Saturday, July 14, 2012

Road Trip: Craftsbury Antiques & Uniques

My friend Vicky invited me to a "Antiques and Uniques" show in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont today (Craftsbury, to be precise). It was a beautiful drive over, which took us about two hours through the twisty, gloriously verdant back roads of the Green Mountain State. When we arrived, we met up with our friend, Rita. She and her husband were selling Adirondack pack baskets that Scott makes, furniture that they had refinished and wanted to "flip" (they billed themselves as The Sciota Pickers..ha ha), and also lovely homemade soaps that Rita makes and sells to raise money for an uninsured friend with a life-threatening illness and steep medical bills.

We spent the day browsing through all the tents and booths. I bought a lovely pair of handmade earrings and, more importantly, a blueberry ice cream cone because it was A THOUSAND DEGREES outside and the pale gingers like myself were wilting in the heat! We also did a brief walking tour of Sterling College, a very small, progressive liberal arts college that emphasizes environmentalism and grassroots sustainability. It is also one of only seven work-learning-service colleges in the U.S., where all students work and perform community service and earn part of their tuition. Quite fascinating! At one point, as Vicky was grilling a couple of students on their educational experience at Sterling, I noticed a rack of bikes that were there for students to borrow at will and return when they were finished. Then I wandered into the cafeteria and saw a map on the wall of the state with pins and string marking the farms where their food products came from. Awesome, eh?

After our visit to Sterling, to get a break from the heat, we popped into the little art gallery/internet cafe in town. (The only downside to charming Craftsbury that I could detect was their appalling lack of cell service and wifi!) In addition to my ice cream earlier, seasonal blueberries remained the food motif of the day. At the Art House Cafe, I had a superb vegan blueberry smoothie made with soy milk and sweetened with honey. YUM!

Then we walked over to the little Craftsbury farmer's market, where we sampled such local and ethnically diverse goodies as Indian Pudding and Michelle's Spicy Kimchi. The kimchi was particularly outstanding, so Vicky decided to buy a jar, and naturally, I decided to come home and make my own! I had planned to make kimchi last year when I was on my lacto-fermentation kick, but after making a bunch of sauerkraut, I was sick of cabbage, and the only kimchi I could muster up was cucumber-based. I had even ordered a bag of authentic Korean red chili flakes direct from Seoul (via eBay) that I still had in the cupboard. So with Sandor Katz' fermentation bible in hand, I bravely prepared my first small batch of the spicy Korean condiment. Here was my process:

Cabbage (Baechu) Kimchi
(adapted from Wild Fermentation)

3 pounds Napa cabbage, washed, cored, and cut into one-inch squares (or shredded)
1 very large daikon radish, peeled and sliced or shredded
6 carrots, scrubbed and fairly thinly sliced
6 tablespoons canning salt
6 cups water
1 bunch (about 8) baby leeks or scallions, sliced on the bias
1/2 large onion, small dice
12 cloves garlic, peeled and minced (adjust to taste)
1/2 cup grated ginger root (peeled)
1/2 cup Korean red pepper flakes, more or less
1 tablespoon Thai fish sauce (without preservatives), optional
3 teaspoons sugar

You should start by washing and soaking your cabbage in cold water for a couple/few hours. Then peel, cut, chop, slice and/or shred the cabbage, radish and carrots. Dissolve the canning salt in the water, and cover the vegetables with the brine. Loosely cover and leave overnight in a cool corner of the kitchen. The next day, drain and reserve a little of the brine, and then rinse the salted vegetables at least three times. Taste it. It shouldn't taste too salty nor salt-less. (I ended up having to rinse mine twice more for a total of five times until it tasted pleasantly seasoned.) Squeeze out as much excess water from the brined veggies as you can manage. 

Now cut and chop everything else that you wish to add to your kimchi. I used a bunch of baby leeks, half an onion that was rattling around on the counter, a whole huge head of garlic, and three fingers of ginger. You are supposed to mix the garlic, ginger, chili and fish sauce into a paste and then mix the paste into the veggies, but I can't imagine why. I just threw everything into the big bucket along with a little sugar to jump start the fermentation, mixed it all by hand, and called it good.

Then pack the  into clean jars, pressing it down tightly until the juice oozes up over the veggies. If it doesn't, then add a little of the reserved brine on top. Leave some head room to allow for expansion during fermentation*. You're supposed to weight down the kimchi with a smaller jar, a clean rock, or a baggie of water or brine. But I am going to check on it every day and re-submerge the kimchi manually. I plan to leave it out at room temperature, loosely covered, for just two days, but some people go 4-5 days, or up to a week. I suspect that would make kimchi that is too sour for my personal tastes. But you'll know it's "done" when it tastes ripe enough to suit you. Then you store it in the fridge from that point on. It will keep fermenting, but at a much slower rate. They say it keeps for three weeks, but I suspect it would fine for much longer than that...IF you don't eat it all before then, that is!

Follow-up: When I checked on the kimchi the next day, I knew it was working because it was rising and overflowing the jars like yeasted bread dough! So do heed the tip about leaving enough head room in your jars, or you'll have kimchi threatening to explode all over your kitchen like I did. By the following morning, when I came downstairs, the aroma of fermented cabbage wafted up to greet me, and I knew it was done enough for my preferences. So I packed up a smaller jar to take to my kimchi-loving colleague at school, and tucked the other two quarts in the fridge.

Now...what will I make with them? Stay tuned...


Jeana Ditch said...

So this makes a little less than 3 quarts?

Joy Bugaloo said...

Yep...I got two quarts and a pint.