The new year is officially here, and with it comes our latest Theme of the Month: Fermentation. While it may not cross your mind often, likely some of your favorite foods were produced by fermentation, a process used to create most cheeses, yogurt, sourdough bread, sauerkraut, and many types of pickles.
Fermentation is an ancient way of preserving food that has been favored by many cultures across the world for centuries (think miso from Japan, injera bread in Ethiopian and Eritrean cuisine, sauerkraut in Europe, kimchi from Korea, and Asia-originating kombucha). Though refrigerators have now made it easier than ever to keep our foods safe and relatively fresh for a longer period of time, fermentation can do the same job while also imparting delicious new flavors and textures to the food!
Good microbes, like some types of bacteria, can help to make our food delicious and easier for our bodies to digest. Lactic acid bacteria are found on all plants, and increase in number after harvest. Once the vegetables are submerged and the fermentation process initiated, lactic acid bacteria multiply and in doing so prevent the growth of harmful microbes, effectively preserving the vegetables for safe consumption. Vegetable fermentation also preserves the crucial vitamin C content of most vegetables and contributes additional vitamin B!
On top of that, fermenting veggies is super safe and easy. The USDA microbiologist expert on vegetable fermentation calls it “one of the oldest and safest technologies we have” and does not know of any food-borne illnesses caused by lactic acid bacteria fermented vegetables. (source: Sandor Katz’s The Art of Fermentation pp.95-97)
So on that note, we are observing this fascinating monthly theme with a recipe for kimchi. This spicy cabbage-based Korean dish is popular eaten either alone, as a part of banchan (a collective name for small side dishes served along with cooked rice and entrees in Korean cuisine), served over tofu, or cooked in stews and savory kimchi pancakes.
While preparing your kimchi, keep in mind that cleanliness in the kitchen is the #1 way we can keep each other safe and healthy while cooking. We wash our hands, we keep our food, tools, and surfaces clean, and we keep things to temperature. If we don’t, we could allow dangerous bacteria to spread and grow instead of the good microbes we are aiming to cultivate. Even if it’s organic, veggies and fruits should be given a rinse, and all other non-organic produce should either be peeled or extremely well-scrubbed.
14 oz. (400 g)
- 14 oz. (400 g) cabbage
- 3.5 oz. (100 g) daikon (white radish), diced
- 1 green apple, cored and julienned
- 1 red onion, thinly sliced
- 1 French shallot, thinly sliced
- handful coriander (cilantro) leaves, chopped
- Juice of 1 lemon
- 1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
Remove the outer leaves of the cabbages. Choose an unblemished leaf, wash it well and set aside for later. Shred the cabbages with a knife or mandolin, then transfer to a large glass or stainless steel bowl. Add the daikon, apple, onion, shallot, coriander, lemon juice and salt and mix well, massaging the vegetables so that they begin to release liquid. Cover and set aside.
Using a large spoon, fill the prepared jar with the vegetable mixture, pressing down to remove any air pockets and leaving 1 inch of room at the top. The vegetables should be completely submerged in the liquid. Add more water if necessary.
Take the clean cabbage leaf, fold it up and place it on top of the mixture, then add a small glass weight (a shot glass is ideal) to keep everything submerged. Close the lid and set up the airlock if you have one, or just don’t tighten the lid all the way (and remember to “burp” it regularly).
Store the jar in a dark place with a temperature of 60-72F (16 – 23C) for 10 to 14 days, tasting regularly so you know when it’s done. You can place the jar in a cooler to maintain a more consistent temperature. Different vegetables have different culturing times and the warmer it is the shorter the time needed. The longer you leave it to ferment, the higher the level of good bacteria and the tangier the flavor.
Chill before eating. Once opened, the kimchi will last for up to 2 months in the fridge when kept submerged in liquid. If unopened, it will keep for up to 9 months in the fridge.
So get out those cutting boards and cabbages and get chopping.
We hope 2020 is your tastiest year yet!
Team Allergic to Salad