Who knew you’d need so much courage just to accomplish things in the kitchen?
Forget worrying about whether you’re measuring flour correctly or cutting the cucumbers straight, we’re talking real danger here.
If we real foodies were on America’s Got Talent, the judges would be saying we bring an element of danger they’ve never seen before.
What you do is amazing.
We’ll call our act “American Food Preservation Team 101” and bring a different vegetable to the stage each week, revealing another method of preserving the harvest with a flourish.
Sharon Osbourne would be ducking in fear wondering if the pressure canner would explode or not.
Howie Mandel would cringe and practically faint at the very thought of growing bacteria, on purpose, as we try our hand at fermentation.
Howard Stern would comment grimly, “You’ve canned, you’ve fermented, but I’m not seeing vegetables I haven’t seen before. You’re going to have to step it up if America brings you back. I think you might be in trouble tonight. ”
And then we could really bring it to the next level:
We would do it all…with tired and hungry toddlers roaming around the kitchen!
That’s got to win a prize for something, right?
Preserving Summer Produce
Let’s talk about summer produce and how to use it up or put it up before it shrivels up.
Because you know, it isn’t frugal if you have to throw it away.
I’m happy to take the fermenting bull by the horns today with a basic recipe that can capture a few things that are in season right now. Fermentation IS preserving, but it’s a little tricky because you still have to refrigerate the jars, which takes up valuable space that’s at a premium this time of year.
Why Ferment Vegetables?
Fermentation not only preserves the food in question, making it last longer in the refrigerator than it would in its fresh state, but it adds nutrition to already nutritious food, namely:
- Probiotics (healthy bacteria for digestion)
- Facilitates synthesis of Vitamin C and B12
- Facilitates breakdown of proteins
- Digestive enzymes
- Predigests vegetables so your digestive system has less work to do
- Sugar content of vegetables more easily assimilated in system
Grow Your Own Bacteria?
Even though I’ve made homemade yogurt successfully for years, the thought of growing bacteria – over a period of days on the countertop – still freaks me out a bit. I have a kitchen phobia such that when I first tried a sourdough starter, I was so sure I’d fail miserably that I didn’t even take “just in case” photos on the off chance I’d ever want to post about sourdough (and now I’m a guest teacher in the sourdough eCourse, see how far I’ve come!).
So you see, I understand when you say this is not for you.
I know you feel you can’t risk slime or mold or fuzz of any kind growing on your food, in case it gets contaminated or messed up in any way. (“Messed up” – that’s a technical fermenting term there.)
But if I can do this, you can do it.
How to Make This Fermented Kimchi Recipe
My favorite part about basic vegetable ferments is that they’re pretty darn easy. You really might be able to do it, even on your rookie debut, with a toddler bumbling around your kitchen or a baby in a sling.
Here’s what you’ll need (most of which was in my CSA box):
I prefer regular old cabbage even though the kimchi recipe I learned from in the Traditional Cooking School eCourse called for Napa cabbage. I had half a head of Chinese cabbage of some sort from the CSA, though, so I made two small batches, each using a few different ingredients:
- Napa or Chinese or green cabbage
- Green or Red onion
- Real Salt
- Crushed red pepper
- Food processor
I also skipped the fresh ginger (from the original recipe). It’s just not something I have on hand and didn’t care to change that.
The basic method for fermenting almost anything is to chop, shred, or food process said vegetable when as fresh as possible, then add some salt and whey and other spices, then allow to ferment on the countertop for days or weeks.
For the kimchi, I’m using a food processor, so I recommend starting with the garlic, since it’s so little and easy to get lost:
Then move onto the main cabbage:
This one may have gone a tad bit too long and gotten pulverized. As it turns out, I decided that if I’m just doing one cabbage, I’ll tend toward chopping by hand with a knife for larger, more substantial pieces:
Put a grater attachment on the food processor and knock out the carrots:
This part you really should do in a machine – at least a grater – even if you’re just knifing it for the other ingredients.
You’ll probably have some weird little carrot sticks left – feed the hungry toddlers and move on with the act.
Next come the green onions, food processed quickly or sliced:
Or red onion (I kind of prefer this version):
Mix all the chopped vegetables together in a large bowl:
See that wasn’t so much chopping for a quart jar worth. You could do that without a food processor, but if you’re really preserving and doing multiple jars, break out the corded help!
Add 1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper (or less, to taste – this is pretty spicy!!):
Add 1 1/2 tsp. sea salt:
And 1/4 cup whey (from yogurt or other cultured things, not just cheesemaking):
Stir everything together well. Cover with a tea towel (or lightly with the lid would work too) and let sit for 30 minutes as the salt pulls the juice out of the vegetables (over processing also helps do that!):
Then you get to bang on things. This is one of those food preparation techniques that can be pretty fun if you let it, kind of like rolling tortillas is good exercise and grinding beef heart tortures your husband.
You need to bang and smash your cabbage to get the juices to come out. You can use a potato masher, a meat hammer, or even the bottom of your measuring cup. Pretend you’re angry with the cabbage. It feels good to get your aggression out in an acceptable way!
I decided to use that Pampered Chef dealie that’s for cooking and breaking up ground meat, along with some pressure on the inside of the measuring cup, and I thought it worked pretty well.
You can let it go another 30 minutes, which I recommend, and then mash and smash once more. When you have some good juices seeping, it’s time to load into jars. One-half of a normal sized green cabbage or one whole Chinese cabbage tends to fill one quart jar, which is what this recipe is written for. Press the vegetables down with a spoon or your fist to try to keep them submersed in the liquid as much as possible, adding a bit of filtered water if necessary:
This is the Chinese cabbage with green onion version in a pint jar:
Cover your jars with clean lids and leave at room temperature to ferment 3-10 days. Check the contents and press down with a clean fist or utensil a few times during the first day especially to keep the veggies under the liquid.
Taste as you go to determine when to put the jars into the refrigerator to “finish.” I recommend writing the date you began on your jars.
I made a half batch of each kind, using red onion with the green cabbage, which I think I like better. Traditional sauerkraut, by the way, is pretty much this same thing minus all the ingredients other than cabbage, salt, and whey.
This was my first attempt at both, and I do like the knifed kimchi better than the food processed – those large chunks stay a bit crispy and crunchy.
- ½ head green cabbage or Chinese cabbage, shredded
- 1 bunch green onions or ½ red onion, diced
- 1 c. shredded carrots
- 3 cloves crushed garlic
- ½ tsp. crushed red pepper (dried)
- 1½ tsp. sea salt
- ¼ c. whey
- Mince garlic (I use the food processor).
- Shred the cabbage or slice with a knife.
- Grate carrots.
- Slice green onions or red onion.
- Mix all the chopped vegetables together in a large bowl.
- Add the crushed red pepper and sea salt, and ¼ cup whey (from yogurt or other cultured things, not just cheesemaking).
- Stir everything together well. Cover with a tea towel (or lightly with the lid would work too) and let sit for 30 minutes as the salt pulls the juice out of the vegetables (over processing also helps do that!).
- You need to bang and smash your cabbage to get the juices to come out. You can use a potato masher, a meat hammer, or even the bottom of your measuring cup. Pretend you’re angry with the cabbage. It feels good to get your aggression out in an acceptable way!
- You can let it go another 30 minutes, which I recommend, and then mash and smash once more. When you have some good juices seeping, it’s time to load into jars. One half of a normal sized green cabbage or one whole Chinese cabbage tends to fill one quart jar, which is what this recipe is written for. Press the vegetables down with a spoon or your fist to try to keep them submersed in the liquid as much as possible, adding a bit of filtered water if necessary.
- Cover your jars with clean lids and leave at room temperature to ferment 3-10 days. Check the contents and press down with a clean fist or utensil a few times during the first day especially to keep the veggies under the liquid.
- Taste as you go to determine when to put the jars into the refrigerator to “finish.” I recommend writing the date you began on your jars.
- How to serve:
- Usually these fermented vegs are eaten as a condiment, a little bit on the side of the plate to be eaten before a meal. Sometimes they’re mixed in with rice or on top of a soup or eggs, perhaps, but careful not to cook it or get over 116F so the enzymes and probiotics aren’t killed.
- Cook’s Notes:
- If your home is warmer or cooler than 70F, the ferments will just move faster or slower. Watch more carefully at higher temps or find an alternate place to ferment (basement?).
- If you have to leave your ferments and go on vacation, you can refrigerate, then put back on the counter and it will continue fermenting after a break.
- Mold? I know, problem. Gross. BUT. With should be able to scoop the mold off the top, and as long as everything else is submerged, it’s likely ok to eat. Trust your nose.
- Lacto-fermented foods keep for months in cold storage. Make your best attempt to push the veggies back down into the liquid after serving each time.
- Bubbles? Yes! That’s normal and tells you your fermentation is working!
- If your lid is tight, open it every day to “burp” the air bubbles.
- Dairy free? Don’t have whey? Just double the salt, omit the whey, and you’re rocking and rolling again!