Tuesday, June 15, 2010


If you remember, a few posts back I said you should watch out for pickles by the gallon.  I scored a couple earthenware crocks at the flea markt for under thirty smackers, and therewith I intended to amp up my pickle production flim-flam.  Whatever pickle production flim-flam is, I don't know.  On the other hand, I do know a few things about pickles in general: (a) not all pickles are made from cucumbers; (b) ketchup and mustard are condiments but they are also pickles; (c) you can pickle pretty much any vegetable, and some people pickle different meats.  That should be enough for now.  Let's skee-daddle onto the kimchi pics.  

A confession: I TOTALLY staged this photo!  Another confession: I did not grow the Napa, A.K.A. Chinese Cabbage, in my own garden.  A third confession: I have a wart on my big toe.  Warts have nothing to do with pickles; in fact, warts are caused (usually) by viruses, and pickles are "caused" by bacteria, specifically, Lactobacillus plantarum; for short we'll call it Lacto B.  Well, the addition of salt to vegetables and water (i.e. brine) inhibits the growth of all bacteria except for our friend Lacto B, and it just so happens that Lacto B. produces, as a byproduct of its own life, lactic acid, the acid that preserves the vegetable and lends the pickle its sharp, sour flavor.  Now you know a little something about pickle.

The next step is to chop your clean cabbage into rough square-shaped thingy pieces.  I once heard a pickle chef-writer say that the veg pieces needed to be a specific dimension, and when I was a wayward and unconfident pickler I obeyed that stupid-face advice, but it's totally untrue.  You don't need to fuss over piece size.  Just chop it into fairly regular pieces and you will be A-OK.  But then comes the next step:

The next step is to salt the vegetable or submerge the vegetable in a brine.  The pickle chefs do not all agree.  Camp A says Salt the chopped veg and let it sit for a bit, then rinse it, pack it into a crock, and submerge it; Camp B says Chop it, pack it into a crock, and submerge it in brine.  Both camps agree that salt is necessary, though there are some totally outrageous pickle heads out there that advocate for a salt-free pickle: they claim they're more nutritious.  The nay-sayers don't deny the possibility of that, but they do say that vegetables fermented without salt are mushy and gross.  USE SALT.  

Anyway, if you want to get into making pickle, I highly recommend a book called Wild Fermentation.  Pickling vegetable is a rather fool-proof affair, although it can seem spooky to the rookie.  Ha! Roo-Key!  Anyway, if you are serious about making kimchi, you should check back periodically (just in case I reveal the recipe); or you should find the book I told you about. 

Oh, the final picture is a picture of the cabbage, submerged in brine, held down by a plate, and weighed down with a mixing bowl with a can of beans inside of the bowl.  This is the first phase: I belong to Camp A: tomorrow I will drain the cabbage, mix it with the other veg and spices (shown above) and pack it into a smaller crock to ferment, in a cool dark place, for one week.  

1 comment:

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