Tag Archives: lacto-fermentation

Mak Kimchi

18 Feb

Last year I posted a recipe for my first foray into kimchi making: kkakdugi, or daikon kimchi.  Since then, I have acquired The Kimchi Cookbook by Lauryn Chun.  The book features a great assortment of both traditional and experimental kimchi recipes, as well as recipes for kimchi-inspired meals.

With all the wonderful recipes in the book, I’ve managed to use it twice, and both times I made the most traditional kind of kimchi– the kind you can buy anywhere.  You can call me boring, but it is a perfect recipe, and when I taste perfection, I’m not immediately inspired to look further.


Chopping the cabbage.  Cats are very helpful kimchi-making overseers.

The hardest and most culturally enriching part of making this kimchi was finding some of the traditional Korean ingredients.  Anchovy sauce, salted shrimp, and Korean chili peppers don’t just hang out on the shelves of any neighborhood grocery store.  A store by me that carries The Kimchi Cookbook and many fermenting supplies and ingredients sells ready-made kimchi paste, but not the building blocks to assemble one’s own.  Lame.  If I’m making kimchi from scratch,  I want to do it ALL the way!  Koreatown on 32nd street between Fifth Ave and Broadway in Manhattan is your best bet if you in the NYC metropolitan area.  Halfway down the North side of the block, there is a food store.  When I stepped into the store, a clerk immediately asked if I needed help.  I stood out like a sore thumb, being the only non-Korean in the joint.  Amidst the endless bottles of fish sauce and soy sauce, I would have never found the anchovy sauce without his help.  The chili flakes and salted shrimp were more obvious.

My below recipe is adapted to a slightly larger amount than what is listed in the cookbook, mainly because I have a big fermentation crock and I like to fill it up when I use it.


The hard-to-find authentic ingredients. Aaak! The shrimp and their little eyes!

Mak Kimchi

1.  Rinse 2 large heads of napa cabbage.  (6 lbs +)  Cut them into long quarters, remove the core, and  chop them into 1-2 inch, uniform as possible square pieces.

2.  Place the chopped cabbage into a large bowl.  It will take up a lot of space, so you may need two bowls.  Sprinkle 1/3 cups of kosher salt onto the cabbage and mix it up.  Let the cabbage brine in the salt for an hour or more.

3.  Meanwhile, make your kimchi paste:  In a food processer, combine 1 medium onion, sliced, 6 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped, 1 generous inch of peeled fresh ginger, grated, 3 Tbsp of anchovy sauce, 3 Tbsp salted shrimp, 3 tsp sugar, 3/4 cup of Korean pepper. Process it into a pulp.


the kimchi paste

4. Rinse the salt off the cabbage.  Drain it well in a colander or with a salad spinner.

5.  Combine the cabbage with the kimchi paste, and mix in the green parts of 8 scallions or a few green onions, cut into 2 inch pieces.

6.  Pack your kimchi tightly into  your fermentation vessel, adding water as necessary to submerge the kimchi.  Cover, and let it sit for three days at room temperature.  Your fermenter could be a pickling crock or simply a large mason jar (or two).  This recipe will yield 2-3 quarts of kimchi.  As it ferments the kimchi will expand, so place your jar on a plate to catch possible overflow.  After this point, it is ready to consume.  Store the kimchi in your refrigerator.  It will continue to ferment slowly and will last for many months, maturing in taste over time.


From the mixing bowl to the fermentation crock

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The Spit of Old Scratch: XXX Fermented Hot Sauce

5 Apr

Old Scratch Himself. (Photo credit: elycefeliz)

One of my classic family stories involves hot sauce.   Years ago, my Uncle Al told my innocent, unsuspecting, 7-year-old sister to try some “delicious” salsa.  What he didn’t tell her was that the salsa had warning labels on it because it was so spicy.  My sis took a big slosh of the stuff onto her chip and ate it down, and then her entire body turned bright red.  She ended up garbling milk, the white liquid dribbling off her tongue and onto the floor because it was so hot.  My uncle had himself a laugh over it, whereas my sister and I lost a bit of respect for him that day.  In the last year or two, I heard my uncle recount the story, and he blamed his own daughter for feeding my sister the sauce.  So, I think he has a guilty conscience over the incident, too.  The following sauce could have a similar effect if put into the wrong hands.  I advise you to eat it and offer it with care.


The ingredients

5 habañero peppers

1 poblano pepper

5 cloves of garlic

1.5 teaspoons mustard seeds, toasted

1 teaspoon sea salt

You want to wear gloves to protect the skin of your hands while you remove the stems and seeds, and finely dice your peppers, and certainly make sure not to wipe your eyes when handling them, or you will be in pain! Dice the garlic, and mix all the ingredients in a medium bowl. Let the peppers sit in the salt for a few hours to extract their juices.

Add 1 t apple cider vinegar.

Place the peppers and their brine into a glass jar- mind didn’t produce a ton of their own. Add water so that the peppers are immersed, and cover your jar. Let this sit at room temperature for a month. Skim off any mold that forms on the top.

Place your fermented pepper mixture in a food processor, with brine, and macerate until they are a liquidy pulp, place your sauce in a bottle and refrigerate until you are ready to consume. It won’t look like very much sauce– but a little really goes a long way!


Finished product– appropriately placed between the kimchi and the yogurt in my fridge.

Daikon Kimchi: Kkakdugi

21 Feb

I’ve been meaning to make kimchi for some time. I love it, I buy it, but then I hear stories about how you are supposed to bury it in the back yard for years before you eat it, and I think that this kind of lore intimidated me: especially as I don’t have a backyard to dig a hole in, and in Greenpoint, I don’t think I’d want to do that anyway, thanks to the noxious stuff under our ground due to the Newton Creek oil spill so many years ago, not to mention what other industrial junk gets into the ground….

Last week we went out to a Korean restaurant and got a wonderful array of traditional kimchi appetizers. My favorite of all of these is always the daikon kimchi, also called Kkakdugi. This variety of kimchi is much harder to find in the stores: the ones I shop in, at least, and so my desire for more Kkakdugi brought me to finally overcome my fear of kimchi and make some. After searching my fermentation books and a few recipes online, I decided on my method. Here’s what I did–



Kkakdugi (Daikon Kimchi):

Cut off the green tops of a bunch of daikon radishes— about 1 and 1/2 lbs. Save the tops for putting in a soup or stir fry. Radish greens are delicious! Wash, peel, and chop the radish roots into 1/2 inch cubes.

In a large bowl, place the radishes and add 1 1/2 T salt, 1 T sugar.  Let the radishes sit for at least an hour.  I think I waited 3 hours.  You could even let it sit overnight.

After they have sat for some time, the salt and sugar will have caused the radishes to release their juices.  Keep this juice!

Add to the mix:

5-6 cloves minced garlic

2 inches of ginger, peeled and grated

2 T fish sauce

3 T hot pepper flakes

4 or five scallions, with their greens, finely chopped.

Mix the ingredients well until the seasonings coat the radish evenly.  Taste it.  If  you want more spice, add more ginger or pepper and mix again.  Put everything into a quart-sized jar.  Press the radishes gently down.  The radish juice should rise up to cover the radishes.  If it doesn’t, add enough filtered water to cover the radishes.

Recipes that I’ve seen say that you should let the daikon sit for 2-3 days before it’s fermented.  At 2-3 days, mine tasted lacking, so I let it ferment a good week– then it tasted “done” to me– until then there was a top note missing.  So, ferment until you think it’s done.  Check the radishes every day or so, tasting as you see fit, making sure that they remain under the brine.  When your kimchi is ready, eat immediately, or refrigerate until you’re ready to chow down!

Cranberry Chutney

5 Jan

I generally think of chutney, the salsa of India, as a summer food, perhaps partly because its origin is a place with a hot climate, and also because it requires fresh fruit which is mostly available in the summer.  My adoration of cranberries over the winter made me decide to depart from my plain old cranberry sauce recipe to ferment something new. So, here’s a fermented winter chutney I created.  To learn more about lacto-fermentation, check out my post on lacto-fermentation basics.  Enjoy!

In a small pan, toast:

1/2 t whole cloves

1/2 t coriander seeds

1 t fennel seeds

1/2 t peppercorns


Toasting the seeds.

Wash 4 c cranberries (usually the amount of 1 bag), and pick out any soft ones. Chop the cranberries coarsely in a food processer.


Coarsely chopped cranberries

Mash the spices a little bit (not powder fine) with a mortar and pestle or a coffee grinder.  Combine the cranberries with the toasted spices and:

a 3 inch piece of ginger, grated,

1/2 t dried thyme

the juice of one orange

1/4 c yogurt whey (see my curds and whey post for details on obtaining whey.  Do NOT use powdered whey!  You need an active culture as your inoculent.)

2 t sea salt

1/2 c filtered water

1/8 c plus 1 T rapadura

1/2 c dark raisins

Place your mixture into a quart sized mason jar, and press the cranberries down so that the water rises to the top of the mixture. If necessary, add a little more water. This part is a little tricky, since cranberries like to float. Do your best to immerse everything.  By the end of the first day, my cranberries had floated up above the water, but everything came out okay….   Leave at least 1 inch of room at the top of your jar. Seal the jar tightly and leave at room temperature for about 2 days. Test your recipe. If it doesn’t taste done (this is a personal preference thing), leave it a little longer. When ready, refrigerate your chutney. It should keep for about 2 months in the fridge.


The finished mixture, ready to ferment

Beet Kvass and Lacto-Fermentation Basics

21 Jun

Beet kvass, a traditional drink from Russia, is one of my favorite (okay, they are all my favorite) lacto-ferments.    Another traditional kvass is made with sourdough bread and raisins or other fruits.  I haven’t made that particular recipe yet.

Beet kvass is sited as a healthy tonic:  good for liver, as a blood tonic, for general digestion, and even kidney stones.  I got this recipe from Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon, one of my food bibles, and I’ve been making it for years.

Put 2-3 beets, peeled and coarsley chopped in a 2 quart glass jar:  Not grated.  Grating will create too much juice and the rapid fermentation that results is apt to create alcohols instead of lactic acid.

Add 1/4 c whey (see my post on curds and whey) , 1T sea salt, and fill the rest of the jar with filtered water.

The newly combined ingredients

Stir, cover with a lid, and keep at room temp for 2 days.  After two days, the mixture will be beautifully red and have a salty-sour taste.  Put it in the fridge to drink at will.  You can re-use the same beets to make a second batch, but this one will be considerably weaker.  You can also eat the beets– they are now pickled beets.   Also, for the second batch, you can use 1/4 c of leftover kvass instead of whey as your liquid starter.  Occasionally, as with any pickling process, mold can grow on the top.  Originally I was afraid of this mold, but I have since come to understand that you can skim off the mold– it is only growing where the mixture comes into contact with the air.  Beware:  after you drink this, you may be in for a surprise on the toilet.  You are not bleeding to death.  It’s the pigment from the beets.

What is Lacto-Fermentation?

Lacto-fermentation is a traditional method of preserving vegetables and fruits.  It also increases their digestibility and vitamin levels.  It is so-called not because of the addition of dairy to the mix (although we are using whey in the above recipe), but because the fermentation process results in lactic acid as a byproduct, and encourages the growth of the lactobacilli bacteria– a beneficial microbe.  This is one of the microbes you might find in supplemental probiotic solutions.   Lactic acid is what preserves the veggies, and also what promotes the growth of healthy intestinal flora.  Kimchi, sauerkraut, and umeboshi plums are some of the things you can create from lacto-fermentation.

Anything that you find on the grocery shelf that is canned or jarred and not refrigerated comes from a slightly different process, generally involving the use of vinegar.   Canning involves using heat to kill all resident bacteria, whereas fermentation creates an environment for the correct bacteria to thrive.

Unpasteurized fermented foods will continue to ferment and become more sour if not slowed down by refrigeration.  Salt is used in the fermentation process because it inhibits bacterial growth that can cause rancidity while the lactic acid is being formed from the foods.  Once enough lactic acid is present, the environment for lactobacilli is prime and this beneficial organism will crowd out any of the bugs you don’t want.  Adding whey to the ferment helps to reduce the need for salt because it is rich in lactic acid, thus acting as an inoculent for your culture.

Here is the top of the kvass after 48 hours.  At the end of the fermentation process, you probably will see a healthy “scum” on top of your ferment. Sometimes this scum includes mold. This is normal. Skim off the scum from the top and drink the rest.

Why filtered water?  

1.  Tap water is often treated with chlorine and other chemicals.  These chemicals are present in your tap to kill microorganisms.  We want to create an environment that microorganisms can thrive.

2.  Sometimes tap water still has microorganisms in it that could compete with the population that you are trying to grow.

I’m sure there are other good reasons.  These are the two that occur to me immediately.

Why sea salt?

Table salt is highly processed.  It’s like salt’s equivalent to fortified white flour.  To keep salt dry, producers use additives, including aluminum compounds (can’t be good for you).  They also add iodine to replace some of the naturally occurring mineral content that is eradicated from industrial processing.  Dextrose must be added then to stabilize the iodine– this turns the salt purplish, so then they have to bleach it also.  Hmph.  Salt is often sited today as the cause for a variety of health problems.  Partly this is because so many processed foods on the market contain an excess of salt, and it’s not natural sea salt.

Salt extracted from dried seawater is a whole food as opposed to an engineered derivative.  It is usually grey in color and is high in trace minerals, particularly magnesium.  It is a little bit clumpier than the commercial stuff you might be used to, but it is nutritionally so0o much better.

Salt is an important nutrient:  in my college dance training experience, I suffered from grueling calf-cramps.  I would wake up screaming in the night from a charlie horse.   One of my teachers asked if I was getting enough salt in my diet.  After I increased my salt intake, my cramps went away.  Many pregnant women that I work with in yoga class also suffer from the same type of cramps.  I always suggest that they add sea salt to their diet.  On the subject of cramps, coconut water seems to be a great cure too.

Basic Kraut

23 May

My latest completed project is a batch of saurkraut:  just in time for Memorial Day barbecues.  It’s a no-fool recipe, but a rather labor-intensive processs.  The finished product can last for months, so it’s a good investment.  This recipe makes a quart.

Shred 1 head of cabbage.  You can use a mandoline or food processor:  I just use a knife.

Sprinkle 4 t salt over the shreds, let it sit for about an hour so the salt starts to break down the cabbage.

Massage the cabbage thoroughly, then pound it.  This is the laborious part.  It might take a good 45 minutes to pound down.  Thus, sauerkraut is a good way to work out any pent-up anger you’ve been holding onto….

Pounding the kraut: I go back and forth between a pestle, a wooden spoon, and a potato masher.  This is not the whole batch you are seeing:  much of the cabbage has already been added to a jar.

When it gets really wet, stuff some of the cabbage in a quart-sized wide-mouthed jar.  Keep pounding it until the juices from the cabbage start to rise above the vegetable mass.  I recommend wearing an apron, as this can get a little sloppy.  As you have more juice, keep layering more cabbage into the jar.  Continue to pound until you have fit all the cabbage in.  Press the cabbage down below the brine you’ve created, and use a water-filled jar as a weight to hold it down.

Here the cabbage has been pushed below the brine. For this recipe, I used two pint sized jars instead of a quart sized jar. I added a tsp of caraway seeds to one of the jars for me, and left the other jar plain for my caraway-phobic boyfriend.  Those are caraway seeds you see floating on the brine.

You may want to cover this, as fruit flies find it very interesting.  Let kraut sit at room temperature for at least a week, making sure that the liquid stays above the level of the cabbage.  You may see some bubbly action on top.  This is normal.  After the week is over, taste it, see how you like it.  If it’s too tough or not sour enough, let it stay out longer.   Cover your jar and refrigerate when the kraut is fermented to your liking.

Variations:  Red cabbage makes a beautiful and more colorful sauerkraut.  You can also add things like shredded carrots or beets, though beets will turn it Very red.  Caraways seeds, dill, or other spices could also be added.

Old Ways Herbal: Juliette Abigail Carr, RH (AHG)

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