By Natalie Findlay
For many people, the best salty, tangy crunch inside their fridge is that of their grandmother’s homemade pickles. As undeniably classic as preserving is to our Canadian culture, it’s a brand new year, so why not embrace an interesting way to work with ingredients that you already know and love?
Fermentation requires equal measures of faith, technique and openness. The process of the recipe will help, but you have to leave the door open for the natural process of exciting some bacteria (the good stuff) while lowering other bacteria (the bad stuff), and not holding the precise outcome of the taste too close to your fork. Leaving things up to the bacteria means the end product won't be exactly the same every time.
Many inventions are the result of happy accidents, and have paved the way for food discoveries. Fermentation doesn't have a specific origin but it has been owned by many historic cultures. Our ancestors have built fail-safes that have allowed us to get our required nutrition, and preserving has been an important part of this process. Fermentation allows us to incorporate lots of good, healthy bacteria into our digestive system to help us fight off those bacteria that can cause us harm.
There were lots of possibilities for bad bacteria to enter our system through the ages. Does that mean that since we have modern medicine on our side, we can disregard what we’ve learned from our ancestors? I believe that we are still responsible for our digestive maintenance, and fermentation allows us to take charge.
I'm sure you know of many ways that you are adding fermented products into your present diet: beer, yogurt, pickles, wine, cheese; there are many. Sauerkraut is one of the most well known. Kimchi is a great Korean relish that basically kicks up sauerkraut with the use of Korean red pepper.
Kimchi is not hard to make, but you need to allow for the fermentation process to take place naturally. You can't rush Mother Nature, so your active time is limited in this process.
800 g Chinese cabbage (or any cabbage you prefer), roughly chopped
400 g bok choy, roughly chopped
2 carrots, grated or thinly sliced
30 g fresh ginger, peeled and grated
5 garlic cloves, grated
45 g Korean chilli paste
10 g Korean salted shrimp, minced
1 bunch green onions
10 g sugar
2 Tbs (30 mL) fish sauce
- Place the cabbage and bok choy in a large bowl. Combine 5 g salt for every 3 cups (750 mL) of water and stir to dissolve before pouring over the leaves. The proportions should equal 3 L of water to 20 g of salt. If 3 L of water does not cover the cabbage, then add another 3 cups (750 mL) and 5 g salt until the majority of the leaves are submerged. You can use a plate to help submerge them if needed.
- Let sit at room temperature 4 to 8 hours, then pour the leaves into a colander to drain the salt water. Return the leaves to the bowl and add enough fresh cold water to cover. Let sit 10 minutes. Drain leaves through the colander again. Now that the greens have been cured, they are ready to ferment.
- Place the rest of the ingredients in a bowl and stir to combine. Pour mixture over the cabbage and bok choy and incorporate everything together.
- Using tongs, add kimchi mixture to sterilized glass jars and cover. Let jars sit in a warm room above 24º C for 24 hours. Refrigerate kimchi for up to one month.
For best results allow kimchi to incorporate the flavours for at least 72 hours before consuming.
Kimchi is a great addition to rice dishes, soups and stews. Don't be afraid to use this recipe as a base and tinker with the ingredients.
There are many heat levels of peppers. If you are using a new product it might be wise to error on the side of less spicy, rather than having to throw away a product that you have taken the time to make. You can always add more spice to the mixture once opened.