep everything pretty sterile. The salt ratio is really a matter of opinion. Mashing the salt into the cabbage draws out the water and creates a natural brine teaming with bacteria. Use enough salt so that you have an adequate amount of brine to cover the cabbage.
Step 7: Jar it up! Two people are best for this part. You’ll want to really compress the mixture as you place it in the jars. Be cautious to not fill the jars too high. Leave about 1″ at the top of each jar. Without a small bit of room at the top, you’ll risk exploding the jars as they ferment; not good.
For the Kraut, simply repeat steps 1-7 with your kraut ingredients. There are some pretty specific traditional ingredients that include caraway seed and juniper berries. I typically stick to hearty green cabbage, but some prefer red cabbage for red kraut. Really, once you have the rules about fermentation down, the rest is your party. I like my kraut pretty simple. For this we just used cabbage, salt and caraway seed.
Let the Jars sit sealed tightly for 3-5 days in a pretty stable temperature environment. I find that after about 3 days they will produce enough carbon dioxide that the tops will leak a bit. Your kitchen (or wherever you store your jars) might adopt a slightly farty or digestive smell. Not to fear, this is normal. I usually open 1 jar on day 4 and then see how it is coming along. Once the jar opens the process is altered. I recommend refrigeration after opening. Lastly, Don’t just take my advice on this. Do some reading on your own and make sure you know what you are dealing with. While the steps are simple, there are always risks when dealing with living bacteria. If you have any reservations and/or feel that you might come after me with a lawsuit think again! Do your homework people and make Kimchi at your own risk!
Until then, Happy Eating,