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The Agricola Cookbook and a Kimchi Recipe

finished kimchi - Food in Jars

I am a relative newcomer to kimchi. It wasn’t part of my family’s pickle culture (we leaned Jewish and Japanese) when I was growing up and I don’t think I had even so much as a taste of it until college. After that first bite, spent about a decade feeling kimchi-neutral. I’d eat a bite or two at Korean restaurants, but it wasn’t something I sought out.

Agricola - Food in Jars

Then something shifted. I became someone who always had a jar of kimchi (whether homemade or store bought) in the fridge. These days, I eat it with eggs, layered into quesadillas, on top of avocado toast, or even just out of the jar when nothing else appeals. It is one of my favorite ways to add flavor and texture to just about everything.

kimchi recipe - Food in Jars

Over the years, I’ve tried a number of different recipes for kimchi, and oddly, the proportions for my favorite version don’t come from a specialized fermentation book or one devoted to Korean cuisine. Instead, the foundational recipe comes from the Agricola Cookbook, a book born from a farm and restaurant in the Princeton, NJ area.

napa cabbage - Food in Jars

The essentials of basic kimchi (and what I mean by basic is that this is the kimchi most commonly found in the US) are the same. They are napa cabbage, daikon, green onion, garlic, ginger, salt, and chile powder. Some recipes have you add rice flour (for thickening the spice paste), shrimp paste or fish sauce (to increase the funky umami), apple or asian pear (for sweetness), or carrot (for more crunch and color).

salted napa cabbage - Food in Jars

For my uses, I find that the simpler approach is best. The most exotic ingredient you’ll find in my batch is the Korean chili powder called gochugaru that gives kimchi its trademark color and spice. You can get it at most large Asian grocery stores, though I typically buy it a pound at a time from Amazon.

kimchi close - Food in Jars

The process takes about a week. I start by salting the cabbage and letting it rest overnight. The next day, I rinse and drain it, add the julienned daikon (made using one of these peelers), and lengths of green onion. I make a spice paste with garlic, ginger, and sugar, add the gochugaru and then rub it into the vegetables. Then I pack it into a jar or crock where it can ferment for five or six days. When it’s done, I transfer it into a jar for the fridge and start eating down the batch. Easy and delicious.

I’ll be taking some of this kimchi with me to the next Philly Food Swap. It’s on Monday, November 9 and there are still spots available, if you want to join us!

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CSA Cooking: Single Quart Fermented Dilly Beans

Philly Food Works September share

Last Thursday, the nice folks from Philly Foodworks dropped off my September share of goodies. The box contained a little bag of spring mix, 12 ounces of perfect green beans, one hefty eggplant, a tiny watermelon, both hot and sweet peppers, half a dozen ears of corn, a bundle of sweet corn, one giant heirloom tomato, six multigrain bagels from Metropolitan, and a bottle of sweet and spicy hot sauce.

bean close-up

Despite the utter chaos of the weekend (a family wedding, loads of visiting cousins, my mom in town, and my mother-in-law’s on-going health issues), I managed to cook, process, and preserve a goodly amount of the bounty in the box and I can feel how my future self is already appreciative.

12 ounces green beans

I combined the sweet and hot peppers with a head of garlic, some ginger, and a salt brine and it’s on the countertop turning into hot sauce as I type. I made a trio of easy salads with the corn, spring mix, eggplant, and tomato.

My mom and I split the watermelon, each taking a half and digging in with spoons (though I did save the rind for pickling). And with three people in the apartment, the bagels certainly didn’t last long.

beans in a jar

That leaves us with the hot sauce, swiss chard and the beans. I’ve been dribbling the hot sauce on scrambled eggs. The chard leaves are destined for a pot of soup, while the stems will make more of these pickles. And the beans are also on their way to becoming pickles. One of my favorite pickles, in fact.

beans in a jar side

I hinted at these pickles last fall when I gave away a short stack of preserving books. The bones of the recipe comes from the wonderful book Fermented Vegetables, though I’ve scaled it down (as I so often do). It ends up being an easy, adaptable pickle that stays super crisp, is effervescently tart, and just happen to have all those gut-friendly bacteria swimming about.

Make as big or as small a batch as you want. Just make them! And look for the hot sauce recipe next week!

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Pacific Merchants 10L Pickle Crock + Giveaway

pickling crock square

I made my first batch of sauerkraut in the fall of 2008 (in fact, that single jar of kraut was the first thing I ever wrote about here on Food in Jars). Since then, I’ve done a goodly amount of fermentation, from kosher dill pickles to kombucha to kimchi.

In all the years that I’ve been letting various fruits and vegetables gently bubble away in my kitchen, my vessel of choice has been a wide mouth jar (either a quart or a half gallon, depending on the volume I’m making). And while these jars have served me admirably, there was part of me that always wanted to try out a dedicated pickling crock.

crock overhead

So, when a rep from Pacific Merchants got in touch and asked if I’d be interested in trying out their 10L fermentation crock, I said yes.

It is a lovely crock, with thick walls, stone weights, and a gutter that you fill with water for an airtight seal. This crock, along will all the other stoneware vessels that Pacific Merchants sells, was made in Boleslawiec, Poland.

pickling crock open

You can use crocks like this one for all manner of ferments and I’m planning to christen it with a batch of sauerkraut. I’d intended to start a batch in it before this post, but I head out of town next week for nearly three weeks on the road and Scott asked that I not make him responsible for a large-scale ferment. I thought it was a fair request and so will start a batch (with step-by-step pictures for you all) when I get back in July.

pickle weights

Now, for the giveaway. The nice folks at Pacific Merchants are offering one lucky Food in Jars winner a $100 gift card for their website. What’s more, they’re also offering a discount code for their website. It’s good now through June 16. Just type in “foodinjars15” at check out for 15% off your order.

Here’s how to enter the giveaway:

  1. Leave a comment on this post and tell me about your fermentation habits. Do you make your own lacto-fermented pickles? Do you have a jar of kimchi in the kitchen right now? Or is your only contact with a fermented vegetable is the tray of warm sauerkraut designed to top hot dogs at the ball park?
  2. Comments will close at 11:59 pm on Saturday, June 7, 2014. Winners will be chosen at random and will be posted to the blog on Sunday, June 8, 2014
  3. Giveaway open to United States residents only.
  4. One comment per person, please. Entries must be left via the comment form on the blog at the bottom of this post.

Disclosure: Pacific Merchants sent me the 10L fermentation crock, along with a pair of 1L Kilner jars, for photography and review purposes. They are also providing the giveaway unit. They have not compensated me beyond that to write this post and all opinions remain my own. 

Homemade Kimchi

half gallon of kimchi - Food in Jars

I’ve been talking a lot about fancy salts and how to use them in preserving this week. On Tuesday, I shared a recipe for a quick, spicy cucumber pickle (which I’ve been eating non-stop on salads for the last couple days. It’s intensely garlicky and I love it). Today, we’re using some of that gorgeous salt in a batch of kimchi.

shredded kimchi veg - Food in Jars

I came relatively late to the world of kimchi. I’d eat it when at a Korean restaurant, but it wasn’t really something I started seeking out until a couple years ago. At first, I satisfied my kimchi craving by buying packets of the stuff from the Trader Joe’s refrigerator case, but soon found myself going through two or three a week. It was time to start making it myself.

salt and crushed peppers - Food in Jars

I will be the first to say that my technique isn’t the most authentic on the planet. I don’t use rice flour (because I’m lazy and don’t want to add another thing to my pantry) and I pretty much toss whatever vegetables in that I have (there are red radishes in this batch because I had some and wanted to use them up).

I also pack my shredded and seasoned veg into a half gallon jar and let it do its fermenty thing, without airlocks or any kind of weight. I just press it down with a clean hand once a day and keep an eye out for any sort of surface funk.

spiced kimchi veg - Food in Jars

This batch is a combination of shredded napa cabbage, grated carrot and daikon radish, shaved red radish bits, the tops of spring onions, ginger, garlic, grey sea salt, and gochugaru (that’s the Korean red chili powder and this is the only special ingredient I keep around specifically for kimchi making. It’s just not the same without it). Essentially, I combine all the ingredients, knead them together with with clean hands, pack the whole mess into a jar, and let it sit for a while.

tossed kimchi veg - Food in Jars

For those of you who aren’t regular kimchi eaters, let’s talk about to use this spicy, tangy fermented pickle. I scoop a couple forkfuls onto nearly every salad I make. It’s good stirred into soups (carrot or lentil are particularly good vehicles). And it’s miraculous gently warmed and eaten with scrambled eggs (Alana taught me that trick).

How do you eat your kimchi?

PS – For a more authentic recipe, along with everything you want to know about the world of fermenting, I highly suggest you visit my friend Amanda’s blog, Phickle. She’s incredibly knowledgeable and her site is a fantastic resource.

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Fermentation Fest, Dig In and Sauerkraut

back of the car, filled with fruit

There are a couple of events coming up in the next few days that I’ll be at. If you’re in the area, consider stopping by and saying hi!

First is the Kennett Square Fermentation Festival this Friday, October 1. It’s happening in conjunction with Kennett Square’s regular Friday afternoon Farmers’ Market. It will feature lots of samples of fermented foods and drinks, as well as a number of demonstrations on how to ferment at home. I’ll be doing at sauerkraut demo there at 4 p.m. so come out and say hi!

On Sunday, October 3, I’ll be at Slow Food Philly’s Dig In event. There’s a delegation of folks from the city who are heading to the Terre Madre Conference in Turin, Italy in a few weeks, and so this is part send-off, part celebration of the people and businesses who are living and working with the Slow Food philosophy in mind. The event is taking place at the World Cafe Live from 12 noon until 3 p.m. and tickets are $10. I’ll be there for my day job, representing the Philly Homegrown project, so while I won’t officially be talking canning, feel free to come and chat about it nonetheless.

There are still a few spots left for my sauerkraut class on Tuesday, October 5 at the Swarthmore Co-op, so get in touch (foodinjars AT if you want to sign up.

The Portland canning class on October 13 is totally full. I’m still taking names for the waiting list, so please email if you’d like to get on it. If you missed out this time around, I’ll be back in Portland around Christmas and am planning another class to take place then.

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Pickled Asparagus

Asparagus Tops

Oh asparagus! How I avoided pickling you. I kept you waiting in the fridge for over a week, as you anticipated your spicy vinegar bath. And yet, already you’ve given me so much! After just two days of pickling, you are the perfect balance of crisp and pucker. You make the perfect sidecar to just about any meal. I am enamored.

Blanched Asparagus

That’s right kids, the pickled asparagus has turned out to be a riotous success, despite the fact that I used asparagus that was a tiny bit past its prime (life, why much you always throw distractions into my canning schedule?) and forgot to include the peppercorns in the brine.

Pickling brine

I based my recipe on one from a really terrific book about Southern-style canning called Putting Up. It’s by Stephen Palmer Dowdney, who ran a successful canning business in Charleston, SC for many years (although I’m far more impressed by the fact that he was a college classmate of Pat Conroy, who is one of my favorite authors).

If you’re looking to expand your food preservation reference library (I make it sound so official, don’t I), this is definitely a volume to consider. I like how it’s organized by month, as well as the fact that it has really excellent details on the basics of canning.

Packing jars

Before we get into the recipe, I want to take a moment to encourage all of you to consider pickling something. Possibly even this week. The reason? It is so very simple. You can prep just a single jar at a time, which makes it the perfect first canning project.

Honestly, you don’t even need to do the hot water bath if you’re just making a jar or two for yourself, you can just stash your pickles in the fridge. Making pickles will build your canning confidence and get you excited for more ambitious projects. I’m certainly chomping at the bit for my next pickling project (onions and then okra). If I’ve got you sufficiently excited, my favorite refrigerator pickle recipe is right here.

I’m not going to be giving a jar of these pickles away, since this whole pickling thing is new to me, I want to wait and make sure they continue to be good for the weeks to come before I start handing them out, all willy nilly. However, do not despair. I’ve got another giveaway up my sleeve that will be coming soon.

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