I know, the word “fermentation” isn’t exactly appetizing. You probably haven’t ever taken a whiff from a stock pot or an old OJ carton and remarked ”what lovely fermentation”. But fermentation is a gastronomical and culinary miracle! Think pickles! Saurkraut! Kombutcha!….. Kimchi! It’s good stuff!
Did you know there is even a show called the “Kimchi Chronicles” with Hugh Jackman? You know, the guy who plays Wolverine. Wolverine is all about pickled food. Not kidding.
Koreans are serious about their kimchi, in fact in October 2010 there was a kimchi shortage, better known
as the Kimchi Crisis 2010. The situation was so dire that the Seoul city government began a kimchi bailout program! A bailout program for picked cabbage? Oh yes. I can see the official now, “Friends, Citizens, Countrymen, lend me your cabbage and red pepper. I come to bury kimchi…” It is revered as the most healthy aspect of the Korean diet. They have a kimchi museums in Seoul. The government even sent kimchi up with the first Korean astronaut in 2008. Imagine that. Floating in limbo, totally weightless, all of a sudden the kimchi you are eating gets away from you. You spend the rest of the day floating around trying to swat/ catch the chunk of cabbage like a massive pickled fly as you rotate around the moon. It is incomprehensible to consider what Korea would be like if pickling did not exist.
So what is kimchi exactly? It is cabbage. It is cabbage cured in brine and then pickled with various spices. There are a wide array of spices that can be used, some of them are garlic, cardomom, cloves, ginger, and scallions. There is however, one indispensable spice. Red pepper. It can be spicy!
Kimchi means “sunken vegetable.” Good name for the food, because that is exactly how it is made. The cabbage or other vegetables is submerged in brine in order to start the pickling process. The pickling process is made possible by a little fellah called lactobacillus. He or She is a benevolent microbe that diligently converts sugar into lactic acid! Lactobaccillus does not work along, he is part of a growing clan in your pickling jar. As time progresses the clan-o-bacillus feeds on the natural sugars in the plant converting them into lactic acid, the more they eat, the more lactic acid is produced. So, why doesn’t the food just rot? Because the “hood” or environment of lactobacillus is so acidic it prevents the growth of other malevolent microbes that cause rotting!
Kimchi = Serious business.
Pickling, also known as corning or brining is an ancient practice that began like 4000 years ago. People pretty much pickle everything you can think of….maybe not hostess products, but pretty much any vegetable you can think of has been pickled, brined, corned. Watch, now somebody is going to try to pickle a ho-ho or a twinkie.
Remember, a little pickled korean cucumber can add color, texture, and wonderful flavor to an otherwise boring lunch plate…and without boosting calories much! The only things it WILL boost, is your enjoyment and maybe the populations in your GI tract!
If you are looking for an adventure beyond Korean cuisine which many of you no doubt are, check out Rick’s Picks! These pickles are not only of the highest quality, but offer fascinating flavor profiles. Some examples below!
Pickled okra with smoked paprika! Spicy green bean pickles! Aromatic pickled beets! Spicy Sriracha habanero pickles.