Let’s Make Baechu Kimchi

Today we looked at how to make baechu kimchi, partly because I was running out, and partly generating a little inspiration to plant our own cabbages and other brassicas in the community gardens.

This recipe is adapted from Sandor Katz’s Baechu Kimchi, excellent instructions in his book Wild Fermentation. This jam-packed little guide to making fermented foods is the second most used book on my cooking bookshelf at home. While there are heaps of different kinds of Kimchi, mostly when people here talk about Kimchi they’re mostly talking about cabbage or Baechu Kimchi, so we’ll just call this Kimchi from here.

Kimchi can seem wildly exotic and complex in flavour, salty, sour, sweet and hot, so its a surprise that it’s quite simple to make. Microbes pretty much do all the work for us. The most we need to muster is the patience to wait until flavors develop to our liking.  Getting the ferment happening is a two-part process, with a few hours between the two.

Ingredients

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1 Chinese Cabbage/Wong bok

A couple of Carrots

1 Daikon or a few other Radishes

A Yacon root, Nashi pear or Apple

4 Tablespoons Sea-salt dissolved in 1 litre water

then

6+ Chillies, or Kimchi chilli powder**

4+ Garlic – peeled

Ginger – 2-3cm piece, peeled

You’ll also need a fermenting crock (or non-reactive bowl large enough to hold all the ingredients with a plate which fits inside the bowl and something heavy to put on top), as well as a large non reactive mixing bowl, and clean hands to mix. The fermentation process is basically a lot of little microbes digesting and farting, which means you have to release the gas every so often. I use a giant 10L Gartopf, traditionally used for making sauerkraut, with a built-in moat, which when filled with water acts as a brilliantly simple air-lock. This makes it very useful for all kinds of fermenting.

Decant straight into jars instead and then just open the jars up every so often to release any build up.

 Method

I use the biggest firmest chinese cabbage, or wong bok I can find, Todarello’s in Katoomba often has fine specimens to chose from. Then I add fresh crunchy veg. The last batch I made contained  daikon carrots and leek, this time it’s just the chinese cabbage and carrot. Cauliflower chopped into very small florets is also lovely.

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Step one. I chop all the vegetables into chunky pieces, cabbage 2-2.5cm max, and slice carrots/yacon/radish/daikon medium thickness, leeks cut a little finer. Yacon, nashi pear and crunchy apples also add another sweeter dimension. Experiment and find variations that work for you. Add to fermenting crock. Other recipes have fish sauce, but I’m keeping this one vegan.

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Dissolve 4 tablespoons sea salt (the cheapest Celtic salt from the food co-op works just fine) into some warm water, then top up to 1 litre in a measuring jug. Pour the lot in over the vegetables and give them a stir to mix through. At this stage the salted water may not cover the veg. Don’t worry about that yet. Put the weights for your fermenting crock over the top & pop the lid on, fill the moat with water. Or cover with a plate/lid which is small enough to make contact with the veg (we want to keep air out).

WAIT for 4-6 hours. I’m not good at this waiting part so I begin in the evening and leave overnight. The salt will draw moisture from vegetables over the soaking time, and all the veg suck in salt from the brine.

Next, test the veg. They should taste ‘salty but not too salty’* If not salty enough add more salt and mix through. If they’re good remove all the veg into a bowl, & pour away the brine (on some weeds you want to kill perhaps).

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Blend chillies garlic and ginger with a blender or grate ginger chop fresh chillis/garlic or add chilli powder, then crush together with pestle and mortar.  Sandor’s recipe suggests the quantities as a certain amount ‘or more’ and really only you know how hot you like your kimchi so follow your flavour passions!

Add the chilli ginger garlic paste to veg and mix together with your clean hands. Again it’s all a big experiment. The flavour will also depend on how long you leave the kimchi to mature, the longer you leave the more sour and complex character develops. This will also vary hugely in different weather too, so every kimchi will have its own personality, reflecting the conditions, the seasonal ingredients available and your mood as you slice and dice. I put everything back in the crock and mix inside because I find that easier.

A summer kimchi matures faster than one in winter. In Katoomba 3-5 days seems long enough for my taste. When it’s done bottle and store in the fridge.

Instructables have also posted a variation on Sandor’s recipe. Find more versions and heaps of kimchi making tips at Maangchi.com including different way of cutting up the cabbage for an impressive looking dish.

I love using Kimchi in a variety of meals, for breakfast: poached or fried eggs with a side of kimchi and Meredith dairy soft goat cheese might sound unusual, but it is really pretty special. Kimchi also transforms Japanese noodle soups made with a kaeshi base into an even deeper warming Winter soup.

*Sandor Katz, Wild Fermentation

**buy Korean Kimchi Chilli at the Laughing Elephant, Wentworth Falls

Oh yes, and it’s super good for you too…More about Kimchi on the ever awesome wikipedia

Fermenting Crocks will be available for sale in the food co-op‘s new shop when it opens in a few weeks. Thanks to the co-op for garlic, chillis, carrots and daikon.

Next week: we taste test the latest batch, made with locally grown bell chillis, and last week’s batch which I used Korean chilli powder.

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Recipe – Biodynamic Tree Paste

Biodynamic Tree Paste (BTP) comes from the tradition of lime-washing the trunks of orchard trees in the winter to combat pests and provide the trees a boost. It is generally applied in winter in a descending moon to boost health, combat fungal diseases and pests and to help heal pruning cuts.

Hugh Lovel gives a gives an overview of the history and principles of BTP and a recipe at http://www.quantumagriculture.com/node/178. He sums it up well when he says “The idea is one of building, strengthening and enriching the bark and trunk of the tree, which can be thought of as the ‘soil’ out of which the tree’s vegetative growth springs.” I also found a great simplified recipe and a video demo from Backyard Biodynamics at  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4VHRtDOo8k0.

We made our BTP at the gardens based on the Backyard Biodynamics recipe, with some of the other things I found in other recipes added back in based on what we felt was right for our place. Ingredients: 4 parts certified organic composted cow manure (easier to get around here than actual cow pats); 3 parts fine clay (ours had some grit in it and wasn’t bentonite but it had to do); 2 parts fine diatomaceous earth; 1 part volcanic dust; 1 part agricultural lime (some recipe’s recommended slaked lime, but that didn’t feel right to me); A 1/4 part of zeolite (probably not needed); some seaweed concentrate and; enough rainwater (about 10 parts) to blend it all to the consistency of paint.

Method: Soak the clay for a few days or more. Put the rainwater in a non-reactive container and expose it to the sun and stars for several days and nights. Assemble all the ingredients. Dilute the seaweed concentrate into the water to about half the strength you would use on vegetables. Put all the dry ingredients in a wheelbarrow with a little seaweed-water and mix lovingly by hand in a wheelbarrow, gradually adding more water until it reaches the consistency of paint.  Transfer the mixture to a tall bucket and stir in the usual biodynamic way to further energise the solution with both yin and yang. Stir for an hour, or at least as much of hour as you can. Then, paint the trunk and bark of the tree as high as you can reach.

Preserving Mushrooms and Gardening Update

Last week, it was all about mushrooms! A brief and enthusiastic conversation on identification and recipes led to an impromptu forage, further discussions on their functions in nature and the ‘Foragers’ Code:’ Only take what you need, leave some for others, and some for nature.

Lately I’ve been think how important it is to know how to preserve wild mushrooms, so I also did an informal demo on salting Lactarius deliciosus, (full recipe at the foragers’ network. Like most recipes, I substituted where I had to, so this time it meant in with herb-infused sea salt, cumin seeds and fenugreek leaves and out with the caraway seeds.

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Activity in the gardens also went up a level last week, with new volunteer Amanda likely to be seen most days in the garden from now on on ongoing projects. So if you see her lopping Privet or clearing weeds from the creek, feel free to say hello.  Amanda has also brought in a couple of new varieties of strawberries to plant out.

This Friday we’ll be making and applying some biodynamic tree paste, applying some potash and do a bit of pruning. Please contact me if you have some fresh organic cow manure to share.

It’s all happening, so come along – Permaculture in Action, Hodgson Park, every Friday from 10:30am to 1pm! Sign up on our meetup page if you’re thinking about coming along then we’ll let you know about any last-minute changes in plan (due to inclement weather etc)

Little Balls of Autumn Bliss

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There’s only one ingredient you could hope to grow locally of the three in bliss balls, and that’s the nuts. Autumn is certainly upon us, and hazels, almonds and more on their way. These bliss balls are a whole lot healthier than your average sweet treat. They’ve been a welcome sight after a morning’s gardening on many occasion, an everyone has their own version. Ingredients Dates & Nuts for the filling, and coconut to roll them around in.

And they’re quick and easy to make! Here’s how.

Blend roughly equal amounts (in volume) of pitted dates and nuts. 1 cup of nuts (I used 3/4 cup almonds and 1/4 cup hazels for mine) and roughly chop a cup of dates, in a blender or put through a slow juicer (I find this makes a smooth consistency but is more work washing up).  Mejool dates are juicier than the other dried ones you can get. When they’re in stock find these in the fruit section of the co-op. Throw a good handful of shredded coconut or desiccated coconut into a bowl. Then pull out a small nugget of the date/nut mix and lightly roll between the palms of your hand before rolling in the coconut.

If you’re camping or have minimal kitchen equipment, just chop the ingredients more finely and use a fork to mash them together for a rustic texture.

Simple, and satisfying as these are, there is a giant diverse world of recipes for bliss balls out there, with tempting ingredients including cacao, goji berries and maca powder. So what ever your favorite ingredients or health kick you’re on, you can go ahead and roll your own.

Two Soups: Soup Number One Jerusalam Arichokes

International Permaculture Day visitors from around the globe enjoyed a couple of sensational seasonal food on the Sunday at the community gardens. As promised,  For those who asked about recipes and those of you who didn’t quite brave the weather on Sunday, you can still join in and get a little seasonal action, celebrating food culture in the kitchen at home with these wonderful warming winter soups. Here is the first of Sunday’s two soups, featuring very easy to grow local ingredient jerusalem artichokes (Helianthus turberosus). These often overlooked as standby and survival crop, in the right hands, in this case Sue’s, create dishes to look forward to.
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If you’re not already growing Jerusalem artichokes at home, you can pick some up from the community gardens in the next couple of weeks, or at the Slow Food stall at Leura Harvest Festival this weekend.

Roasted Jerusalem Artichoke and Mushroom Soup

Ingredients

8 decent size Jerusalem artichokes, scrubbed

1 medium onion, chopped

1-2 cloves garlic, crushed/finely chopped

2 cups mushrooms, roughly chopped

1/2 cup potato, roughly chopped to 2 cm pieces

2 Tablespoons dried porchini mushrooms

1l vegetable stock (if using powdered stock make it a mild one)

About a cup of oil and a tablespoon of butter (or oil)

small handful of parsley

Method

Preheat oven to 200 C

As soon as you know you’re making this soup, cover dried porchini in a glass measuring jug with a litre of hot water and leave to stand. The longer you leave it the stronger the porchini flavour will be imparted to the liquid. The initial recipe I used says soak them 24 hours but if you do this step first, this will be fine to use by the time you need to add the mushroomy goodness.

Next chop jerusalem artichokes and potatoes into chunky slices, transfer to a baking tray, cover with oil & sea salt making sure all surfaces are well covered. Roughly chop mushrooms and put in a separate tray or dish, again cover well with oil.  Bake for 30-40 minutes.

When you’re bored of the artichokes and mushrooms being in the oven, (or just after the allotted time above), leave them in the oven til you’re ready for them. Take mushrooms out after 20 minutes. with artichokes, the longer they’re in there the more roasted flavour goodness you’ll get.

On the stove in a nice heavy pan or roasting pot, in a generous dollop of butter or oil, fry chopped onions and garlic until translucent, then add porchini + their water along with 1/2 additional stock. Cook for at least 20, preferably 30 minutes before blending with a stick blender or in small batches in blender with jug. If after blending you think the consistency is too thick at this point, add additional stock until you like the consistency. Season additionally to taste. I find with the salt used for roasting the artichokes that I don’t need any more at this point, so make sure you try it before adding any more.

Preheat bowls to serve with warm water. Add a swirl of cream, chop parsley and sprinkle over the top and serve immediately. Makes enough for 4-6 people depending on how hungry/gluttonous they are.