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An Introduction to Fermenting | Time to Make

FOOD & DRINK

Over the coming months, with a little more time on our hands, we will be sharing a series of posts on making. From how to sew on a button and hem a pair of trousers to the creating of a sourdough starter and the making of a bee hotelAll our guides will be coming straight from our community of makers. This week, we are sharing a guide to fermenting, written by Little Duck.

Little Duck | The Picklery is a fermenting kitchen and eatery that make seasonal ferments, pickles and home-made fermented drinks. Each of their ferments is made from scratch, using fresh seasonal produce. During our TOAST Creative Residency, Little Duck’s chef and master drinks fermenter ran a two hour workshop - guiding us through the making and tasting of kombucha and sauerkraut. Each participant also made their own jar of kimchi to take home. Here, Little Duck shares a brief history of fermenting, their delicious kimchi recipe, the ingredients you will need and the method to follow. We also asked them a few questions about fermenting and for any tips or techniques.

AN INTRODUCTION TO FERMENTING

Fermentation is the preservation of raw ingredients through cultivated bacteria. This occurs through a process called acidification, which causes the raw ingredient to produce lactic and acetic acid. It is an anaerobic process, meaning it occurs in an airless environment. The good bacteria thrive in this oxygen-free environment digesting sugars, starches, and carbohydrates and releasing alcohols, carbon dioxide, and organic acids. This preserves the ingredient and protects it against any bacteria that could potentially spoil the food. It also modifies the flavour, and improves the nutritional value. Fermentation pre-digests food, making the absorption of the nutrients, faster and thus supporting the digestive system.

Humans have been fermenting for centuries, as a way of preserving foods. In the 1900s, fermenting provided a means to store food without the need for refrigeration. At that time they were most likely fermenting foods such as cheese, bread, and beer as opposed to kombucha and kimchi. However, Sauerkraut was used historically by captains of ships, who urged their men to eat it on long voyages to prevent them from getting scurvy.

Introducing fermentation to your kitchen can help reduce your food waste. More than 40% of food waste comes from households, rotten food in the fridge or surplus leaves and stalks from our vegetables. Think ferment not waste – all of those cavolo nero stalks and cauliflower leaves can be fermented. Fermented foods produce some of the most dynamic and complex flavours and are exciting accompaniments to everything else we eat. Most importantly, fermented foods go towards promoting good gut health. 

HOW TO MAKE DAIKON KIMCHI

INGREDIENTS 

500g daikon (or whatever radishes you can find)

60ml light soy sauce

60ml fish sauce

2 large cloves of garlic

20g ginger

2tsp Korean red pepper


METHOD

1.Finely slice the daikon on a mandolin if you have one, or the largest blade on your grater, and mix with salt. Rub together to start to release some of the water and then sit in a colander overnight to release more water. The way you chop or grate your veg will have an effect on your fermentation – the larger the surface area, the quicker your vegetables will ferment. In some countries they ferment vegetables whole, but when so they often use a mixture of other cut vegetables to kick start their fermentation process.

2.The next day wash in cold water briefly and drain.

3.Use a microplane or fine grater to grate the garlic and ginger, then mix with the soy sauce, fish sauce and Korean red pepper. 

4.Rub into the drained daikon and pack into jars leaving 1cm at the top. Cover with a disc of parchment paper and weigh it down with a stone or small glass if you need to. We use glass Kilner jars with a rubber seal and a hinged catch opener which allows your vessel to naturally release the build-up of gases without letting any air in.

5.Ferment for at least a week before using. It is subjective so you can leave much longer. In some countries they often leave up to a year.


VESSELS

There are so many wonderful vessels out there and there is no right or wrong one – so long as your ingredient is completely submerged in water without air or oxygen. We use glass Kilner jars with a rubber seal and a hinged catch opener which allows your vessel to naturally release the build-up of gases without letting any air in. We also use traditional crocks. The crocks come with their own weight inside to keep the ingredient submerged in water. If you’re using a Kilner Jar, then you will want to fill your ferment to the top and place a disc of parchment paper over the top to keep your vegetables from touching the air at the sides. You can use a stone or a small glass to keep this weighed down

STORING

The conditions will have an impact on your ferment, for example, warm weather will increase the process whilst cold weather will take longer. If you’re making ferments in the summer, then you might want to keep them in a darker or cooler place in the house but that is not to say that heat is a bad thing, just never direct sunlight. Indirect light and warm space is fine, it will just produce results more rapidly.

RULES

Practice – be flexible, don’t worry, and trust your instincts. It’s widely open-ended. You can follow a recipe to get started but after that they are just guidelines. Go slow, use your hands, feel the ingredient and nurture your ferments daily.

Cleanlinessyou don’t need to sterilise jars – micro-organisms found on non-sterilised equipment don’t survive in the environment that your fermented cabbage creates.

Water if your ferment requires you to add water then ideally use filtered water. Highly chlorinated water can inhibit good bacteria growing as it kills off microorganisms.

Salt – use an unrefined salt that retains a broad spectrum of minerals. The addition of salt helps to draw out the water in the vegetable, but it also helps with taste. More salt can also be added to slow down the fermentation process – so when the weather is warmer you might add more salt. Again it’s all about taste and testing, there are no hard and fast measurements on how much to add.

Little Duck have answered some of our questions...

How long should you leave your ferment?

There is no direct answer to this as it’s all down to personal taste. Ideally, you are looking for good flavour, clean acidity and for a crunchy vegetable. This will usually begin to occur after a couple of weeks. At this point you should start tasting to decide when you’d like to stop the fermentation process.

What are the best conditions to ferment in?

Ferments don’t like direct sunlight but other than this, you can ferment wherever you like. The cooler the area the slower the ferment, the warmer the faster. Once jarred your ferments can be stored in natural light, they don’t need to be hidden away in a dark corner or cupboard. Just don’t keep them in natural sunlight or under a hot light.

What happens when you want to stop the fermenting?

You can decant into an airtight container or jar and store in the fridge. Ferments will keep for months and more in the fridge.

What happens if mould starts to appear?

So long as the mould is white, it’s not harmful. This type of mould can, and often, does appear around the edges if your vegetables are not properly submerged or you’re using an open container. Take a metal spoon and carefully remove any white mould. If some of the mould separates and falls in, again don’t worry because as long as it’s white mould, it’s not harmful. If the mould starts to colour – remove it quickly. Once it starts to colour this mould can digest the pectin and lactic acid turning your crunchy ferments to mush. If left long enough then the vegetables themselves will come to taste like mould. If the mould does discolour you might want to start again.

What vegetables can be fermented?

Anything can be fermented. People often say the greener the vegetable the more potent it can become when fermented. You might want to stick with cold climate vegetables such as, cabbages, turnips and radishes – ultimately leaves, stalks and fruits can be fermented. Softer vegetables, such as squash or cucumber, will ferment at a faster rate.

Can you ferment decaying vegetables?

Vegetables just past their prime and beginning to wilt can be fermented, but anything beyond this should be avoided. You can buy up seconds or slightly wilting vegetables at low prices and these are good to ferment.

Should my ferment be bubbling and foaming?

In the first few days your ferment might foam – don’t worry just skim any foam off from the surface.

What should I do if it’s too salty?

Add water and dilute the salt, mix it about and taste. Repeat if necessary.

Should my ferments smell?

Fermentation is, essentially, controlled decay. It is normal for your ferment to create strong odours. These should be healthy smells rather than putrid smells, but you will learn to love the promise of health that such smells bring. It is up to the personal tastes of the fermenter to decide what is palatable. If you are using airtight jars then the odour will be much less noticeable, if at all. You can always burp your ferments out of the window. 

What do I do if my vegetables go slimy or the liquid becomes viscous?

This can happen with some vegetables due to the nature of the vegetable, leave and then test again. It’s sometimes just a stage of the development and will probably right itself. If it continues then discard and start again.

Can you add spice and flavour?

Spice is often a good mould inhibitor. Experiment with adding chilli, ginger, garlic and onions; kimchi is a good example of this, and caraway is often added to sauerkraut. Mixing a range of vegetables and ingredients can help create interesting flavours – some people add seaweed to their ferments, nasturtium leaves are also a good enhancer and mould inhibitor. If using herbs, it’sbest to use dried – fresh herbs can break down too quickly.

TIP: Always protect your ferments with a lid of some sort, even if it’s a muslin cloth. You want to ensure no flies get into the ferment.

Words by Little Duck | The Picklery. Images by James Bannister.

We hope you enjoy this little guide on how to make Daikon Kimchi . If you do make a jar, please share it on Instagram using the #TOASTtimetomake - we would love to see them. 

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