We're happily in the season of a little of everything in our meals these days. More and more of the harvest is piling up inside our house as it comes in from the garden. And I mean piling up very literally: on shelves, in buckets and boxes and baskets on every surface. Part of what that means is a fantastic span of ingredients within easy reach. The other part is that every evening we jump into some sort of food-preserving project, many of which last late into the night. Someday we may have a root cellar, a greenhouse, or even just more storage space. But for now, we have 200 pounds of winter squash in the living room and I'm grateful for every one of them.
For the most part we are not using any of the preserved food yet, just reveling in the freshness still available. It's a luxury for a quick and easy stir fry to have both red and green onions, green and yellow summer squash, green bell pepper and and red sweet peppers, both. Not to mention the red cabbage and green cabbage...both, and all of it from a browse through the fridge and harvest buckets.
Lately that little-of-everything stir fry has been topped with one of our first batches of preserved food: Kimchee. We started experimenting with natural fermentation this summer, and on one epic night of pickling in August we made our first batch of sauerkraut and our first venture into Kimchee all at once. Our friends who came over to help pickle were following more traditional Korean methods for this spicy condiment (including mysterious and partially-translated pepper spice packets sourced from Asian grocers in towns much larger than Missoula) but we went with, as they put it, "the hippie version."
We used the recipe from the "Nourishing Traditions" book that includes Napa cabbage, onions, garlic, hot peppers, carrots, and ginger. We mixed everything with salt and pounded it in a large bowl till the leaves softened and juices start to form. After that we just packed it into quart mason jars that sat on the counter for 4 or 5 days. We left town for a few of those days for Noah's birthday--completely unrelated to the fact that the action of the naturally occurring beneficial bacteria that immediately started to work can produce, well, a strong smell. The neighbor stopping by to feed the cats while we were gone was diplomatic enough not to mention anything. If you try this, do be warned that the juices will overflow, and you'll have a distinct sour-pickle smell for a few days (but it's really not that bad). And it's worth it! This batch came out as a refreshing tangy gingery, slightly spicy condiment that we've been putting on top of just about everything.