Wednesday, June 18, 2014

The Finished Product: Selkirk Gets A Treat.

The waiting was over this morning, and as it has been a little warm here on the prairie I decided that two days was enough.

When the fermentation process is well under way some of the brine will back up into the air trap but that's not to worry, and it's why you should put a plate underneath your mason jars.

So, this morning after the Dragon Lady left for work, I brought my two jars of kimchi up from the garage where they'd been resting next to a motorcycle clutch and a pair of carburetors-all of which are dry, so don't worry folks.

First thing is to remove the plastic lids and air traps and give them a good washing. They'll be ready for a couple of jars of pickles if I can get the cucumbers and fresh dill.

Then you can install the lids loosely and tap the jars on the table a few times to "burp" them-a number of air bubbles will rise to the top. Screw down the lids and date the product with a sharpie marker and into the fridge they go.

But first, first taste.

Your taste buds will tell you that they're very happy-you'll get some onion perfume, the pleasant tartness of a fermented product, the crunch of still fresh vegetables, and the heat of the chile. Then, creeping in will be notes of the fresh ginger and garlic. The beauty of kimchi is that it's very much a free form, artistic kind of thing-you can use any number of vegetables and fruits to craft it to your liking. You don't get that with the commercial product.

The nice thing about making your own is that you get a lot of very fresh kimchi, and it is about as far as the store bought stuff as it can be. I ended up with two quarts of the stuff, and my total cash outlay was about $11 for the produce. The air traps were bought online for about $14 and are reusable-and there's that old standby, Ball jars-still a bargain for a dozen 1 quart wide mouth jars for $12. They may be the original recyclable and reusable product.

By comparison a small jar of the commercial stuff, about a 12 ounce jar, will cost you about $8 at Hy-Vee and you could probably devour it in a single sitting. So, if you enjoy the stuff as much as I do, you're going to have plenty of fresh tasty kimchi and money in your pocket. Pretty soon you'll start trolling the net for new recipes you can use your jars for.

Now, it'll chill in the fridge until lunch. Bon appetit.

UPDATE: 7-23-14.
This tastes a lot better if you let it age in the fridge for a few weeks.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Making Kimchi At Home-A Guide For Honkies

 NOTE: This is what is called the lactic acid fermentation process. There's plenty to read about it on line and this is a good introduction to the process. Only tackle this if you have some level of confidence in your culinary abilities because if you don't get it right you could get sick from it.

On the other hand, it is said to produce lots of healthy probiotic stuff to keep your innards happy. I'm not sure how much of this I believe but there is something to it. Plus it tastes good if you like spicy stuff.

I went and got the necessaries this morning and reviewed one on line recipe that's pretty comprehensive (you can see it here) and set to work. I obtained a big bag of red pepper flakes from Wang's Asian Grocery in Clive for six bucks and it is just the ticket. Down at the local Hy-Vee I got, in no particular order, the following.
a medium size head of Napa cabbage
a medium sized head of bok choy (because I like it)
a Daikon radish
a hunk of ginger root
a bunch of scallions
a Granny Smith apple
half a yellow onion
a red bell pepper.

Here at home I had plenty of garlic and kosher salt, plus bottles of spring water.


You clean and slice your cabbage into bite sized chunks, wash it, combine it with a half cup kosher salt-worked in real well, some spring water, and then let it sit for an hour or so, giving it a good massage every fifteen minutes or so

While you're waiting you can cut up your radish, scallions, onion and whatever else you like into matchstick size slivers.

Take and put as much garlic and ginger as you like in a food processor and when chopped well turn it out into a mixing bowl. To this add enough spring water to make a paste, plus a couple tablespoons of sugar and some soy sauce. Many recipes call for fish sauce but I don't like the stuff at all. Then, add about 8 tablespoons of chile flakes.

After an hour or so, turn out the cabbage and rinse it thoroughly under the tap to remove the salt.

Then, in a mixing bowl combine the veggies and the chili-garlic-ginger paste. You can do a taste test now and adjust it to your liking.

At this point get yourself some rubber gloves to do the mixing with unless you like red stained hands.

When thoroughly mixed, put the combined vegetables and chile into a couple of quart mason jars which you have sterilized by baking them in a 200 degree oven for ten or fifteen minutes.

Pack that stuff down, and when your jar is full-ish, take a spoon and pack it down some more and work out as much of the trapped air bubbles as you can. Then it's on with the air traps for sanitary reasons, and off to a quiet place to let it sit for two days. Put a plate underneath it.

Mine is in the garage on my workbench next to a motorcycle clutch and some carburetors.

I'll be back in a couple of days to let you know how it turns out.

When it's to your liking cap the jars and put them in the fridge.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Des Moines Parks and Rec. Declares Jihad Against Fishermen

Recently something that's been brewing in this burg has broken out in the open, and that, of course, is the ban on fishing in certain areas of the Riverwalk and down by Gray's Lake. Hizzoner and the Godfather of Parks and Rec says that they've had complaints about litter, trash and so on, but I don't see anyone complaining about the litter and dog crap that you usually find along the Riverwalk, none of which can be traced to anglers.

How about just buying a few litter baskets? 55 gallon drums are cheap enough and I'd even paint them for these thugs.

My friend Mike, a passionate angler from Virginia Beach says that people have been fishing long before the Parks and Rec Department or the City decided that they had to bow the knee to their corporate masters in 801 (you know who they are) and run off the anglers and other people who clutter the view. He further says that the right to fish and feed your family thereby is a common law right that has existed from ancient days and is part of our heritage as yeomen.

Of course, it does stretch the point to compare this to the hated Acts of Enclosure but the City has been pushing around the powerless for years, whether it's running off the homeless from their untidy Hoovervilles along the rivers or the recent jihad against lunch trucks, based on the shoddy premise that they were making the view on south 14th Street ugly. 

Really now? Southeast 14th Street ugly? Perish the thought.

Saturday, June 07, 2014

Watch This Space

Every once in a while you get the itch to try something new and different to wake up your taste buds. Lately I've decided to not do things anymore that I don't like doing, and the corollary to that is to be open to new things because, well, life is kind of short and can be shorter than you think as I found out recently.

I've been thinking about getting some kimchi for a while now but my local super stopped carrying the stuff. So I shelved the idea until yesterday.

What it is is pickled napa cabbage that is fermented by the lactobacillus method-washed, salted, and packed in a jar with garlic, ginger, daikon radish, green onions, and chile flakes-lots of chile flakes. When it's had a couple of days to percolate it's got to be refrigerated. You can also use this method to create things like kraut and kosher style dill pickles-which, since I bought a dozen 1 quart Ball jars-ought to keep me busy down at the farmers' market next weekend looking for things like pickling cukes and napa cabbage.

Of course, say the word "chile" and right away you have my attention. I'd been looking for a good excuse to visit Des Moines' Saigon Market, where the good folks who own the joint set up shop in a dead Blockbuster video outlet. I bought a pretty good sized jar of the stuff for five bucks, and discovered a few things.

Traditionally kimchi is made at home, and no self respecting Korean grandmother would be caught dead buying store bought commercial grade kimchi-although for long nosed foreign devils like myself, it serves as a pretty good introduction. There also may be a few people who are nipping in and out of the Saigon Market-or other fine oriental groceries-and hoping the neighbors don't catch them buying the store bought merch.

Going to the other side of town is always a good strategy if you're involved in some potentially dodgy business.

I sampled it when I got home and I liked it enough to start gathering the materials I can't get locally to make my own-it is rather easy and there are plenty of recipes on la internet.. I think rolling my own will yield a crisper, fresher version of the commercial stuff.

I think the Old Man would have liked this stuff. It's spicy and piquant but not overpowering, and should be a good adjunct to a lot of otherwise ordinary grub. As for the homemade stuff , stay tuned.