Although I have loved kimchi for years, the idea of making fermented foods has always seemed a bit daunting. How do you know when it’s good or if it’s rotten? Which method to use? I read differing advice as to how to do it – weighing down the tops with stones, bags of water etc. I tried a few ways before reading about a technique that seemed much simpler and has yielded great results.
Prepare the vegetable mixture and pack it tightly into a clean Mason jar, leaving at least an inch at the top. Screw the lid on, leave it out on the counter for three days, and then into the fridge for at least a week, preferably a month or two or three. Bubbling is normal and if it’s off, it will smell truly vile.
I made a kimchi this way and it was fantastic. Since then I have made a variety of fermented vegetables. Cabbage with roasted jalepenos, cabbage with oregano, onion and carrots, and Savoy cabbage with cumin and dried guajillo, pequin and pulla chiles sent from family in Texas. I just made spiced pearl onions and am eagerly looking forward to trying them.
A friend over the hill makes fermented vegetables as well, and it is always a treat to exchange a jar or two. We get to try each other’s creations and add yet more variety to our collections. Nearly every day my husband and I eat a little (or a lot!) with lunch or dinner.
In addition to being delicious, fermented foods contain healthful digestive enzymes and probiotics. Fermentation is also a great way to preserve an abundance of vegetables during the growing season. Several of the books I have found helpful are, Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon, The Nourished Kitchen by Jennifer McGruther and Wild Fermentation, by Sandor Ellix Katz.
1 head Napa cabbage, cored, thinly sliced and then chopped
1 bunch scallions, sliced, including green stalks
1 daikon radish, peeled and very thinly sliced
3 carrots, peeled and grated
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1” piece fresh ginger, peeled and grated
1/2 – 1 tsp chili flakes
1-2 tbsp sea salt
large handful cilantro chopped (optional)
Place all ingredients in bowl. Pound with wooden hammer, stone pestle, meat hammer or squeeze with clean hands to release juices. Pack into wide mouth quart size Mason jars, pressing down very firmly so liquid covers the cabbage. Leave at least 1” space between cabbage and the lid. Cover tightly and keep at room temperature for three days before putting in the refrigerator. Enjoy after one week or even better, in several months.