At this time of the year, particularly when there have been days and days of hot and drought-y conditions, we are patiently waiting for the nightshades to start rolling in (tomatoes, eggplant, peppers!!) while we watch the plentiful lush and tender greens of spring bolt and burn out in the fields. While you’d think July would be a time of bounty, it’s actually a time when I’m feeling like things are the tightest in terms of crops coming out of the fields! I discovered this in my first year of running a farm, about ten years ago, and it still shocks me a little bit every season, this weird mid-summer in-between time. We are very excited to see the cherry tomatoes in the fields and all of the tomatoes in our tunnels, starting to change color.
It is also at this time of the year, again particularly when there have been days and days of hot and drought-y conditions, that I just want to spend my day off in a cool, air-conditioned space, hiding away from the sun. Yesterday was one of those days. I spent much of the morning listening to podcasts and music, freezing and fermenting neglected farm veggies that I have had in the fridge for weeks.
I cooked and froze radish tops and beet greens. I made a ton of pesto with some extra basil I had laying around and froze that, too. And then I chopped up bok choy, kohlrabi, radishes, scallions, beets, cabbage, carrots, and cucumbers and put those into a big 5 gallon crock to ferment for the next week or so (see the photos). In addition to the usual salt brine, i added a paste I made in the food processor from ginger, garlic, onion, and sriracha. It’s a batch that’s big enough to last us for months (and if we don’t eat it all, it’ll keep for months and months.
Below is a variation on the recipe that got me going on making veggie kraut about 13 years ago, adapted from deliciousobsessions.com:
Baechu (Cabbage) Kimchi
Inspired by a Sandor Katz, in Wild Fermentation
Makes approx. 1 quart
1 pound Napa cabbage, coarsely chopped
1 daikon radish, sliced into 1/4″ slices
2 carrots, sliced into 1/4″ slices
1 large onion, coarsely chopped
2 large bunches scallions, coarsely chopped
1 bunch cilantro, coarsely chopped
1 tsp. red chili flakes (or to taste)
3 Tbsp. fresh, grated ginger
Fish sauce, optional
Other veggies, your choice
1. In a large bowl or crock, prepare a brine of 1 quart of filtered water to 4 tablespoons sea salt. Set aside. The brine should taste very salty.
2. Chop the cabbage, slice the radish and carrots, and prepare any other vegetables you’re adding.
3. Place the cabbage, carrots, radish, and additional veggies in the bowl of brine. To keep the veggies submerged (which is required), cover them with a plate that just fits inside the bowl and put a clean, heavy weight on top (such as a jar full of extra brine). Let this sit overnight.
4. The next day, prepare your spice mixture. Chop the onions, scallions, garlic, and cilantro, and grate the ginger. (If you want, process some or all of this mixture in a food processor to make a paste; this helps to develop the flavors). Combine this mixture with the red chili flakes and set aside. Add a splash of fish sauce (a traditional kimchi ingredient) if you like.
5. Drain the veggies and reserve the brine. Taste the veggies for saltiness. You want them to be strongly salty, but not so salty that they are difficult to eat. If they are too salty, you can rinse them with water; if they are not salty enough, add a teaspoon of salt to the vegetables and stir them. Let them sit for a little bit and taste again.
6. Stir the spice mixture into the soaked veggies and pack tightly into a wide-mouth, quart jar (use your clean fist or a clean wooden spoon). You want to eliminate as much air space as possible. The juices will rise to the top as you’re packing the veggies. If you don’t have enough juice to cover them, add some of the reserved brine until they are covered by about an inch of liquid. There should be about an inch of space between the top of the liquid and the lid. If you have extra veggies, prepare another jar.
7. Ferment the veggies:
- Use a clean weight, such as a water glass or a smaller jar filled with leftover brine to keep the veggies submerged. Cover with cheese cloth or a towel to keep the dust out. You can also cover the kimchi with a tight-fitting lid, but you will need to check it every day to make sure the veggies are still submerged, and press them down (with clean hands or a clean wooden spoon) below the liquid if they aren’t.
- Leave at room temperature to ferment. You can taste the kimchi daily to see how the flavor develops. After about 5 days, move it to the refrigerator and let it chill completely.