Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Kinda-Sorta Kimchee, or, What to do With All Those Veggies

I just received the Main Street Market letter and saw the post on A Strange Grace, a blog attached to the email, about kimchee and remembered- O yeah, I wanted to do one of those too.  I don't make real Korean kimchee and don't pretend to.  I just ferment seasonal vegetables because they are really, really good like that.  Grace's little short history is nice, I would recommend reading it.  My inspiration comes from Wild Fermentation- a "cookbook" that I would say is an absolute MUST for every single person who has ever met and loved vegetables.  I have gone through many fermentation phases, including miso, but the fermented root veggies is a phase that never stops.  You can ferment almost anything, as Sandor will tell you.  In this batch pictured below I actually had some green beans from Crabtree that produced themselves a bit early.  I really love broccoli and snap peas too.  Kohlrabi is wonderful and crunchy, beets turn everything a nice fushia, radishes are really good whole, and garlic scapes are beyond amazing.  Just experiment and don't be afraid.  As far as I can tell nothing will kill you, it might just not taste that good....

Wild Fermentation can actually be purchased now at Greenlife- the last time I saw it it was on the beer brewing shelf.  It can also be bought through Chelsea Green Publishing, and I'm sure on Amazon.  Both Sandor's site and Chelsea Green are on the sidebar of this blog 

What I usually do:

Take a HUGE pile of veggies- greens, roots, stalks.... I have heard that un-fresh stuff can be used but personally I can taste that in the finished product, the veggies just don't sparkle as much if they aren't really fresh.  Wash them all but don't worry too much about the dirt, but only if it is local and organically produced.   A little dirt is good for us- in fact, Sandor has a recipe for eating it in his other book The Revolution Will Not be Microwaved, which is also very worth owning (and I am in it for a brief moment, or at least my very moldy salame is).  Chop everything as you like it.  I usually do a variation of slices and rounds.  Small radishes are super yummy left whole, and I even left some teeny tiny beets from Circle S Farm whole in my last batch.  Sometimes, if two vegetables are similar in color or texture (if you use beets or even pink radishes everything will turn pink anyway), I cut them into different shapes, just so I'll know what is what when it's all done.  For instance, last time I cut the kohlrabi into sticks and the daikon into rounds.

Make a paste of finely chopped (by hand or in the food processor) ginger, garlic, and chilies.  This part is all up to you, depending on how spicy or strong tasting you like it.  The tastes mellows a WHOLE lot, so use three times as much as you think you need.  I really don't like it too spicy, but I do like a lot of ginger and garlic.  For one gallon I usually use two or three heads of garlic and a large hunk of ginger.  I add about three dried chilies- string up and dry this summer's chilies in your kitchen and you will have enough all winter and next spring-long to make whatever you want with them.    In Wild Fermentation, the recipe tells you to first soak the veggies in a brine of 3 T salt to 4 Cups water (un-chlorinated).  Then you pour off and save the brine, mix the softened veggies with the ginger-garlic paste, and pack them into a jar or crock.  If the moisture drawn out of the veggies does not cover them by the first day or so you add back a little brine.  I have started skipping the first step and just adding a little brine to the raw veggies tossed with paste and packed in a jar.    They only problem with this is that it is harder to control how salty the veggies will be and how much moisture will come out of them.   I end up having brine overflow onto the counter, even if I only added a teeny bit.  If you have never done this, read Wild Fermentation, and don't follow my advice.

Whatever you ferment the stuff in, you have to be able to fit something inside to weigh down the veggies, to both help press their juices out and to keep them from floating up and being exposed to the air, and thereby getting moldy.  When I do small 1 gallon batches I use a glass wine or other booze bottle full of water to act as a weight.  It does not fit entirely snug into the jar, there is some wiggle room, but I have never had a problem. I prefer to use bottle withOUT a punt, just so no veggies hang out up in there.  (Wild Fermentation has several other suggestions).  Cover the whole thing with a cloth to keep out bugs and dust and set in a cool dark corner to ferment.  Taste everyday.  You can skip the tasting the first few days if you don't like salty veggies, but the magic will happen either quickly or slowly, depending on how cool your corner is.  The hotter it is the more salt you should use and the quicker the fermentation happens.  The kimchee can be left out until it is as pungent as you'd like it.  Once it tastes perfect, stick it in the fridge and enjoy for as long as it lasts.  It is very nice as an after dinner digestif.

The veggies I used for this one:

  • Signal Mountain Farm bok choy (mainly the white part and some of the green)
  • William's Island Farm and Crabtree Farm garlic scapes
  • Crabtree Farm green beans
  • Circle S Farm spring onions and teeny beets
  • Crabtree Farm kohlrabi and beets
  • William's Island Farm Hakurai Turnips
  • Sequatchie Cove Farm Easter Egg Radishes
  • and.......Helios Radishes from my own yard!

Then, yesterday I just made another batch.  I didn't have any garlic or ginger so I used layered tons of William's Island Farm garlic scapes and some whole and ground dried chiles with:
  • William's Island Farm daikon and turnips
  • Circle S Farm broccoli
  • Crabtree (or Sequatchie Cove, I don't remember) Farm kohlrabi
And that's it.  I thought about throwing some beets but I decided I wanted this one to be whiter.  I just poured some brine on it, weighted it down, and put it in the corner.  I obviously added too much brine, as you can see things floating in it.  I may pour off some of the excess brine, especially if it looks like it might creep up and overflow.  In about a week I'll let you know how it is....


maw-ee said...

hey ann!

thanks for this post!....i've been tryin' to figure out what to do with all the radishes and kohlrabi and such from our garden...(so much stuff comin' in!)

2 years ago i did cucumbers this way....they were really good , but i'm such a scaredy-cat about if i'm gonna poison people!....thanks for giving me some courage here!.....

also....i wanted to ask....years ago your mom made some of the best, crunchiest dill pickles i've ever eaten!....any way you could steal that recipe for us? :>)

and one more thing....you can pass along to kelsey that we enjoyed his lamb in a sort of 'peasant pie' thing we did the other day.....(i think i put the 'recipe' on my facebook page).....it had chard and garlic, feta and pistachios, and a few other veggies (with the lamb, of course), all in a prebaked flaky crust!....it was pretty dang good!....(and i thought of all y'all)

thanks again for this good info....i think i'm gonna hafta order that book!....

hi to everybody!
deb tucker

Ann Tindell Keener said...

I think it's much easier to poison people if you are canning stuff. If you are going to poison someone with ferments, you would know by the taste. If it's bad it TASTES bad. Brined cucumbers are SO good.

I don't know what recipe my mom used for dill pickles- I bet it was from the Joy of Pickling. She always adds grape leaves to the jars to keep them crisp- that's probably what did it.

Yeah, Kelsey's lamb is pretty amazing. I'm glad yall got some.

Hope to see you around sometime!