Bacteria in our kitchen? And that’s supposed to be healthy? In times of Corona and constant disinfection, that’s almost inconceivable. But fermenting is all the rage. It is an ancient method of preserving or even refining food. Many foods that regularly surround us are fermentation products – e.g. kombucha, miso, or even vinegar. The process of fermentation is based on microorganisms, more precisely lactic acid bacteria, which we use for preservation, better digestibility, and a special taste of food. Lactic fermented foods can be found all over the world. There is no Korea without kimchi, no Germany without sauerkraut, and Austrians are certainly reluctant to do without cheese and sourdough bread. So fermenting concerns us anyway – then we can also try it out ourselves. For the sake of taste and health. And because we can’t travel much at the moment anyway, I’ve chosen two recipes that also take us on a bit of a culinary journey to distant lands:
Ginger Beer – a trip to India
Moscow Mule fans have known it for a long time, and everyone who loves ginger should know it: Ginger Beer! The spicy, sweet drink originated in India and is an exciting little fermentation experiment that turns out quite well. But be careful! The fermentation process produces a lot of carbon dioxide. So if you use glass bottles, there’s a bit of an explosion risk – yes, I’ve experienced it in my own mess.
The fermentation of Ginger Beer takes place in two steps: first a batch, the so-called bug is grown. Once this is ripe, it goes to the brewing.
Ingredients for the BUG
- 7 tablespoons grated ginger
- 7 tablespoons cane sugar
- 300 ml water
Ingredients for the tea
- 2 liters of water
- 70 g ginger
- 150 g cane sugar
- 150 ml citrus juice
- To make the bug, mix 300 ml of water with 1 tablespoon of grated ginger and one tablespoon of cane sugar in a clean bail jar.
- Close the jar with a cloth and the lid without a rubber seal and leave it at room temperature protected from light.
- Now the bug is fed with one tablespoon of ginger and one tablespoon of sugar every day. The whole mixture quickly becomes active and bubbles away happily. After about a week, the bug is ready and can be processed further.
- To do this, press the bug through a sieve. Important, you need the liquid that comes out here.
- Boil 500 ml of water with sugar and ginger to a tea and let it simmer for at least 10 minutes. Then squeeze citrus fruit of your choice (I took grapefruit) and add 150 ml to the ginger tea.
- Fill the whole with 1.5 liters of water, let it cool and mix with the bug.
- Bottle the mixture and store it at room temperature. After 1 – 2 days the Ginger Beer is ready. IMPORTANT: periodically release the pressure from the bottles.
- The beer can be stored in the ice chest for up to 10 days.
Kimchi – a trip to Korea
In Korea, kimchi is practically part of every meal. Actually, it is nothing more than spicy sauerkraut. I myself am a huge kimchi fan but have never dared to try it. Therefore here my first self-experiment. You can actually make kimchi with any kind of cabbage. I have decided on the first attempt but for the very classic Chinese cabbage variant.
- 1 large Chinese cabbage
- 2 – 3 carrots
- 1 white radish
- 1 bunch of spring onion
- salt (2 % by weight)
Ingredients for the paste
- 1 small onion
- 20 g garlic
- 30 g ginger
- 1 apple
- Korean gochugaru to taste
- 1 tablespoon fish sauce (optional)
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce or miso paste (then it is also vegan)
- Cut Chinese cabbage into pieces, which are traditionally squares
- Grate the radish and carrots and cut the spring onion into rings.
- Weigh all the vegetables and mix them with 2% salt. So there is 20 g of salt per 1 kg of vegetables.
- Now knead the vegetables with the salt until the cell juice comes out. It is best to knead until the mixture is covered with juice.
- All the ingredients for the paste are pureed to a fine paste. This also gives the finished kimchi its characteristic color. The spiciness is regulated by the gochugaru (available in the Asia market).
- Now the paste is mixed well with the vegetables and filled into sterilized jars.
- It is important to press the kimchi well so that there is no air left in the jar and to weigh it down with weight before pouring.
Now the microorganisms have to do their work. It is best to store the kimchi at room temperature for about a week. The contents of the jar literally begin to live. It bubbles and gurgles away. If you are quite sensitive: the kimchi exudes a quite beguiling scent during this phase. It is best to place the jars in a small mold, as the fermentation process can cause liquid to spill over the rim. After a week, the jars can be tightly closed and move to a cool place. This can be the cellar or the ice chest. This stops the fermentation process and the maturation begins. After about 5 weeks can be tasted. If it already tastes good, just enjoy. The kimchi keeps in the ice chest for several months. Always make sure to remove kimchi only with clean cutlery and press the rest back into the jar so that it is optimally covered with liquid.
So you are ready to go. It’s not that difficult and after just a few tries, you’ll have great recipes and dishes that bring new wind into your pantry. Have fun fermenting!