For no particular reason other than curiosity and a predilection for foods with a tang, I have jumped head first into fermentation and all of its associated cooking practices.
The CSA my house subscribes to (and whose farm I work at) usually provides a few heads of cabbage and some daikon and green radishes in our share so we have been making kimchi and sauerkraut. Both have turned out delicious, maybe a little too spicy for the kimchi. I always add more pepper than most people like. This kimchi is also vegan and soy free. My various allergies kind of mandate this. I’m sure kimchi purists would have me call it something else – ‘No fish sauce? No soy sauce? Not kimchi!’, but whatever we decide to call it, it is good.
There are currently 3 gallons of kombucha bubbling away, 1 of which we are experimenting fermenting with honey instead of cane sugar. So far it looks alright and seems healthy. I’ve been using the kombucha for everything from sourdough starter to ketchup (and to drink!). So far the ketchup has been my favorite.
The Kombucha Ketchup Recipe
12 oz tomato paste
1 cup kombucha (+/- depending on the consistency you want for your ketchup) – the longer the ferment the better
3 T balsamic vinegar
2 T honey
1 T garlic powder
2 t mace
1 t allspice
dash of salt and black pepper
Mix the ingredients together in a jar and let sit at room temperature for up to 3 days, then refrigerate. The ketchup is good to eat immediately but definitely develops a fuller flavor over the fermentation period.
Sauerkraut – Most Basic of Basics
2 heads of cabbage (I used Nappa cabbage because it is what I had on hand) uniformly shredded
3 T pickling salt
1 quart jar – sterilized by boiling
Something to smash with – I like using a wooden pestle
Put the shredded cabbage into a large bowl and sprinkle the pickling salt on top. It is important to use pickling salt because it doesn’t have anything added to it that may have an adverse affect on the fermentation process. Toss the cabbage and the salt together to try and make the salt evenly distributed. Let this sit for about 2 hours – the cabbage should have reduced in volume by releasing a lot of water. Now is the time to bang away a the cabbage/watery/salt mush with your pestle or smashing-tool of choice. Really, don’t hold back. After getting your frustrations out on the cabbage, transfer it to a jar – liquid and all. You will need to really pack it in – this is why I like the pestle, it is good for smashing and for packing. When packing the cabbage into the jar, make sure that the brine (salty cabbage water) covers the top of the shredded cabbage in the jar. Tightly seal the jar and set on a plate (the jars will seep and leak during the fermentation process so it’s smart to have something underneath them that can be easily cleaned). After about 2 weeks you can begin sampling and the sauerkraut can be moved to the fridge. If the sauerkraut is too salty, rinse it off a little before you eat it. I like to use mine in a sauerkraut chocolate cake recipe (I’ll tell you about it later).
Spicy Vegan Soy-Free Kimchi(for 2 quarts)
1/8 lb ginger – peeled and sliced into matchsticks
2 dried chilis – crushed into a powder (seeds, skins, no stem)
1 T cane sugar
2 T sea salt – divided (1 T, 1 T)
2 T filtered water
1 Large head Nappa cabbage – cut into 2″ chunks
3/4 lbs carrots (3-4 good size carrots) peeled and cut into 1/4″x2″ sticks
3/4 lbs green or daikon radishes (I used green radishes and was very pleased with the results, daikon are the traditional and easier to find radish of choice) cut into 1/4″x2″ sticks
4-5 heads garlic (HEADS, not cloves) – peeled and chopped
In a food processor, buzz the chilis, ginger, sugar, salt, and about 2 T water until a smooth paste forms.
In a large mixing bowl – cover the cabbage with warm (not hot) water. Stir in the other T of sea salt until it has dissolved. Allow the mixture to rest for about 30 minutes, then drain it and pat it dry.
Return the cabbage to the large mixing bowl and add the carrots, diakon, and garlic. Mix in the chili-ginger paste until all of the ingredients are evenly coated.
Transfer the mixture to a quart glass jar that has been sterilized, one cup at a time. It is important to mash the mixture down to get the vegetables to release their juices. Pack the veggies in until there is about 1 inch of head space left in the jar and the veggies are covered entirely with brine. Weight the veggies down with a crock weight (they sell glass weights that fit into both regular and wide mouth mason jars) or a well sterilized stone (a smooth stone that has been boiled for an hour will work just fine). Set these on a plate in a dark, well ventilated space and let sit for about one week. Transfer to the fridge afterwards. This kimchi is great in soups and in a savory pancake (another recipe I’ll share with you later).
I am always eager to hear about more fermentation experiments to try out – what is your favorite recipe? What has been your biggest fermentation disaster? I feel like these are two of the most important topics to share – lots of learning what to do and what not to do.