Well howdy y’all. It’s officially Spring, although in my zone 5a, it is still a bleak, cold, icy, sad introduction. The sun is in fact lingering later in sky, the maple sap is flowing, and —well soon— there will be ramps. (photos from Spring 2013)
To be completely honest, I never have gone ape shit over ramps (even if my badass dog did).
They are delicious and fun to gather when found in the woods, but often overpowering and overused within their short window of Spring existence. I will add though that last Spring I turned our abundant wild crop into a most delicious kimchi that perhaps persuaded my previous nonchalance toward possibly loving this wild allium.
Segue (the intransitive verb of making a transition without interruption from one activity, topic, scene, or part to another NOT to be confused with a segway): I had an ingenious idea regarding fermenting kimchi for the average kitchen without all the fermentation crocks and special equipment that many of us use and I thought that this entry could be a great way to introduce you to my new method while also sharing my ramp kimchi recipe since it tis the season for ramps and it’s always the season for kimchi.
I am an avid user and personal believer of fermenting in the old school European style fermenting crocks rather than a gallon jar with an airlock system. This is in part due to the fact that I ferment on a larger scale than what a gallon jar will allow and I actually taste the difference. A brief explanation on the 2 mentioned above: A fermentation crock is an old world style crock, still used today, that has a sort of moat around the lid. Inside, there are weights that hold the contents under its liquid. You close the crock and fill the moat with water. The water keeps air from getting in, which could contaminate the natural fermentation process, but still allow for naturally pressurized gasses to be released. A good crock is hand made, heavy as hell and is made from a thickly glazed, porous clay. It is often used for sauerkraut but is my choice for my fermentations from miso to kimchi.
A gallon jar with an airlock system is great for smaller batches and has a similar idea behind the crock. The lid twists on tight and the airlock is often filled with water or high proof alcohol so that gases can escape, but air cannot get in. I use this method a lot for alcoholic fermentations as I find it produces a higher heat on average, and is ideal when needing that heat to produce alcohol.
Anyway, back to my ingenious idea. So utilizing the base idea listed in both above methods…the idea for fermenting is to allow native yeast to digest the sugars in the contents and ferment in a “safe” environment where it can release gases but not be exposed to air, right? Are you following me? Did you get that from the lesson above? I had the idea that I could submerge the contents of a glass jar in a larger jar filled with water. You don’t screw the lid on very tight, leaving room for gases to escape, but not allowing air or water to enter in. If you’ve ever canned in a water bath method, this is exactly how it works! The contents “cook”, air pushes out as the temperature rises and the air pushes out into a boiling water bath which keeps air from getting in and cooks the contents to a safe temperature causing the lid to seal when the contents begin to cool (this is another lesson in and of itself, but same idea).
Here is a picture of a gallon jar with an airlock system and a picture of my invention of submerging a jar in a jar of water (see method below). The airlock is on the left.
It’s very simple and all you need is:
- your fermentation contents packed into a pint size Ball jar with a plastic lid (you can use metal as shown above, but note that they can rust over time)
- a gallon jar without a lid
- Butcher twine
Pack the fermented contents into the pint jar, really pushing it in and allowing any juices to push to the top and cover the contents. Place the lid on the jar and seal without applying too much pressure. Close it, don’t squeeze the shit out of it. Something to consider, the top of the lid often has a gummy plastisol lining around the edges, which is what ultimately seals the jar to the glass when canning. If you apply too much pressure, you are pressing the gummy plastisol ring onto the glass and creating a “false seal”, the idea is to have it loose enough that air gets out, but water does’t get in.
Tie some butcher twine around the neck of the jar so that you have enough to linger outside the gallon jar, just make sure it is at least 12” long after tying around the neck.
Grab the string and gently place the fermentation jar into the empty gallon jar
Fill the gallon jar with water, covering the fermentation jar with a minimum of 2” of water
Store in an ambient temperature spot away from direct light and check water level every other day. It is normal to hear the water make “blurp” sounds as the gases from the fermentation jar escape.
Ramp Kimchi Recipe:
3lbs Wild Ramps
1/4 C Sea Salt
1 large hand fresh ginger, juiced
1/4 C Homemade Trout Fish Sauce or Mega Chef fish sauce
1/4 C unpasturized, raw yogurt (optional)
75G Korean Chili Flake
25G Black Sesame Seeds, toasted
8G Anise Seed
Toss ingredients together. Allow to sit and macerate for 24 hours at room temp. Pack contents into jar and follow procedure listed above for fermenting. Takes 3-8 weeks depending on batch size.
Ramp On and Let The Fermentation Move You (literally and figuratively)!