Friday, May 14, 2010

There's a whole lotta fermentin' goin' on!

I kept seeing references to kimchi… how healthy it was… how you could make it yourself… that Nourishing Traditions (about which I was also seeing references right and left at the time) had a recipe… Last fall, I finally got around to investigating Nourishing Traditions – you can imagine how pleased I was to find it at the library! Sure enough, that recipe looked do-able.

Whipping out a scrap of paper, I jotted down a shopping list, and the requisite ingredients were procured by Mr. Truffula on his next shopping expedition. Before I knew it, I was elbow-deep in Napa cabbage. Soon enough, I had jars of kimchi sitting out on the counter, doing their thing.

I gingerly opened one jar after a few days, and sampled the contents. Not bad. I labeled the jars and set them aside until needed.

Then, I emailed a dear friend who runs the most delightful café, where she produces and sells (among many other tasty things)… kimchi! I asked her whether she’d reveal her recipe, and she kindly described her process. It's from Wild Fermentation, and a bit different than the one from NT. Of course, I had to try it.

More ingredients were procured. This time, the crockpot was pressed into service as my fermenting vessel. After about a week, I sampled. Not bad. I labeled the jars and set them aside.

And so began regular kimchi production (and bottling of the results).

Christmas came. I brought samples of kimchi from each recipe, and subjected my extended family to a kimchi tasteoff. (The Wild Fermentation recipe won.)

If I could handle kimchi, then perhaps I could try out some sauerkraut, right? A (non-Napa) cabbage was bought. I prepared it à la Nourishing Traditions, put it into jars, and let these sit out on the counter, doing their thing.

I sampled, I liked, and I put the jars into storage for safekeeping until my stash in the fridge was consumed.

A woman in one of my food-buying groups offered some milk kefir grains. I took her up on my offer. The entire family was in the car with me as I retrieved the precious goodness. (I think they thought I was a little nuts – I was going to take perfectly good milk, add these thingies to it, and let it sit out on the counter? And then eat the results?!).

I tried a small batch at first – I didn’t want to waste any milk for naught. After a day, I sampled. Not bad. My production amounts followed the just-in-time philosophy. That minimized storage, but I still used a few jars in the process.

And so began regular milk kefir production.

Then, my sister, also exploring some of these culinary adventures, sent me some water kefir grains. I rehydrated them, and off we went. I sampled the results. Not all that good (to my tastebuds), but I’ve kept trying. In the meanwhile, I’ve acquired more of a taste for it.

In any case, I’ve kept up with semi-regular water kefir production. Each batch yields about four jars.

And then it happened: I ran out of jars!

That’s right: between the jars of ferments in progress, “finished” ones on the shelf or in the refrigerator, and the recently-emptied ones in the dishwasher awaiting cleaning before reuse, I had put every suitable jar in the house into service.

It’s a good problem to have. It’s liberating to know that I can make these time-honored recipes and proactively support my health by eating and drinking them. I love not needing to use any electricity in the production or storage. And, the processes are so fantastically easy. In fact, the milk kefir prep is so, so, so simple that I’ve given up making yogurt in favor of the kefir.

My fermenting habits are easy on the purse too – I happened to be at a local natural food store over the weekend, and spied a smallish jar of organic kimchi for over 15 bucks! Hmm… for that money, I could buy a few empty jars…

{raising a water kefir toast}

Happy fermenting!


Shona~ LALA dex press said...

Sandor Katz, who wrote "Wild Fermentation" lives in the next county over so it was inevitable that many, many people in my area are into fermenting. I have to say that historically I have not been a fan of pickled or fermented foods, but after tasting some items grown + fermented by a friend- wowza! It's something I want to get into one of these days. Need to buy that book.

suzannah @ so much shouting/laughter said...

i also keep reading about this but have yet to jump in...this may be the impetus i needed:)

i have a crazy collection of glass jars, so i think we'd be good for a while...

Levinson Axelrod said...

Good job on the fermenting. It's an excellent idea.

Rosa said...

We eat a lot of pickles and sauerkraut. I even have my mom's pickle crock...but I still haven't tried making my own. Thank you for the encouragement!


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