Tuesday, August 31, 2010

going fermental

japan and korea have been playing footsie in the ocean for a long time, so naturally they've had time for some potlucks and shared some recipes. while i had certainly heard of kimchi before i lived here, i didn't know it was korean (hard to believe there was a time i didn't know that!), and i don't think i'd ever tried it. slowly that began to change, first with kimchi nabe, then a few bites of actual kimchi at yakiniku restaurants, and after a very good korean drama in which they were always conspicuously eating it, finally an all-out obsession with the stuff. i've taken to eating it with almost every meal on almost anything...eggs, baked potatoes, avocados, rice, burritos. it doesn't hurt that it's been called one of the world's healthiest foods. i love it so much that i began to worry about being deprived of it on my return to the states. my mom did some reconnaissance and reported it's expensive in my small hometown. the solution seemed obvious: learn to make it myself.
turns out it's even easier than i imagined. i found this recipe and gave it a shot.

raw hakusai. i love that you wash it after you've brined it, 'cuz it's easier.

the wilted, brined hakusai.

adding the red pepper paste. i didn't know if i got the right pepper because there were a baffling number to choose from, and all in japanese.

after adding the green onions, ginger, and garlic. i skipped the fish oil.

i also added brown sugar instead of his apple/pear substitute because i didn't have an apple or a pear (and with the fruit prices in japan, that would have tripled the cost), but i did add a small onion blended in water, which made it liquidy enough. note to self: blend the ginger and garlic with the onion next time so they don't have to be chopped.

finally wrangled into a clean but non-sterile jar with the lid loosely on. notice the height of the liquid.

while i was waiting for it to do its thing, i started wondering if i should be worrying about botulism. i've never done any canning, so i don't know anything about it, but after poring over websites far and wide, i learned that the conditions of lacto-fermentation are totally wrong for botulism bacteria, which helped me breathe easier.

twenty-four hours later, it was bubbling up a storm and had expanded a lot! i was so excited about this obvious sign of fermentation that you'd think i, myself had caused it to ferment! i left it another ten hours or so.

the finished product! not as red as korean kimchi, but a lot spicier and more garlicky than the store bought stuff here.

this foray into fermentation has definitely whet my appetite for more! i'd like to try cucumbers next!


  1. cool. this is a good addiction. we're supposed to eat fermented stuff every day as they do in many cultures to get all that good bacteria in our gullets. yummmm... sally fallon's book NOURISHING TRADITIONS has lots of fermento recipes and more! it reminds me to make sauerkraut again for N! he LOVES it and it's a big pain to make, but worth it.