Last week, The New York Times travel blog wrote a tantalizing post about Fermentation Fest – A Live Culture Convergence in Reedsburg, Wisconsin. Indeed, Google “fermentation festival” and you’ll find similar listings for events happening across the country, from Santa Barbara to Virginia. Author Andrea Chesman will be presenting at the Boston Fermentation Festival on this coming Saturday, and in anticipation, she shares with us her own fermenting tips and her recipe for that delicious staple of Korean cuisine: kimchi.
The year 2013 may be the year fermentation reached critical mass in America. I’m off to a fermentation festival in Boston next weekend, and there have been other fermentation festivals throughout the summer – almost as many fermentation festivals as music festivals. Fermented pickles are found at almost every farmer’s market and on many farm-to-table restaurant menus.
|Fermentation happening in Andrea Chesman's kitchen|
The mainstream health community is catching on to the idea that the billions of microbes we host in our bodies, especially in our guts, are kept healthy and well when we eat plenty of fermented foods with live cultures. Fermented foods with live cultures include some beers and wine, some sodas, kombucha, yogurt, miso, tempeh, and more.
In addition to the health benefits, fermenting happens to be a good way to make use of surplus from the garden. So as summer winds down, I am fermenting green tomatoes and dilly beans as a way of dealing with the harvest. When frost threatened, we took in about 40 pounds of tomatoes, much of which was green. The beans were ready for harvest even if the tomatoes weren’t. Still, 10 pounds of snap beans on top of the 10 pounds harvested each week for two weeks prior meant lots of beans to deal with.
|Andrea Chesman's kimchi|
Kimchi, another fermented favorite, is less about dealing with the harvest and more about my household’s love of it. It is great tasting stuff – and very “morish” – the more you eat, the more you want.
All of my ferments are made in canning jars. I use a beer bottle sanitizer to clean the jars and all my utensils. Scrupulous attention to cleanliness pays off. Making small batches mean that if a jar goes off (which doesn’t seem to happen since I made the switch to jars), my investment in ingredients and time is minimal. My ferments do age, getting softer and more sour, but I am more likely to finish a small batch before it gets unpleasant than I am a large batch.
I fill the jars to the very brim with brine, then cover them with the canning jar lids and screwbands. I close the screwband fingertip-tight – not ninja, tough-guy tight. Then I put the jars in containers or on saucers. Ferments that make their own brine (kimchi, sauerkraut) will push some of the brine out as they actively ferment. But no air comes in. After a jar is opened and sampled, I continue to make sure the remaining pickles stay under the brine level, mixing up some additional brine to keep everything covered as needed. Once I put the jar in the refrigerator, I don’t worry about the brine levels.
This is the recipe for the kimchi I usually bring to workshops for tasting. I have been promising to post it for a while.
Makes 1 quart
If you like your kimchi hot, increase the amount of chili paste.
8 cups Napa cabbage, cut into 2-inch pieces
4-inch length daikon radish, peeled and thinly sliced
1 carrot, sliced
½ cup pickling salt
Water to cover
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon Korean chili paste
½ teaspoon minced fresh ginger root
½ teaspoon sugar
1. Combine the cabbage, daikon, carrot, and pickling salt in a large bowl. Mix to evenly distribute the salt. Add water to cover. Let stand for at least 2 hours, up to 6 hours.
2. Drain, reserving the brine. Add the garlic, chili paste, ginger, and sugar to the cabbage mixture and mix well.
3. Pack the mixture into a clean 1-quart canning jar. Add enough brine to cover the mixture and fill to the top. Cover to exclude air.
4. Set the jar on a saucer where the temperature will remain constant: 65° to 75°F is ideal.
5. Begin tasting after 3 days and refrigerate when the kimchi is pleasantly sour. The kimchi continue to age and develop flavor. Store in the refrigerator. It will keep for several months.
Andrea Chesman is the author of many cookbooks, including The Pickled Pantry, Recipes from the Root Cellar, Pickles and Relishes, Mom’s Best One-Dish Suppers, and The Vegetarian Grill, which was nominated for a James Beard Foundation Book Award and won a National Barbecue Association Award of Excellence. She is a coauthor of 250 Treasured Country Desserts and The Classic Zucchini Cookbook, and her articles have appeared in the New York Times, Cooking Light, Food & Wine, Vegetarian Times, Organic Gardening, Fine Cooking, and other publications. Visit Andrea's website.