How to make Kimchi (without fish)

making kimchi (1)

Real men eat kimchi

What is Kimchi? Kimchi is korean sauerkraut; a spicy-sour, fragrant, delicous fermented cabbage that has allegedly been used to prevent the avian flu. This may be apocryphal, but supposedly Korean farmers were giving it to their chickens to save them from the bird flu. All I know is that I am addicted to the stuff. It has an ….odor…well, it is fermented cabbage. My sister has the same lust for kimchi that I have, but her 6 kids can smell it in the next room when she stealthily opens the jar in the refrigerator. “Oh Mama, you’re into the Kimchi again!” they chorus. Maybe the Korean farmers’ children were sprinkling kimchi around the chicken coops so their parents wouldn’t eat it in the house!

Fermentation is a miraculous and wonderful thing. Think of all the things we eat and drink that are fermented. Wine, beer, cheese, vinegar, pickles of every kind, whether brine pickled or vinegar pickled, yoghurt, kefir…. Fermentation breaks down and transforms raw materials by the aid of friendly bateria, in a way that not only preserves food but also makes it more nutritious to us. The lactobaccillus in sauerkraut protects your stomach from nasty invaders. I read that Julius Caesar carried barrels of sauerkraut with him and it protected the Roman soldiers from dysentery as they drank water in different lands. I don’t know if that’s true but it’s logical. Kimchi makes my stomach feel good when I eat a little with every meal.

So by now I hope I convinced you to try making some. I use the Nourishing Traditions: The Cookbook that Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats recipe. (This is my new Amazon link to a page where you can buy it and I get 4 cents.) This is a cookbook everyone should have. The author, Sally Fallon started the Weston Price Foundation and has a farm not far from us. If you haven’t heard of Dr.Weston Price you have a treat in store. His discoveries on the benefits of a pre-industrial diet are really enlightening reading. But I need to get down to the kimchi!

1 head Napa cabbage, cored and chopped

1 bunch green onions, chopped

1 cup grated carrots

1/2 cup grated daikon (optional and I don’t)

1-2 tablespoons grated ginger root (man up and do 2)

3 big cloves garlic, peeled and minced

1/2 tsp dried chili flakes, or 2 fresh cayenne type peppers

2 teaspoons sea salt

2 tablespoons whey (if not available add another 2 tsp of salt)

1/2 cup filtered water.

I have almost directly qoted Sally’s recipe here. I just lean towards more garlic, ginger, and spicy peppers. The whey is a thing us fermentation heads keep around. If you add it to the soaking water for your beans, oatmeal, etc. it makes them more digestible. You can skim it off the top of some yoghurt, and just add a little more salt, and it will work. Salt prevents the beginning of nasty cultures until the lactic fermentation can get going. The whey kickstarts that.

making kimchi (3)

My grandmother’s food processor

I don’t shred the Napa cabbage because I like the texture of inch long pieces of cabbage midrib. So I chop it rather coarsely. There isn’t much core to a Napa, either. Her recipe implies that you can use other cabbages, but I really love the Napa. Put all your ingredients in a large bowl and toss well to distribute the salt. The cabbage will immediately start to wilt and give off water. Take a potato masher or something blunt  that you can bash with, like even a jam jar if you can get a comfortable grip, and pound the cabbage. You are out to bruise it thoroughly so that the lactobacillus can penetrate the tissues rapidly, and the plant sugars can feed it. Just bash it, turn it, and pound some more.

making kimchi

This cabbage has been pounded into submission

When it looks like it has given up, pack it into a glass jar or a crock with a good lid. You want to pack it down with a clean fist, so that water is coming to the top. Add the water after it is packed, if necessary to cover the cabbage. Let it sit at room temprature for 4-5 days. As it ferments bubbles will push up the cabbage, so push it down periodically. There won’t be any scum like with German sauerkraut. There will be a smell though. You can taste it any time to check how it is coming. When it is pickled enough for you, or you don’t want it any sourer, you can pack it into smaller jars and refrigerate. That will slow it down for months.When you are ready to make more, save the liquid from the last of the kimchi to start new batch. So delicious!

Processing the meat into usable pieces

Processing the meat into usable pieces:

It's great to have friends come help for a share of the meat.
It’s great to have friends come help for a share of the meat.

You need:

4-5 medium sized bowls for different designations of meat.

a cutting board and a sharp knife for each person helping

a meat grinder set up and clamped in place.

a box of quart and or gallon sized freezer bags

a permanent marker/sharpie

(a box of snack sized bags if you only have one dog)

Optional:

a stock pot for bone boiling

a heavy pot for fat rendering

I really love to throw a party and roast a whole haunch of venison on the grill. Therefor I wash both haunches, triple bag them in plastic grocery bags or garbage bags, and toss them in the freezer.

It is pretty easy to cut the meat off the shoulders; the front legs.  If you have a piece an inch or so thick, cut it into stewing chunks and put it in a designated bowl. Have another bowl for smaller pieces and strips to be ground up into hamburger. Have another bowl for the stuff you want to use for dog food. Gristle is fine in stew and hamburger, but too much sinew clogs up the grinder, and you will get a feeling for what works well for stew meat. The shoulder blade is cool looking- too bad it is really too soft to make a stone age hoe. There is good meat on it; just follow the flat of the bone with your knife. Once the meat is off the forelegs I put all that into a giant stock pot on the woodstove and simmer it forever with a half a bottle of leftover wine. The wine helps the mineral leach out of the bones. We all need to eat more bone broth. It is so good for your joints. Read some of the studies quoted on the Weston Price Foundation’s website.

The torso is a lot of work. Some people waste it. I wouldn’t. The fat on the hind end is thick and stiff. There is usually a lot of thin sheets of fat over the ribs as well. I put that in my black iron pot on the woodstove to render. Leave the lid on; it has an odor. Mixed half and half with beeswax it makes a good candle. I used to save paraffin candle ends to mix with it and give it color, but I found out it gives off unhealthy gases so I just use old beeswax from my hives now. It is too soft to use straight; your candles would sag comically.

The neck has lots of good meat on it for stewing and grinding. If you are willing to take your time you can get lots of little bits out from between the complicated bones of the neck. Detach the long muscles for hamburger and throw away the windpipe. Once I had a deer given to me who had regurgitated food in her esophagus. It smelled really bad and I had to wash the meat a lot, but it made good chili.

Inside the rib cage there are a set of tender straps of meat along the backbone about ten inches long and 2-3 inches wide.  Detach them easily by running your knife along the sides of the spine and under along the ribs.They are delicious to fry up or grill right now to give you strength to get all this meat processed. Just wash, pat dry, rub with a little salt and garlic, and throw it in a pan with some oil or grease. Very primal. Yum.

The meat on the hips is great stewing meat, very tender. You could really make pounded chicken fried steaks from a few chunks of that. It is similar to haunch.

If you don’t want to roast your haunches whole like I do, many people slice them perpendicular to the bone and grill that as a steak. I find that a bit tough, plus it is a cut easiest to make if your meat is frozen solid and you are cutting it with a band saw. If my good buddy Terry Price would care to include instructions for her grandmother’s pounded venison steaks in a comment, that would be a good use, plus jerky, stewing, or hamburger.

The last meat I take off the rib cage is the fatty, gristly flat muscles on the outside of the barrel, and the strips of tough dry meat between the ribs. If your knife is sharp it is easy to run the blade along the edges of the ribs and take out the dry little strips. You could throw that in the grinder but I put that in the designated dog food bowl.Satisfied that I have gotten the good of the torso, I carry it out to the field and offer a few encouraging yips to the foxes.

Wash a tenderloin and lay it out on a longer cutting board if you have one. Trim off little messy bits. Notice the shiny pale sinew on top. Run your knife blade under it and slide the blade along, detaching it. Start with little bits until you get the hang of it. Don’t take off any meat if you can help it. Eventually you will be pulling off the sheet of sinew and scraping the meat away from it as it lifts off. I would think you could use it to sew with if you were so inclined. It is very strong stuff. Once your tenderloin is all prettied up, cut it into 2 or 3 pieces. I do three. Wrap and freeze, meticulously labeled. You would be so mad if you accidentally gave this to your dog.

While you are cutting all this meat up and filling the bowls, I hope somebody else is grinding the hamburger designated pieces, bagging up dinner sized quantities of hamburger and stew meat and labeling it with contents and date, and filling up snack size bags for daily dog portions. If not it will give you a break from working too long in one position.

Always scrub everything with hot soapy water and especially clean all your knives, saws, the grinder, meticulously. My husband even likes to bleach the cutting boards, but I think hot soapy water is less toxic and does a fine job. Careful cleanup after a big butchering job is very important. But remember, this is a good clean animal and you are giving so much more attention to cleanliness than would ever happen in a commercial abattoir. You are doing a good, responsible, respectful thing by using this animal as human beings have used them since ancient times. Then hunting wasn’t a sport; it was life, and hunters gave thanks to their gods for the deer.

 

Black Walnuts and Hickories

 

We have a number of Black Walnut (Juglans Nigra) trees on the farm, and like the chestnuts they are fruiting heavily this year. We have Shagbark Hickories, but they are deep in the woodlot and I haven’t been out to see. The squirrels are still burying pecans as well. One imagines that they may be doing this in response to the early drop in temperature. That  combined with the heavy nut crop makes one think perhaps they know something. We are glad we got a jump on the woodpile this spring when a number of trees came down.

The idea of nuts is appealing in winter; the rich oiliness and sweetness, and the comfort of sitting in your warm house and munching away, like a rodent.   Yet black walnuts make this complicated. You have to get off the eternally staining green husk and crack the extremely tough nut. Hickories politely husk themselves and are easy to see on the ground with their smooth, elegant white nuts full of sweet deliciousness. The nut is even easier to crack than black walnuts, but nowhere near as easy as a storebought English Walnut. Nonetheless on the Eastern Shore it’s all about Black Walnuts. Their strong flavor is fabulous in cakes and filled cookies. Says I.

So here’s what I recommend. Pick them up in a bucket and lay them in a gravel road where cars will crush the husk but not the nut. A paved road is likely to scatter and smash them more, but husking them by hand is a terrible job. You can them easily gather the nuts out of the mass of crushed husk, and store them until they are dry inside. I thought you had to store them for a few months in a paper bag in a dry place, but it must depend, because I have eaten nuts the same day I gathered them in Virginia. I don’t know how long they were on the road of course. So my best guess is check one from tie to time. Now, how to extract the nutmeats. They sell a lot of fancy crackers, but these were not available to native people. If you hit them with a hammer, they go everywhere. The perfect tool, to me, for walnuts and hickory nuts as well, is a rock. By the creek in Virginia where we camp, I found a flat piece of sedimentary rock and another rock that fit my hand, about the size of an oblong baseball. The weight is such that it sort of drops onto the nut and cracks and crushes it partially, allowing me to pick the nut apart and extract good size pieces without bashing it all to bits. It is a pleasant activity, sort of an atavistic pleasure I guess, sitting on the ground in the sunshine cracking nuts with a rock.

Black Walnut is good for a lot more than nuts. My brother in law, Robert Clickner, a doctor of alternative medicine in Charlottersville, gathers them for the terrible hulls. He learned the hard way to crush them wearing a good pair of plastic gloves. We used to make the medicine with whole nuts, but the crushed hulls make a much stronger tincture*.  This has been traditionally used for parasites, but it is also good for hypothyroidism. It looks and tastes like iodine. I take about 15 drops a day.

* If you want to know about tincturing, I will probably have something written by the time you read this, but I recommend Richo Cech’s Making Plant Medicine as the perfect introduction; enough to get you interested and  enough to get you started. Actually, despite his fun anecdotal style, he is really quite precise, and you will likely become a fan of his great seed company, Horizon Herbs.

 

Chestnuts

chinese chestnut tree (3)

The chestnuts have begun to fall, “fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls,” as the poet Gerard Manley Hopkins wrote. I was tightening the raspberry trellis when I heard the telltale rattle of the fat nuts falling on the gravel lane. My grandfather planted a number of Chinese chestnuts, and I think he planted different cultivars so as to have trees that ripened at different times. (This is something to remember when you are planting any food-producing plant.  Early, mid-season, and late, from tomatoes to apples.) The first one has smaller, silky nuts, while the second one has larger, glossy reddish brown nuts, and the last one has really big glossy nuts of the same fine color for which women with chestnut hair are admired. It is a color that makes me pick up more nuts than I later have time to peel. There are two others, but they don’t bear heavily enough so I leave them to the squirrels, whose population seems to follow a heavy bearing year like a too-late sine wave. Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls. Praise God for the color.

You really should check out Hopkins. I met the greatest living Irish poet, Seamus Heaney, when I was at university, and I asked him whether he maybe felt the influence of Hopkins in his work. Ever polite, ever charmingly Irish, he answered me with the perfect no-answer: “Ah yes, he’s an old flame for all of us, isn’t he?”  (Maybe, maybe not, but we love him, or maybe we loved him once but have moved on…)  chestnuts loose (1)

So what to do with chestnuts. Everybody loves them roasted. Squeeze the nuts as you pick them up. If they are soft, they probably have grubs inside them, which is still fine for animal consumption. If hard, make an x in the shell- I find it easier to cut the flat side but they peel easier if you cut the round side. Some folks just make a big slit on the round side. You can bake them for 15-20 minutes at 400F and the little corners will roll back. Let them cool a bit and then you can pick them open and eat them. So filling and delicious! They have a floury sweet interior when they are done.

For a meal, I cut them the same as for roasting, and boil them about 25 minutes with a little salt. This may be too long since they do crumble a bit while I am peeling them but I want them really soft. With this I can do a lot of things. The best meal I ever prepared with chestnuts was some leftover wild Canada goose, warmed in gravy, with  wild rice mixture and pureed chestnuts. I just put them in the food processor with good stock from the goose carcass. It was so regional, rich in flavor, perfect for winter.

Also, by putting a few cooked chestnuts in the blender (love my Vitamix) with a veggie boullion cube (I like Knorr’s flavor), a cup of half and half, and a little chestnut boiling water to thin it out, you can get a wonderful vegan cream style soup. My friend Margie Wegener made it for me when I was having rocky times with my daughter. Thanks Margie.

Chestnuts rice beautifully. I pushed some through a ricer and fed it to my grandmother.  She always worried about her weight, because her mother had been heavy, but she really was too thin herself. We could always tempt her, though, by connecting the food to a story.  As a young girl getting her master’s degree at Strasbourg University in the Twenties, she lived with a lady known to us as Madame F. Madame F was “gourmet et gourmand,” and we always heard how she made chestnut puree. So Granny would eat chestnut puree and talk about Madame F.

Once you have your peeled cooked chestnuts you can make all kinds of fabulous desserts as well; totally go Martha Stewart. Amazing recipes.

Chestnuts were a dependable staple in Europe before wheat, which was very prone to getting flattened by rain and rotting in the fields, leaving the peasants to starve- unless they had chestnuts. We saw tons of edible chestnuts growing wild in the south of France. They used to call them “arbre à pain” which means “bread tree”   as well as marronniers for the bigger chestnuts and châtaigniers for the smaller ones.  They had chestnut smoking houses. I tried drying them in the oven, but the resulting nuts were so hard that even my grinding mill turned out something like sand. I think perhaps if I soaked them and boiled them they would return to their fabulous yumminess but in the meantime no creature will attack them and I keep them for emergency food.  So I am still learning. But companies like Trails End Chestnuts are selling chestnut flour, chestnut beer-making kits, dried chestnut, which look untoasted to me, for prices that are actually reasonable after you have done the work yourself for a few hours.

Update!

Forget cutting an x in the flat side of the chestnut before boiling or baking. With a finely serrated kitchen knife, make on long cut through the shell on the curved side of the nut. Bake covered for 30 mins in a casserole, and it will pop right open. You can flick off the shell with your thumb. Easy! I use a covered Pyrex so I can see it and then let it roast open for a nice roasted taste. Also with the nuts I am looking to convert to storable food, I put them in the food processor and crumb finely.  This I will refer to as wet chestnut meal. It is wonderful for a creamy blender soup or just about anything you do with chestnut puree. You can freeze this or spread it on cloth-covered cookie sheets to dry in the sun or slow oven, after which I put it back in the blender to flour. This is  a little gritty but really delicious, nutritious, and easy to store in sealed glass jars. I did make spelt-chestnut cookies the other day, with honey and raisins, adapted from an old British recipe my mother gave me. If I can figure out this newsletter widget I will put it there for you.

Another update!

Two new recipes!

Chestnut Chard Soup

2 c. water

1/2 a Knorr vegetable boullion cube, or to taste any kind you like

1 chard leaf

1/2 c. wet chestnut meal,

Throw in Vitamix and turn on, check for flavor, adjust, run until it gets hot and thick enough. OK, if you don’t have a Vitamix yet, I’m telling you, unless you don’t do electricity, this is a great appliance. They last. Mine is from the Eighties and my sister-in-law still has hers from the Seventies.

If you are using a regular blender and haven’t made the chestnuts into wet meal, cook the chestnuts in bouillion until soft and then blend with the raw chard. You can add turmeric, black pepper, cream, whatever. So good and easy.

Chard and Chestnut Saute- this dish is healthy but comforting, greeny but meaty and the chestnuts offset any wateriness in the chard. I was thinking you could substitute parmesan cheese for the ham if you don’t do pig.

1 onion, chopped

1/4 c. country ham, chopped

8 chestnuts (cooked) chopped

1 large bunch chard, enough to fill a 4 quart pot

Black pepper

Wash chard and strip leaf off of midrib. Grasp the midrib and pull the leaf through your other hand, pulling off the leaf and leaving the strip white or colorful part separated. This is the midrib. Chop it up.

Saute onion, ham, chestnuts, and chopped chard stems (midribs) in a deep heavy pot in the ham’s own fat. Meanwhile chop the leaf of the chard up into about 1/4 inch chop. When the stuff in the pot looks caramelized and yummy, throw in the leaves and saute. In a few minutes the dish will be ready to serve. Taste and adjust salt, definitely add some black pepper.