Fermented Kohlrahbi Chips

Recently, I’ve been trying to incorporate more fermented foods into my preserving routine.  I like that I don’t have to bother with the canner, the food maintains it’s nutritional value, the batch size is very flexible, and that it requires so little time and so few ingredients.  Along the way, I discovered these fermented kohlrahbi pickles, which turned out better than I’d ever expected. They’re not just good. They’re amazing, totally addictive.  If you like cucumber dill pickles, you’ll love these.  Sorry cucumbers, I’m breaking up with you. I’ve found a new vehicle for the dilly crunch that I just gotta have.

If you’ve never tried kohlrahbi: it’s a wonderful, easy to grow vegetable.  To prepare it, you remove the leaves and stems and then use a paring knife to remove the outer skin from the bulb.  Slice the bulb into rounds for a crunchy snack – it’s great dipped into hummus or goat cheese.  It’s also nice in soups, stir-fry, and salads. (Another farmer at the market yesterday told me that she likes to make a mediterranean salad with diced kohlrahbi, diced tomatoes and feta cheese, which sounds divine.)  The flavor is fantastic — it kind of reminds me of broccoli stalks, which I also love because they’re sweet and crunchy.  It grows best when it’s sown as an early spring crop and then another batch later in the fall.  For seeds,  I like the crispy colors duo from Renee’s Garden.

Fermented Dilly Kohlrahbi Chips

Makes: 1 quart jar

Cook Time: super duper fast and then a couple days to wait for it to ferment

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/2 c. thinly sliced kohlrahbi rounds (about 2 large bulbs)
  • 1 tbs. sea salt
  • 3 dill heads
  • a couple sprigs of dill leaves
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled
  • water to cover, about 1 1/2 c.

Sterilize a quart jar. Put the kohlrahbi rounds, dill heads, dill leaves, garlic, and sea salt into the jar.  Cover with water, leaving about 1/2″ headspace. Add the salt.  Screw on the lid.  Shake the whole thing like crazy for a minute to mix up the saltwater brine.

Set it in a warm, dark corner somewhere for a couple days.   It takes a couple days to ferment. You’ll want to try a piece after 2 or 3 days to taste and see if it’s there yet.  The pickles will go from salty and okay-tasting to this dilly-sour-happy-taste-bud-explosion.  When it reaches that perfect point, stick the jar in the fridge to keep the flavors right where they are.  They’ll last in the fridge for… a really, really long time, theoretically, but you’ll probably eat the whole jar in just a day or two if you like dill pickles like me.

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Cook it! 2012 May Resolution

It’s that time again… In case you’re just showing up to the party,  this year a little group of us decided to tackle a different kitchen project every month.  It began as a New Year’s Resolution, a decision to devote some time to learning new skills and having fun messing around in the kitchen.  So far, we’ve made pasta from scratch, baked bread, made fresh butter and fresh cheese.

Now that the sun is out and the garden is starting to grow like crazy, I thought it would be a good idea to get away from dry goods and dairy and start doing something with all these veggies.   Which brings me to the May resolution–  to keep it really broad, let’s just say…. the goal is to ferment something.  It could be something with vegetables, like sauerkraut or kimchi, or it could be wine, beer, kombucha, sourdough bread…  whatever.

I haven’t done nearly enough projects involving fermentation and I wanted to devote some time to learning about this ancient method of food preservation.  Wikipedia says that there’s evidence that people were fermenting beverages in Babylon around 3000 B.C.   (After doing manual farm labor in the sun all day, my brilliant insights regarding this are:  Holy crap.  That is a long time ago.)   The whole concept of it is magical, that you can take some cabbage or cucumbers or whatever and combine them with salt and then wait awhile and *poof* the vegetables preserve themselves.   I love the simplicity.

I’m also drawn to the fact that the produce isn’t really cooked, (unlike preservation via canning) so it will be higher in vitamins and minerals.  And, as you may know, the process of fermentation also creates all of the beneficial microorganisms that make for healthy digestive systems.

— and that last phrase, right there, is why I think I haven’t bothered much with fermentation in the past.   It wasn’t a conscious decision at all.  I fell in love with jam-making and all those jewel-toned jars so easily.  Discussions about jam usually mean talking about apricots and strawberries, and whether or not Weck jars are worth the price.  It seems like chatting about fermentation, on the other hand, almost invariably fast forwards right to conversations about pooping.   If you google kimchi and start researching health benefits, you get a couple sentences into the article and then hear about how eating kimchi helps prevent yeast infections — because really, nothing says “domestic goddess” like healthy girl parts.

So, yeah, health benefits aside, I’m really just doing this because I wanted a way to preserve all these spring vegetables.

The ferment that I made first this month is a traditional napa cabbage kimchi.  Kimchi doesn’t have to be made with napa cabbage, but there’s something about the texture of the fermented cabbage that I really love.  I started small with this project, doing a mini-batch since I don’t own any big fermenting crocks.

Small Batch Kimchi

This recipe is adapted from The Hungry Tigress’ Kimchi Primer, since I know absolutely nothing about making kimchi but she seems like she’s got it down pretty well.  This version is (I think) somewhat traditional, but I used easter egg radishes from my garden instead of asian daikon radishes.  It’s also a little heavy on the radish part since I had a lot of them and they needed preserving.

cook time: 25 minutes active cooking, and then a couple days to ferment

makes: about 2 quart jars

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium sized napa cabbage
  • 1 bunch of radishes
  • 1/2 c.green garlic tops, spring onion tops or scallions, diced
  • 1 tbs. paprika
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 tbs. ginger, grated
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • about 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper, or to taste

for the brine:

  • 1/2 c. sea salt
  • 2 quarts filtered water

Wash the cabbage and slice it into two inch squares.  Wash the radishes, remove the tops, and slice them into very thin rounds.  Combine the salt and water in a large nonreactive bowl and stir well to combine.  Add the cabbage and radishes to the brine.  To keep the veggies from floating, put a plate on top of them and then cover the whole thing with saran wrap.  Leave it out at room temperature overnight to soak.

The next morning, drain the vegetables, reserving the brine.  Mix together all of the rest of the ingredients in a separate bowl (the minced garlic bulb and ginger, green garlic tops, paprika, sugar and cayenne).   Pour this mixture over the cabbage and radishes.  Give a few stirs to make sure everything’s nicely combined.

Transfer the seasoned vegetable mixture to two clean quart jars* and cover with the reserved brine.  Screw on lids and set in a warm, dark corner somewhere in your house.  For the next few days, you’ll need to open the jars and stir them with a clean wooden spoon or chopstick  (to make sure everything is fully submerged in the brine).   The kimchi takes anywhere from 3-6 days to ferment.  It’s hard to describe exactly how you know that it’s fermented, but if you taste it every day, you’ll know when it’s there.  How? Because it tastes awesome. You’ll know.  Once it’s fermented, move it to the fridge.  This will slow everything way down and keep the flavors and textures from changing too much.  Once the kimchi is in the fridge, it will last for months and months.

*I like to sterilize my jars for fridge pickles and ferments because, I mean, it can’t hurt, right?

And then you can have stuff like this for breakfast.  I was making a small bowl of basmati rice with some kimchi, and J. looked at it and said “you should put an egg on that” and man oh man oh man oh man was he right.  Kimchi is good as it is, but it into rice with warm egg yolk  it will definitely put a grin on your face.  Salty, creamy, warm and spicy, it’s hard to beat as far as quick meals go.

Kimchi Breakfast Bowl

serves: 1

cook time: 5 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 c. steamed basmati rice
  • a few tablespoons of kimchi
  • 1 egg, cooked however you like, seasoned with fresh cracked black pepper (sunny side up or over easy works best for this)
  • any of these: chopped fresh scallions, dried or fresh chilis, a tiny splash of ume plum vinegar or soy sauce, leftover chicken, some salted peanuts or cashews, fresh cilantro….. (whatever ya got)

Combine the kimchi and rice in a bowl.  Top with the egg. Garnish with whatever toppings you have on hand and feel like eating.

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To be included in the fermenting round-up, send me an e-mail at thejamgirl@gmail.com with the link to your post by June 15, 2012. If whatever you’re making hasn’t fully fermented yet, just tell us your plans and what you’ve done so far.

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Raw Sea Kraut

I have been harvesting the last of the winter greens over the last few weeks. It’s summer now, and I need to plant tomatoes and corn, not cabbage. Plus the greens were all starting to bolt, so it was time. 

At first I thought I would can some sauerkraut, but I was feeling lazy.  A little bumble bee in the back of my brain starting buzzing something about making raw kraut, that it is one of the laziest but also coolest projects to do with extra greens.

The reason that I can’t stop fermenting all my extra vegetables, in addition to the fact that sea kraut and kimchi are totally delicious and incredibly good for you, is that the whole process is so easy.

Sterilize jar.

Mix up greens with salt and any other things that make you happy.

Put the greens into the jar.  Wait for awhile.

Salty cabbage greens morph into crunchy sour tasty delicious healthy snack for eating all the time, with everything.

Plus, the fermented greens have superpowers now and can somehow last for months in the fridge (or for quite awhile unrefrigerated as well, though they will keep fermenting and the taste may change, becoming more sour than you want.)

In a nutshell, fermentation is one of the oldest and simplest food preservation methods available.  I think part of the reason I am enthralled by the whole process is that you purposely leave food unrefrigerated and let bacteria start infesting your jars. Years of restaurant work have engrained food safety rules in my head, and when I break them I feel like I am robbing a bank or stealing cars. 

Rules are made to be broken. They are just holding you down, man. 

Go grab that last cabbage in the garden and make some raw sea kraut!

Raw Cabbage and Seaweed Sauerkraut

This sauerkraut tastes like the ocean. The recipe is my own twist off of a basic raw sauerkraut recipe in Liana Krissof’s book Canning For A New Generation. It’s a great book to have in your pantry and I highly recommend it for any preservationist. 

makes: 1/2- 1 quart, depending on your cabbage size (mine was small)

cooking time: about 20 minutes of active cooking and then a week or so of waiting

Ingredients:

  • 1 savoy cabbage
  • 2 tsp. sea salt
  • 1 tsp. dried seaweed, I used wakame (see note for more info. on seaweed*)

1. Wash cabbage, remove core, and slice into thin strips. 

2. Sterilize a quart sized jar while you are working on step#3.

3. In a large, nonreactive bowl, combine cabbage, seaweed and salt. Knead the ingredients together, working the salt into the cabbage leaves. Gradually liquid will start to form. Keep going for about 15-20 minutes, and then transfer the mixture to the sterilized jar. It should fit and the liquid should just barely cover the sliced up cabbage. If it doesn’t, keep working the cabbage and salt together (or, in a step which would make this recipe take forever, make a brine, wait for it to cool, and add a little bit to the jar to cover the cabbage leaves). 

4. Weigh down the chopped cabbage with something to keep it below the surface of the liquid. Krisoff’s book and a few other sources suggest a ziploc bag filled with water, but I did it like this:

This is a half-pint sized jar with the lid attached and a long string running underneath the ring of the jar. It perfectly fits inside the wide-mouth quart sized jar that I used for the sea kraut. Drape the string over the sides of the quart jar and screw the ring on to hold the pint jar in place.

If you don’t have this perfect jar combo lying around, just use a ziploc bag.

5. Set aside the jar and wait about a week. You’ll see small bubbles forming, which means that the cabbage is fermenting. After the week is up, give the jar a smell and a taste. If should be pleasantly sour and crunchy. If it’s not sour enough, just wait another few days. At this point, I put the jar in the fridge to keep the flavors pretty much right where they were, but the sea kraut doesn’t necessarily require refrigeration.

How to eat this lovely kraut? I put it wraps with sliced fresh vegetables and on salads. You can make little lettuce cups with sea kraut, bell peppers and grilled chicken or tofu. You could use it in a sandwich. Serve it as a side with stir-fry and rice. The possibilities are endless.

For more information about fermenting, read this article from the Washington Post.

*Note: Dried seaweed is often available in the bulk food section of natural food stores. Wakame is delicious and just the right size for mixing into the kraut, but… funny story…. I realized when I was writing this that I had also used hijiki seaweed, and that several governments have apparently issues warnings relating to hijiki since it contains high levels of inorganic arsenic. You learn something new every day, right? It’s still safe to eat, just in small amounts. Read about it here. I think in the future I’ll just stick with wakame or dulse and avoid the hijiki altogether.