(Not so) Spicy Kimchi

After receiving some yummy spices in the mail last week I decided to whip up a batch of kimchi. I have tried previous times to make it with limited success. The first recipe that I had tried was good but it wasn’t really a true kimchi it was more of a vegetable kraut and I shredded everything MUCH to small. The second time I made it I followed the recipe in Wild Fermentation, it was good but it wasn’t the vibrant red colour I have seen in traditional kimchis.

Once my spices arrived I got right to work. I had a ~2.5lb napa cabbage that I removed the core and cut into chunks along with some sliced daikon, and sliced carrots. I weighted it down and soaked it in a brine (as described in WF) for several hours until the cabbage was nice and wilted and the vegetables were soft.  I made a paste with some garlic, korean chilies, ginger, fish sauce and scallions. I drained the vegetables, mixed with the spices and shoved it into a jar and let it sit. I left mine for about 3 days (it was very hot here) to reach my desired taste. You can leave it longer it is just my personal preference. It was lovely it hissed and spewed brine all over by the result was a nice tangy kimchi that had a hint of spice (and a LOT of garlic, next time I won’t be some heavy handed with the garlic).

I was given the recipe for the kimchi by the same wonderful friend who sent me the spices. I am in love with it!

Spicy Kimchi (makes approximately 1.5L) (modified from Wild Fermentation)

  • 1 head of nappa (or Chinese) cabbage (2-3lbs)
  • 1 or 2 Carrots
  • 1 daikon
  • 3 or more scallions
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic
  • 1″ long piece of ginger
  • 2 tbsp Korean chili powder (more if you want it spicy)
  • 1-2tbsp fish sauce
  • Salt
  • Water
  1. Core and cut the cabbage, slice the daikon, and carrots and add to a bowl. Add salt and water to make a brine (I used about 3 tbsp of salt and enough water to cover everything). Weigh the vegetables down so they stay under the brine and let sit for several hours or until soft and wilted. Drain, reserving some of the brine.
  2. Grate the ginger and chop up the garlic. Mix together with the Korean chili powder and the fish sauce. Add in the chopped scallions.
  3. Drain the vegetables and reserve some of the brine, mix the spice paste with the veggies until thoroughly mixed. Pack into a 1.5L jar or into a quart and a pint jar, pressing hard so the brine comes up over the vegetables and weigh down the veggies to keep them submerged. (Do this wearing gloves otherwise your hands will be quite spicy!)
  4. Ferment the kimchi in a corner or your kitchen out of direct sunlight. If you are using a jar that does not have a gasket or an airlock make sure you burp them as a lot of gas is produced. Place them on a plate or a towel to catch any drips that might stain your counter. Start tasting them at 3 days until they reach your desired level of sourness, then transfer to the fridge.

I made my kimchi in a fido style jar (bail top with a rubber gasket), it is self burping and every so often on days 2 and 3 we would hear a hissing or gurgling sound coming from the jars as the pressure was released. For some reason each time this happen my 3 year old went into hysterics, she thought it was so funny.

So there you have it, simple, easy, delicious not too spicy kimchi.

Shared as part of Traditional Tuesdays and Fight Back Friday.


Spicy Mail

Korean Chili Spice and Rice Yeast

This week I got some spicy mail, literally spicy. It was a mixture of Korean chillies for kimchi. When I opened the envelope you could just smell the spice, it was heavenly!

There have been some recipes that I have desperately wanted to try but I can’t get the ingredients around here and the websites that do carry them don’t seem to ship to Canada. So what is a girl to do? Make American friends! I had all of my stuff shipped to a friends house and she graciously shipped it to me. I will be forever grateful to her for doing this!

Now that my ingredients have arrived I can’t wait to start making them. I started the kimchi yesterday and it is already in the gaseous stage spewing extra brine all over my counter but it smells wonderful and the beautiful deep red colour I have seen in other kimchis.

The other package is rice yeast. There is a recipe I have been dying to try where you mix cooked rice and the yeast together and let it culture for several days. I have tried something similar to this when I was travelling in China and I hope it is as tasty as I remember! I hope to post some recipes tomorrow.

Have you received anything fun in the mail lately?

My Favourite Summer Drink

There is nothing better than a nice cold refreshing bubbly drink on a hot summer’s day. This summer has been exceptionally hot thus far and it is only the start of July. I have found the perfect bubbly drink that I am currently in love with. I am talking about water kefir. It is a lovely fermented fermented drink that is bubbly, delicious and filled with wonderful probiotics.

Water kefir also called Tibicos is a fermented drink using a SCOBY (symbiotic culture of bateria and yeast) kind of like kombucha, sugar and water. It is different because the water kefir scoby looks like little grains or little crystals, so generally they are referred to as water kefir grains. It is really easy to make and if you take good care of your grains they can live on forever (or as long as you want to keep making it).

To make my water kefir I have started making it in a 1.5L fido style jar. This results in a lovely bubbly drink. I add 1/3-1/2 cup of water kefir grains, 5.5-6 cups of water and 1 tablespoon of organic raw sugar for each cup of water. I mix the sugar in the water and let it dissolve and then poor over the wk grains. Then I seal it up and put it ontop of my fridge for 2-3 days depending on the temperature and how many grains I’ve added. You can see the bubbles starting to form at the top and this one has only been going for 18 hours. The translucent shimmers at the bottom of the jar are the grains. The yellow colour is due to the organic sugar which isn’t pure white.

Bottled blueberry raspberry water kefir.

I find that that fermentation goes MUCH faster when it is hot outside (it has been in the high 30C here this week) and it slows down if there aren’t as many grains in the jar. As you brew more and more of it you will get to know your culture and how long it takes. Once I have done the initial fermentation I strain out the grains and do a second ferment with some fruit for an additional 24 hours. Currently our favourite flavour is Raspberry Pineapple. Once I have done the second ferment I strain it into some bail top bottles and load it into the fridge. I am thankful this is a short process because it doesn’t last very long in our house! I would like to note if your water kefir is very bubbly and you leave it sitting out for too long you run the risk of explosions as the pressure can build inside the bottles. If you plan on leaving the bottles out at room temperature burp them every once and a while to release the pressure and prevent explosions.

Each time I brew my wk I find the grains multiply. Mine seem to be multiplying like crazy and I am finding myself drowning in kefir grains. Every other brew it seems, my jar is getting a little crowded with grains, so I scoop some out. There are some options when it comes to storing your extras, I store some in fresh sugar water mixture in the back of my fridge and the rest I dry and store as backups. I originally got a tablespoon or so of dried wk grains from Yemoos Nourishing Cultures (I talk about it here) but the best way (and the cheapest) is to search out a friend who has some or even look around at craigslist or kijiji to see if there is someone giving them away in your area. I now have half a cup of dried grains (will hydrate into almost 3 cups worth of grains) and I have half a cup stashed in the fridge. Now with such a wonderful amount of grains I can brew all the wk we can drink for years to come!

Have you tried water kefir? What are you favourite flavours?

Shared with Traditional Tuesdays, Simple Lives Thursday, Pennywise Platter and Fight Back Friday

Mail Order Bacteria…..Who Knew?

When I first started into cultured foods I thought I would try the easy things like drinks. Those seemed to be pretty easy and looked pretty tasty (and anything to try and break my family’s pop habit). So I started looking around our small town to see if anyone sold any cultures. It turns out that they do not. I started looking around to find different places that sold the cultures I was looking for. It turns out that my options seemed to be limited as some places didn’t ship to Canada or they charged a huge amount in shipping.

Enter Yemoos Nourishing Cultures. It was at this place I found all of the cultures I was looking for and a few I wasn’t. Since I had already started my own kombucha SCOBY I ordered some water kefir grains, milk kefir grains and some yogurt cultures. I thought for sure that these would get snagged at the boarder as being some sort of bio threat or something! I have never ordered living things through the mail, it was such a thrill.

I placed my order and a week later a package arrived at my door, my cultures made it without a hitch! I opened it up eager to get started. Each of my cultures came with it’s own adoption certificate! I thought that was such a sweet touch. I have each of my certificates proudly displayed on my fridge so everyone who comes over can see how much I love my bacteria!

I have had these cultures for a while now. I started them all at different points so they are at various points of reproduction. My water kefir grains are going the strongest. They multiply each jar that I made (so much so that I am now trying to give away grains, I am drying them to save for later and trying to come up with other creative ways of using them). Each one makes a lovely treat. I love my bacteria!

Shared as part of Fight Back Friday.

Our Transition to Traditional Cooking.

Over the past year or so (well ever since I was pregnant with J) I started feeling really convicted about what we were eating. There weren’t enough vegetables and everything was super processed. I wasn’t gaining  any extra weight (aside from the baby growing inside of me) but I felt that we needed a change. That was when I really started reading about nutrition and different diet/ways of eating. The amount of information out there was HUGE! I was so incredibly confused.  I had learned some stuff about soaking nuts to increase their digestibility from a vegan friend of mine. I just kept reading anything I could get my hands on. Finally I cam across a number of different blogs that talk about this amazing cookbook. So I asked for it for Christmas. My brother in law purchase this cook book for me and said “here is the hippy-dippy crazy cookbook you requested.” I was thrilled when I opened the present and saw Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon.

I have found that I can relate more to the tradition method of preparing food. I am reminded of many stories that my grandmother told us of growing up in the depression and how they used many of these methods for preparing foods. It wasn’t until after the war, when she had children did she start using more processed foods (canned peas any one).

I still have a lot of learn and we still do eat some processed foods (we ordered a pizza last night, yum). But thanks to the vastness of the internet and large number of food bloggers out there I am learning day by day. I haven’t finished my copy of NT yet but I have tried a number of different recipes and they have all turned out fabulously. This isn’t the only book I have read/am reading on the subject I have a whole list of books that I want to read.

It was as I started learning about traditional cooking that I, by God’s grace, received a grain mill (read about it here). I was so excited to start grinding my own wheat. I got that in January and I am still grinding my own flour to make sourdough fails (otherwise known as bread), pizza dough, sandwich bread and muffins. I love watching the grain turns into flour and then into banana muffins or some other yummy delicacy.

For the most part my family has been very understanding! I mean my brother in law bought me NT and my mother in law gave me her grain mill and saves all of her jam jars for me. However I just don’t think they know the extent of how our food has changes, I mean I have ordered bacteria through the mail (more on this later this week) and I now always have jars of food sitting out on my counter, not in the fridge and my 3 year old talks about Kombucha (which they seem to think is a made up word). But they love me still the same! Even my husband who gags at the sight of strange food or mould tolerates the fact that I have things growing on my counter. It is so wonderful!

I am still on this journey and I hope to learn more and transition more of our food to real and traditional foods. I am always looking for books to read or good blogs so please feel free to make some suggestions. I am just about to head to the library to pick up a copy of Wild Fermentation by Sandor Katz I have been on a waiting list for WEEKS! I am pretty excited.

Shared as part of Traditional Tuesdays and Fight Back Friday.

Do You Kombucha? How I Do it.

Yesterday I told you about how I started drinking KT and growing my own mother culture or SCOBY. Today I will share how I actually make the KT that we drink. For the most part I generally follow the recipe in the Nourishing Traditions cookbook by Sally Fallon but I scaled it down a little.

I start with 2 quarts of water (or ~2L if you are Canadian like me). I bring that to a boil and I add 2/3 of a cup of sugar (more if it is really hot out and I know it will brew faster than normal) and 2 or 3 black tea bags. I then let this sit overnight to cool. Or if I am in a hurry I will add extra tea bags and at the end dump in a bunch of ice cubes. While it is cooling I get everything else ready. I add at least 1 cup of KT from the previous batch (generally the first pour off the jar has the most active cultures in it and will help jump start your next batch) to my container. Once the tea is at room temperature I add that to the container and float my SCOBY on top. Don’t worry if it sinks it will float up to the top or it may even stay at the bottom but a new little baby SCOBY will form on the top. Then I put a tight weaved cloth over top and secure with an elastic as flies seem to love this stuff! I generally let mine brew for a week but at the 5 day mark I start tasting it to see when it is ready.

My Kombucha Corner

I was a little bit confused when I read all these posts about tasting it and I was trying to figure out how to taste it without contaminating the whole batch. The best way I have found is to take a clean straw and stick it under the SCOBY, then cover the other end with your finger to trap the KT in the straw, bring the straw out of the container and taste. It works great.

Once it is brewed to your likeness I then start the process all over again and bottle the kt that is done. Depending I sometimes do a second ferment with different flavours. Hannah Crum of Kombucha Kamp has some wonderful different flavouring ideas on her website some are found here and here. Our favourite flavours are raspberry blueberry or strawberry. To do a second ferment I cut up some fruit (or if it s berries squish them a bit) until it covers the bottom of the container, then depending on the tartness I may add a bit of sugar and then pour my kt over top. Then I cap it and let it sit for a day or too.

Cherry pieces floating in my second ferment

After you have brewed a batch your SCOBY will grow a little baby. This baby may be stuck to the original mother and you can either peel it off and start a new batch with it or leave it attached. I generally will peel the first little baby off and store it so I have an extra just in case something goes wrong. Check out this video of how to make a SCOBY Hotel (a fancy name for storing your SCOBY in a jar). After a while if you keep your original mother will get tired and not brew quite as fast or look a little sad. This is when I generally cut her up into a little pieces and add her to my garden. It works great!

Old tired mother culture on the left, new happy baby on the right

I love making my KT it is such a fun activity and A loves to help me with the SCOBY so it is her job to help float it on top. This is such a great summer drink because it can be fruit bubbly and fun.

For more information see this post by Kristen of Food Renegade and this Healthy Brew guide by Hannah Crum of Kombucha Kamp.

Next week I will share my other favourite bubbly drink with you, water kefir!

Shared as part of Fight Back Friday on Food Renegade.

Do You Kombucha? I do….. now.

That is such a fun word Kombucha! A loves to help me make it she loves to just say it over and over and over again! Today I am going to share how I started making kombucha. I had been reading several different books and blogs about tradition foods. All of the recipes sounded interested and tasty however there was one that seemed just downright weird to me and that was kombucha. For those of you that don’t know

Kombucha is a living health drink made by fermenting tea and sugar with the kombucha culture. (Definition from Seeds of Health.co.uk)

Sounds weird right? I kept reading more and more different articles and stories about this so called “wonder drink.” I am very skeptical when it comes to health foods and homeopathic stuff. Don’t get me wrong I use quite a number of them, but since I was raised in a very “western medicine centred” family (many family members are traditional doctors, nurses dentists etc) I tend to approach things with caution.

The other thing that kind of scared me was this Kombucha mother thing. What is the mother, well after looking around I learned it is called a SCOBY (with the O sound as in Scope mouth was and not Scooby Doo). This stands for Symbiotic Culture Of Bacteria and Yeast. Yeah that sounds like something I want to drink!

One day I was in my local health food store picking up some vitamins and I saw a bottle of Asian Pear and Ginger Kombucha Wonderdrink. So I thought I would give it a try (after I nearly chocked on the +$4 price tag I took it home. That evening when the girls were in bed and my wonderful husband was at class I curled up with my drink and my book. It was bubbly and delicious. But at over $4 a drink that was totally out of my price range!!!

originaliteaAs I was looking around on the internet I saw this post by Food Renegade of How to Grow your own Kombucha SCOBY and I though I would give it a shot. The only problem I ran into was the kombucha that I had tried earlier was pasteurized so there was no living culture in it. That meant that I couldn’t start my own from that particular brand. Finally after much searching (small towns tend to have limited health food options) I found Tonica Kombucha. I bought two, one to drink (yum) and one to start my mother. So I followed the instructions of the Food Renegade post, covered my drink and hoped and prayed this jug of sweet tea would grow me a mother.

I left the jug a lone for about 7 weeks. I wouldn’t really recommend starting it in the winter if you live in a cold climate unless you want to wait a LOOOOONG time. I live in Ontario and it was pretty chilly until about mid-March when it hit almost 30C (86F) then things really took off! When I peaked under the cover I saw a bumpy opaque mass of stuff floating on top of my tea.

My brand new kombucha mother.

Isn’t it lovely! I know it isn’t much to look at but man does it make me happy. I know there are several thousand website around that purport that kombucha can do everything from regulating your digestive system to growing a new limb (ok well that may be a wee bit of an exaggeration). For me, I drink it because it is tasty, it doesn’t have too much sugar (you can make it according to your tastes) and it is bubbly. I like pop (or Soda as I am told it is called in the US), I love the bubble in it and I love that it is not water. I drink a lot of water in a day so having 1 glass of something that is bubbly and refreshing is a nice change. Since I have started drinking the kombucha I haven’t had any pop, I will take the KT over the pop any day now because I can pronounce all of the ingredients in it (tea, water, and sugar) and it doesn’t have any scary ingredients like aspartame or caramel colour.

So that is how I started drinking the weird drink called kombucha and how I started my own  mother. Tomorrow I will tell you all about how I actually use the mother to make my kombucha and some of our favourite flavours!

Shared as part of Fight Back Friday.