Elenore of Earthsprout and I got to talking recently, and as per usual, it was about all things edible. We both love fermented foods and decided to ask all our fav food bloggers to join us in spreading the word about how awesome and easy it is to make your own fermented foods at home! We have such a treat for you over the next seven days, as we celebrate fermentations with tons of recipes and ideas for all of you to get on board. Welcome to Fabulous Fermentation Week! (see all participants’ links at the end of this post…)
Most cultures around the world in fact use bacteria to make food more amazing, because something really cool happens when these two entities meet: we get fermentation. Fermentation is the process of a carbohydrate being converted into an acid or an alcohol. Under the right conditions foods will naturally ferment, which is precisely how the process was discovered over 5000 years ago.
So, um, bacteria kind of rocks. You heard me. I can rattle off a million reasons why those teeny-tiny organisms are good for you, and actually important for your health – not a threat as we’ve been conditioned to believe.
Why Bacteria is your Buddy
The bottom line is fermented foods are amazing for your overall health. The larger the variety of fermented foods you can take in the better, as this helps populate your digestive system with a variety of microorganisms. Some examples for fermented foods that are widely available are plain yogurt, miso, tempeh, pickles, sauerkraut, kefir, kimchi, and kombucha. When purchasing these items make sure that they do not contain sugar, preservatives, food dyes, and most importantly that they have not been pasteurized. Heat destroys all the delicate bacteria, so the foods must be raw to be beneficial. This may mean a good old-fashioned DIY or that you visit a market or health food shop instead of a traditional grocery store, but I have no doubt you will discover a whole world of awesome fermented-ness that you didn’t even know existed! Party!
Lactic acid fermentation is just one process of which we are all familiar with, even if you’ve never heard the term before. Lactic acid fermentation is responsible for the sour taste of fermented vegetables such as sauerkraut, and pickles. The sugar in the cabbage and cucumbers respectively, feed that bacteria and in turn that sugar is converted into lactic acid, which serves as a natural preservative.
One of my all-time favorite things to ferment is cabbage and turn it into kimchi. Through the process of lactic acid fermentation this humble cruciferous goes from ho-hum, to ka-BLAM! Kimchi is Korea’s national dish, and it is really spicy, tangy and totally addictive. If you’ve ever been to a Korean restaurant you’ve undoubtedly been served this fermented cabbage delight, most likely on the side of your meal.
My version of kimchi is vegan and gluten-free. I am aware that most traditional kimchi is made with fish sauce or soy sauce, but I wanted to create a recipe that vegans and those avoiding gluten can enjoy. I’ve also chosen to go with a simplified method that doesn’t require soaking the cabbage in salt water overnight. I have experimented with both methods, and I just find the one I am presenting you with today is easier for beginners. I do not claim to be a kimchi expert, but I do know that this stuff is easy to make and darn tasty.
Makes a lot!
2 Napa cabbage (2 kg total weight)
1 large glass jar (mine has 4-liter capacity)
1. Wash all veggies. Chop cabbage into bite-sized chunks, julienne or grate carrots, daikon, and apple. Slice green onion. Place all vegetables in a very large bowl.
*Tip: After removing kimchi from the container to eat, push the remaining back down to keep most of the cabbage submerged in the brine (the liquid). This will help keep it fresh for longer.
Q: My kimchi has been on my counter for a few days. How do I know when its ready?
Q: I think my kimchi has gone bad. How do I know?
Q: My kimchi is moldy, what should I do?
Q: My kimchi is too strong for my taste. Any tips?
I’ve done all kinds of fermenting in my young life, because I am a huge food geek. The more I experiment, the bigger my edible world gets! Pretty exciting stuff to learn that you can turn ordinary foods in super foods in just a few simple steps. I realize that leaving things sitting out on the counter is waaaaay counter-intuitive – it may even seem like a mental hurdle to get over, but please trust me, it will all be okay. Your universe is about to expand, your gut is about to get healthier, and your taste buds are about to go on the craziest joy ride, ever.
For more information and recipes, I highly recommend the best books on the subject, Wild Fermentation and The Art of Fermentation, both written by my fermentation hero, Sandor Ellix Katz. Check out his website for forums, recipes and general geekiness too.
Love and bacteria,
Fabulous Fermenation Week Friends!