Tuesday, October 12, 2010
The title of this post is a song title. A song that my talented then-fifteen year old daughter made up to commemorate the day a jar of kim chee exploded in the car. Full lyrics can be found here: The Alchemy of Cabbage (A Little Knowledge Can Be a Good Thing). Isn't she just amazing?!
One might think an event like that would put me off kim chee forever, but strangely, it hasn't. I guess the siren song of fermented cabbage is just too seductive to resist. Last year's kim chee - my first foray into lacto-fermented foodstuffs - was okay, but definitely a little too sweet. This year I made it with only the barest whisper of sugar, just enough to encourage things to get rolling.
Here are all the ingredients arrayed on the counter. The awesome gigantic red clay mortar and pestle is a recent score from a downtown thrift shop (Christmas 2009, Thrift Store Edition). Five dollars, and sturdy as a brick outhouse. I already have a good mortar and pestle, of course, a marble one which was a long ago gift, and I will certainly continue to use it; but this one is five times the size. The old one is good for a few cloves of garlic or crushing some whole spices, but this one will work for major jobs like making mole or... crushing the spice paste for a large batch of kim chee!
The other ingredients are:
- one large savoy cabbage, roughly chopped (got it at the last saturday Ferndale Farmer's Market of the year. Sniff!).
- one medium yellow onion, sliced to ribbons
- two bunches green onions, chopped into one inch lengths
- half a head of hot Korean garlic, also bought at the farmer's market
- branch of ginger (I'm not using all that ginger, only about two inches of it).
- hot red pepper flakes
The cabbage was put to rest for about four hours in a strong salt brine (one tablespoon salt per cup water) and then squeezed out and placed in my biggest mixing bowl.
Then I crushed the garlic, ginger, red pepper, and a touch of soy sauce into a rough paste in my new mortar and pestle. This part was fun. If you are feeling annoyed or upset about something, or just tense in the shoulders, it's very therapeutic to bash the hell out of things. But even if you are feeling fit as a fiddle and happy as a clam, it's still fun. Put on some music with a good bass line and thump away.
When you like the look of the spice paste - or your arm is tired - scoop it up in your hands and rub it into the cabbage. Mix it up gently. Make sure every bit of cabbage has a little bit of spice on it. Then pack the cabbage into a large glass or ceramic jar. Make sure there is plenty of room, you don't want it to be crammed in there tight. Put a lid on it, but loosely.
Here is the kim chee sitting on my kitchen altar to ripen. Every day, I turn it over once or twice. Every other day I loosen the lid to let gas escape and to get a whiff of the lovely bubbling stinky fermented smell of it. The kim chee will be ready to eat in four days, but you can let it keep going pretty much as long as you want. Just refrigerate it after the first three or four days.
In my house, I am the only one who likes kim chee. If that's true in your house as well, you might try to make less kim chee than I did (that's a half-gallon jar in that picture). I imagine I'll be eating kim chee all by my lonesome well into winter.
Clearly, I spoke too soon when I said I was done preserving for the year (Canning Wrap Up (Green Tomato Chutney)). Not only did I make kim chee this week, but I also used up a serious milk surplus by making and canning about two gallons of cajeta. All those little jars on the top shelf are full of cajeta, as are the two half-gallon jars on the bottom shelf. The small jars I will probably give away for christmas presents and the large jars are for us. I know a gallon of cajeta sounds like a lot, but you would NOT believe how much of this stuff my husband eats. It goes in his coffee every morning, and he like a ratio of about 1:4 cajeta to coffee.
I am more or less happy with my pantry. In addition to cajeta, there are several quarts of cucumber pickles; some pickled beans and asparagus; several quarts of pear sauce; a few pints of homemade ketchup; and, of course, the green tomato chutney. That's the homemade, local side of things. As you can see, I'm not a purist about that. Costco has also provided many of the items in my pantry, from the fifty pound sack of rice to the crate of soy milk.
I believe, at the moment, that we have a good three to six month supply of food in the house, and that's pretty good. In addition to my dry goods pantry above (50 pounds of white and brown rice, 50 pounds of pinto beans, 12 pounds of pasta, crate of canned tomatoes, ten or so pounds of mixed dried pulses, canned tuna, flour, sugar, salt, etc) there is also the chest freezer and the cold storage. Right now, the chest freezer has one whole goat in it, as well as a few pounds of beef and pork. But I have already paid for a quarter steer and a half hog, which are currently being cut and wrapped. So in a week or so, the freezer will be full to bursting. Also in the freezer are the last of the berries we picked this summer. Not many left - a few pounds of blueberries and a quart of raspberries.
The cold storage has a dozen assorted large winter squash and a big box full of apples. I need a better cold storage system - right now it's just the cupboards out in the shed. This works fine for October and November - and most years, a lot of December as well - but if there's a real hard freeze everything out there would freeze. For now, I just make sure we eat everything up by the end of November. For the long term, I would like to dig a real root cellar.
Going into the cold season, I like to take inventory and make sure we are stocked up. It's not like we are isolated here - we are on a state highway and only ten miles from town - but even so. The weather here is more severe than I was used to in Seattle. Though we are only 100 miles to the north, it turns out that makes a pretty big difference. Add to that the fact that we are on a high, exposed hill that gets the full blast of the wind off the water, and it starts to become a little nervous-making. This year is a strong La Nina year - so I read in the papers - and that means more snow and extreme winter weather than usual. I remember very well the winter of 2008, when we were snowed in completely for a full week.
Of course, preparing for a winter like 2008 requires more than having enough food on hand. There's also the question of what to do when the power goes out. That, however, is for another post. For now, I'm satisfied with my kim chee and my pantry and my half-full tank of propane.