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Friday, December 27, 2013

Cobbled-together Kimchi

Farmers Market Napa and Home-grown Daikon Greens

Late in the Fall, I finally got around to a couple of things. One was admitting that the daikon I planted was never going to make roots. Most of the summer planting bolted almost immediately, and the few plants that didn't never managed more than cracked, deformed, and undersized chunks underground. The second thing was realizing that I had a head and a half of napa cabbage yet un-used in the fridge.

So, kimchi.

There are plenty of recipes online, a suprising number of which make no sense. Some, because they are in Korean, which I do not read. Others, because they are in American, and are fake or wrong.

So I searched some more, and dredged up old emailed advice from a Korean friend of an Irish friend. This boiled down to: sweet rice flour is a good aid to fermentation, and you should use the greens you have.

Rinsing away the salt
So I stripped the greens off the straggling remnant of my failed daikon crop, a couple of stray mustard plants, and cut up the napa cabbage, then tossed it with kosher salt. Pressed out the liquid and rinsed repeatedly to get rid of (most of) the salt.

And so it begins.
Then I chopped in a mix of home-grown garlic and chilis (cayenne-ish, although NW peppers never seem to get as hot, and these were old), some store-bought dried ancho chilis (with their tobacco-raisin dimensions), and...maybe that's it. Except for the rice flour porridge, which I'm guessing is food to kick-start the microbes. Mexican anchos, Japanese rice flour, and bastard mustard may not be authentically Korean (also, I guess people used to fermenting in an onggi might look askance at my salvaged crock-pot), but somehow I imagined that using what was handy and seasonal would be acceptable to a fair proportion of Korean grandmothers, so I went with it.

The non-photogenic end result.

And before too long, I had the above. Not tongue-blisteringly hot, and oddly smoky due to the anchos, but tangy and tasty. These greens will not go bad, or be wasted. It's not bad, and that is good. It's probably even good for me. Hope so, because I've got a half gallon of the stuff. 

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Vinegar Time


Now that Stoic Week is done (in the time zones where it applied, anyway), a procrastinator like me can get around to writing about taking the world as it is. Putting things off makes sense, a lot of times. Like: I've put off writing blogs lately, getting things done, having more time with my family, playing in the real world, and dealing with the bounty of Fall.

Not that the more chore-like of these accomplishments haven't got some delay built in. I should have dealt with the garden a month ago, for instance. And the subject of today's post--vinegar--evokes among many Americans all things sour and past due. There's a Cracker song about a downer of a person, who sees "Roses and wine" as "Thorns and vinegar." I've been accused of being that person, not always without reason.

Wine, cider, and any number of fruits, however, aspire to vinegaration. Humans arrest this development for their own tipsy ends (myself included), but there's no sin in letting the process keep going a bit further (especially with headache-inducing red wine). The Acetobacter microbes feast on alcohol, and piss vinegar. And if you are stoic, seeing that this cycle wants to happen, you can embrace the waste, wringing from it something sweet...figuratively if not chemically.

If I had the extra cider, I would have let some turn to vinegar. But I am a stoic who has also been accused of being cheap (Must I utter it? Not always without reason), and so my eyes turned to the pomace, the "spent" wheel of packed pomes pushed from the press. This year instead of turning it upon yon worm-heap, I dumped pomace into bins, poured in a bunch of Olympia water, and let them steep. Sure enough, bubbling ensued, signalling the emergence of alcohol from the old time + sugar equation.

After the action subsided, I strained out the fruit, and let the liquid keep doing its thing. The result was a jug of apple water, and a tub of pear syrup. I didn't stir either as much as you're supposed to, but after a couple or more monrths of inattention, I got to them in the slack time after Turkey Day and before returning to work. The results are a gallon of clear-ish sharp apple cider vinegar and 3-4 gallons of amber pear product.

The pear vinegar, coming in such quantity, led me to step in and halt to process for part of the batch. I pasteurized a bunch and bottled it in re-used and sterilized beer bottles. The rest is in half-gallon growlers in the fridge and garage. So if anyone wants a trade, let me know via the comments section or an email. I'll be hanging on to a fair amount, though, since my goal next summer is to make pickles with my own vinegar.

So yeah, sometimes I put things off, and sometimes I am sour. But one thing spoils and a new one emerges. Recognizing that the process will do what comes naturally and suspending belief that there is a hard and fast expiration date, allows time to keep flowing, to make December as fruitful as Summer.