I love dirt. My brothers and I used to throw small clods of dry dirt at each others army men in battle that spanned whole (army man) mountain ranges. I’m not sure what precisely attracts me to earth, except gravity, but there is some connection that draws me to the soil. Perhaps this is one reason I agreed to assist my wife in cultivating a garden last year. And it may also explain Kimchi.
Kimchi is traditionally fermented in earthen jars, underground, for several months. I am fascinated by earthen jars, whether Terra Cotta potters, or a multicoloured clay vase. Using such a container for food is a really cool idea. No, no, I didn’t go out and bury some veggies in the back yard, but as I crafted my own kimchi brew, I had visions of large earthenware vessels, and felt quite connected to the idea of digging holes and pitching in my food to hold it for later. A really neat idea.
Instead of following the actual process of the traditional Korean condiment, I used a few Ball glass storage jars, and when full, I put them in the fridge.
What is kimchi? One variety, cabbage kimchi, is similar to sauerkraut; the main difference is that this type of kimchi is horrible. Some day, if I have to much cabbage on my hands, I might make some of this kind so I can punish my kids with it. No, kimchi basically refers to the process of fermenting vegetables. A guide to this process is outlined on page 94 of Nourishing Traditions, but once again, this is the cabbage variety. Use instead, say, cucumbers.
Use page 94 as a reference.
1/2 onion (Yellow, Red, White, or sub in a few green onions).
2 cloves of Garlic
2 Tablespoons Salt
1/8 Teaspoon chile flakes
WARNING: do not mash soft veggies like cucumbers as called for in the original recipe.
Chop the cucumbers and onions, add about half of the salt, and let stand for about 4 hours. Add garlic and chile. Remove veggies from water and place in large mouth jar, filling them to about two inches from the top. Add remaining salt and fill jars the rest of the way with water, leave only a small space in the top of the jar. Ferment on counter for 2-3 days, and afterward place in refrigerator. Enjoy.
I embarked on the making of kimchi last year, after making the mistake of planting two long rows of cucumbers. This resulted in more fruit (yes, the edible portion of cucumbers would be the fruit) than we could ever eat. And we had to pick them or they would kill the vines and attract more bugs. After trying Sally Fallon’s recipe for fermented pickles (page 97), I nearly gave up the idea of using the cucumbers altogether. The fermented pickles turned out horrible. I’m sure the blame lies squarely upon my shoulders, but I tweaked that recipe in every way I could, to no avail. In desperation I reached out to the Korean ancients, or at least the ones who posted on recipe blogs.The kimchi was superb! (A tad spicy on the first try, but not bad at all). This technique saved the rest of my cuke crop from the trash. In fact, after the initial fermentation at room temperature, my kimchi rarely survived more than a few days.
So, if you have a plethora of cucumbers, or just like the idea of burying your food for a few months, I recommend tinkering with kimchi recipes. Just be careful with the chile.