Fermentation is one of the oldest forms of food preservation, and lately, there's been a resurgence in the popularity of fermented foods. Many people are interested in the taste and health benefits, but don't know how to ferment successfully. Fortunately, nature does the work if we provide the right conditions for fermentation.
If you're interested in learning how to ferment and taking home a quart of started veggies, check out the Fermentation Workshop Series I'm teaching at the Urban Farm Fermentory in Portland. Our first class is kimchi, next Wednesday night. For $20 you'll receive 2.5 hours of instruction and take home recipes, fact sheets, and a quart of started kimchi.
In the meantime, check out the batch of kimchi I started in preparation for next week's class. I am following the recipe from Wild Fermentation by Sandor Ellix Katz and it takes about a week to fully ferment. In case you've never had it, kimchi is a spicy Korean condiment. It's slightly sour, tangy, and spicy. And it's a great way to use up all the random vegetables in your fridge or leftover from your CSA share (you can add green beans, peas, seaweed, Jerusalem artichokes, etc).
To start, I brined all of the vegetables (Napa cabbage, carrots, and radishes) overnight in a strong salt water brine- which helps to soften the vegetables. The next day, I drained them, reserved the brine, and tasted them. They were unpleasantly salty, so I rinsed them well.
Then I finely chopped up one large shallot, half a yellow onion, two Serrano peppers, and three garlic cloves. I also grated three tablespoons of ginger (which is a lot of ginger!). This spice paste is where you can make it as spicy as you'd like. You can add more of any of the above ingredients, as well as green onions and leeks.
I mixed the spice paste and the sliced vegetables together well and packed them tightly into a quart jar. There was a bit of brine emerging from the vegetables, but not enough to cover them, so I added in some of the reserved brine.
Check on your fermenting veggies daily; taste them (with clean hands!), and make sure they are fully submerged below the brine. Any exposed veggies will be vulnerable to mold.
Right now, the salt is inhibiting any toxic microbial growth (aka the nasties), and in a few days, the bacteria lactobacilli will begin to produce lactic acid through the fermentation reaction. Once the bacteria have used up all the sugars and starches, the process will be complete and the acidity level will make the product safe for long term storage (4 to 6 months in the fridge). If I wanted to, I could heat-process this product in a boiling water bath, but that would kill all the gut-friendly organisms (aka probiotics).
If you'd like to get your hands clean (heh) with me to learn more about this process, I hope to see you at the Ferm next Wednesday. Registration can be taken online through the UFF's Skills Classes page, and there are plenty of other fermented topics to explore all summer long.