I am experimenting with fermenting foods at home. It’s great fun. I feel like a mad kitchen scientist, making experimental food and watching it change. Also involved is a fair amount of hoping things don’t explode in my cupboards. Don’t need a Mythbusters-style kimchi blowup.
I’ve missed kimchi ever since leaving Korea in February this year. It’s well-known as a healthy addition to normal diets, and there is some evidence it may have anti-cancer, immune-boosting, and general health promoting qualities. Mind you, most of that research comes directly out of Korean universities and there might be just a tiny bit of bias toward a major national food. I needed a kimchi fix, and I’ve joked that I would need to learn how to make the sour spicy sweet and overall 맛있어 food. New experimental target acquired!
I used a recipe from Epicurious.com, one of my favourite sites for making food. I began teaching myself to cook about five years ago, after I got back from studying abroad in Italy. Something clicked there; if you want to eat good food you have to be able to make it. Even more importantly, to make it the traditional way. Slow food is the best food.
I started with simple recipes from my cooking class in Ferrara, and built it up from there. I somewhat-stupidly promised myself to make all the bread I consumed for a year with my own hands, having almost never made bread before. I learned to plan meals and to know what to do when my money ran out (Emergency vegetable soup using the contents of my freezer!). I got better at judging when something was cooking right and when I had clearly screwed up. I found my cooking style: throw things in and adjust as needed. Recipes help, but intuition is best.
This batch has been brewing for about a week and a half, and it’s perfect! I was worried it wouldn’t be right, because I didn’t have to go to the Korean Supermarket just outside The British Museum and get proper ingredients. I didn’t have Kosher Salt or 고춧 가루 (Korean hot pepper flakes). Yet it still worked out great! The little bubbles that rise up when I open the jar tell me I’m a successful kimchi fermenter.
Recipe (Modified from Epicurious):
- 3.5 ounces plus .7 ounces table salt
- 1 1/2 pounds small brussels sprouts, trimmed, halved
- 1/2 small onion, coarsely chopped
- 4 garlic cloves
- 2 tablespoons fish sauce (such as nam pla or nuoc nam)
- 2 tablespoons Thai hot sauce from Waitrose
- 1 tablespoon grated peeled ginger
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- Combine 3.5 ounces salt and 2 quarts warm water in a large bowl, whisking to dissolve salt. Add brussels sprouts and top with a plate to keep brussels sprouts submerged. Let sit at room temperature 4 hours; drain. Make sure some of the bowl is exposed to the open air. This is so that wild yeasts and other helpful things for fermentation can get in there. Don’t freak out! They’re our friends, and always have been.
- Mix the onion, garlic, fish sauce, hot sauce, ginger, and soy sauce. Add to bowl with brussels sprouts and toss. Transfer to two 32-ounce canning jars, packing down to eliminate air gaps.
- Combine remaining .7 ounce salt and 1 quart warm water in a large bowl, whisking to dissolve salt. Add pickling liquid to jars to cover brussels sprouts, leaving at least 1″ headspace. Cover jars with lids. Shake ’em up. Let it sit out of direct sunlight at room temperature until kimchi tastes tangy and releases bubbles when stirred, 3-5 days. Chill.
Kimchi can be made 2 months ahead (flavor will deepen). Keep chilled.
What fermented foods do you love? I’ve love some more ideas!