In my corner of the world, farmer’s markets and fruit markets (yes, we have a lot of the latter: either they’re the market for a large fruit farm or a collaborative of a few smaller farms) are winding down. This means I should get bags and boxes ready, and go shopping!
Even *I* cannot resist the pull of these markets on their last weekend, their last day. I tell myself I can find the need for such slash-priced fruits and veg…why not? (“Why not” might be because I have plenty of my own stuff already…plus, I didn’t need to pay for my harvest.) Considering nearly nothing I purchased could be stored for long, I spent Saturday morning in what only could be called a Ferment-A-Thon.
The last batch of sauerkraut took only 10 days thanks to a few warm fall afternoons so the pickle crock was fortuitously empty. My routine had been kraut then kimchi then kraut with the pickle crock, so my mind was on putting together the next batch of hot/spicy kimchi. (Kimchi also only takes about a week, sometimes less time if it’s kept in a warm room. Sauerkraut can take a week or a month, both depending on how much you have as well as ambient temperature.) Besides the makings of kimchi, though, there were those large beets I picked up at the market…time for more pickled beets with roasted, crushed caraway seeds.
There’s no real magic involved with simple veggie ferments. (If you want great step by step instructions, go see Sandor Ellix Katz’ website.) It’s a three part process, really. The chopped veg are salted and left for a time to release their internal water. The veg are then are fermented in brine, and, after a time, eaten! (Kimchi has one more middle step in there, where more veg, a spicy pepper mix, and a watery brine is added to cover.) The only difference I impart to my own ferments from what I read in books and online recipes is that I stir. the. ferment. every. single. day. I also taste it to see how it’s doing…therefore I rely on my tastebuds and not some recipe to tell me what’s going on in the crock.
Day One contents for the kimchi crock: leafy cabbages and crisp carrots, radishes and kohlrabi. Perhaps not completely kosher (i.e., more than just nappa cabbage, no daikon radishes, no fish paste, and who ever heard of kohlrabi in kimchi?) it points to the fact that most anything goes…especially when the garden needs pre-snow tidying.
It is helpful to weigh the chopped contents to best gauge the salt that will be needed. Rule of thumb is 3 tablespoons salt per 5 pounds produce, in 1/2 gallon of water. Submerge contents to sit overnight and soften: you can use a plate, but a bowl is the nearest thing I have that works. Glass/ceramic is best. Drain, reserving water, and taste veg for saltiness: if obnoxious, then you won’t be adding all the salted water back in.
Day Two: add a mash of hot fresh peppers/garlic/grated gingerroot; add more veggies as you choose (I added green peppers and the last of the fall peas, and a fist-sized bundle of chopped scallion, and a leek for kicks.). Toss well, then add liquid to cover it just enough when submerged. Cover crock with a clean cloth, stir and taste daily, adjusting seasoning as required. Kimchi is ready in 5-8 days. My five pounds of veg makes about 3 quarts.
Sour beets leaching their water: Same salt/water rule applies (3 tablespoons salt per five pounds veg, submerged, etc.) but here I added roasted, ground caraway seeds to the freshly shredded beets, and am letting it pickle in between two nested glass bowls. I added a bit of whey (2T) to speed up the process of lactic fermentation. Step One is I let the shredded beets osmose for 12 hours before adding the water/whey mixture; Step Two is adding the liquid and letting it do its thing. Because beets are so sweet, I don’t want this to turn alcoholic on me…so I will only give it up to 4 days before it goes in the fridge. Sour beets in borscht, yumza!
Next up in the pickle crock will be a green drumhead cabbage sauerkraut with shredded apples and onions added on Day 5.
Read what you can about the fermentation process, and have fun with it all. And, as ever, trust your instincts. If it smells/tastes truly horrid, well, something has gone awry. Kimchi, in my humble opinion, smells fabulous when it’s cooking, though!