The Bambi Wars Continue

My latest weapon in the war against the deer is kimchi. The dryer sheets I tried last summer repelled them only briefly (and then quickly fell to pieces), and the creatures are apparently starting to savor the scent of rotten egg. Rotten egg presents other problems, too: It clogs the sprayer, and it ruins my appetite for fruits and vegetables sprayed with the stuff. So this year I thought I’d try a variant on the sulfurous theme, with chile to burn the tongue in case the odor of garlic isn’t offensive enough.

I threw whole heads of garlic—little ones that were too much trouble to peel—into the Vitamix along with handfuls of dried chiles (I have mountains of them, thanks to last year’s long, warm summer). I added water, blended the mixture thoroughly, and left it to sit on the kitchen counter through several days of rain. The mixture fermented, of course, and soon we were smelling . . . kimchi! By the time the sun came out the stink was strong enough to drive my husband out of the house. So I strained the juice through muslin, poured the liquid into the backpack sprayer, added more water, and went to work spraying the orchard.

The deer seemed to lose their appetite for a week or two. Then more rain fell, and the deer found my peas. Fortunately I’d left the sprayer partially filled in the barn, which no stray cat (or husband) would subsequently go near. I went spraying again—and also rigged up some wires in hopes of garroting a pea-eating deer. (I caught a lawn-mowing husband instead. He howled, but he left the wires alone. He likes peas.)

kimchi juiceI ran out of the juice before spraying some of the roses and blueberries, and last night the midnight marauders gave those bushes an unwelcome pruning. But when I’d made cabbage kimchi a week previously, I’d reserved some excess liquid. We should have had a meal of kimchi soup—I love kimchi soup– but we hadn’t yet, and so two quarts of cloudy, smelly red juice still sat on the kitchen counter today. I poured the liquid through muslin and scooped the chile-ginger-garlic mash that remained into the jars of kimchi.

I’m off to fill the sprayer again, this time with real kimchi juice. Wish me luck!

Brined Turnips, Korean Style

A reader’s query reminded me that I hadn’t made turnip kimchi in a long, long time. I don’t know why not; it’s easy and quick to make, and everybody seems to like this pungent, garlicky pickle. So I made a batch, and it disappeared almost as soon as it was ready.

Here’s the recipe:

Sunmukimchi (Turnip Kimchi)

1 pound small turnips, peeled
1½ tablespoons pickling salt
1 to 2 teaspoons hot pepper flakes
3 scallions, minced
8 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon sugar
1¼ cups water

 If the turnips are bigger than about 2 inches across, halve them lengthwise. Then slice them very thin crosswise. Put the slices into a bowl, and rub them with 1 tablespoon of the salt. Let them stand at room temperature for about 3 hours, occasionally turning them in their brine.

Drain and rinse the turnip slices, and then drain them again. Add the remaining ½ tablespoon salt, the pepper flakes, the scallions, the garlic, and the sugar. Mix well. Pack the mixture into a quart jar, and pour the water over. The turnips should be covered by about 1 inch. I haven’t found it necessary to weight the turnips; perhaps the garlic and pepper ward off spoilage organisms. If you’re worried, though, add a brine-filled plastic bag or other weight. Cap the jar loosely (unless you’re using a brine bag), and let the jar stand at room temperature.

After six to eight days, when the turnip slices are as sour as you like, cap the jar tightly. Store the jar in the refrigerator, where the kimchi should keep well for several weeks.

This reminds me: It’s time to plant turnips for a winter harvest!

Harvesting Grapes and Cabbage

Crushing grapes

My son and daughter-in-law brought eight friends from Portland last Saturday morning to help with the wine-grape harvest. By lunchtime, they had picked our whole little vineyard and crushed all the grapes. Right after lunch, they pressed the pinot gris and Müller-Thurgau.

Having planned to feed our helpers dinner as well as lunch, my husband and I now had to think of something else for them to do. Why not start a batch of kimchi? I had seven fat heads of nappa cabbage waiting in the garden.

Cutting cabbage for kimchi

In short order the cabbages were trimmed, washed, and cut into squares. I mixed some brine, and we set the cabbage to soaking in three 4-gallon buckets, weighted with dinner plates.

“Is it time to bury the buckets now?” Ryan, who has lived in China and studied Asian cultures in college, knew about the old Korean custom of storing kimchi pots in the ground. But it wasn’t time for a burial. It was time to take the trimmings to the chickens, who excitedly tore the bug-eaten outer cabbage leaves to pieces.

Cabbage mixed with seasonings

None of our helpers spent the night, so I finished preparing the kimchi on my own the next morning. Because my scallions were sick with rust, I used garlic chives and leek tops instead. A food-processor-like attachment for my immersion blender quickly turned to paste a large ginger root and seven or eight heads of the juicy, sticky, fragrant garlic we harvested last July. I added paprika made from an assortment of sweet and hot peppers that I’d grown, dried, and ground last year. Finally, instead of adding salt to the drained cabbage, I used some Three Crabs fish sauce.

Here is my recipe for—

Big-Batch Cabbage Kimchi

24 pounds trimmed nappa cabbage, cut into 2-inch squares
2 1/4 cups pickling salt
4 1/2 gallons water
1 1/2 pounds green onions, sliced thin
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons minced garlic
1 1/2 cups ground dried red pepper (not too hot)
1/4 cup Korean or Thai fish sauce

Put the cabbage into one or more nonreactive containers big enough to hold it all. In another container, dissolve the salt in the water (I did this in three parts in a stockpot). Pour the brine over the cabbage, and weight the cabbage in each container with a plate. Let the containers stand for about 12 hours.

Potted kimchi

Drain the cabbage, which will have considerably shrunk and softened; reserve the brine. With your hands, mix the cabbage with the remaining ingredients (I used my largest stockpot for this step). Pack the mixture into a crock with a capacity of at least 10 liters. Add enough of the reserved brine to cover the cabbage. Weight the cabbage, and cover the crock. Set the crock in a cool room.

Fermentation should begin within a day. If you have a Polish crock like mine, it will emit an occasional, audible burp. Start tasting the kimchi after two days. When it’s sour, put the crock into a refrigerator or other cool place.  (This is the time to bury the crock in the ground, if that’s what you want to do. I just set my crock outside the back door, on the deck.)

Scoop out some kimchi whenever you want any, and then replace the weights. For a quick meal, fry a little pork (my husband’s smoked pork shoulder was fantastic for this purpose), add kimchi with a little of its brine, and cook until the kimchi is hot. Serve the mixture over rice. For kimchi soup, add pork or chicken stock along with the kimchi.