I know you are probably asking what in the heck kimchi-style fermented sunchokes, (aka Jerusalem artichokes) has to do with Italian food. Like, come on, how many cuisines play a part in this recipe, and are any of them Italian? Okay, you got me there. Suffice to say that an important aspect of the Italian sensibility is to eat local and what is in season. That said, this week at my CSA, the offerings were sunchokes, carrots, onions, and dried chili peppers. All of those ingredients sort of said, “Please, Kimchi us. Ferment us. Preserve us.” I said, okay, let’s do this.
Sandor Ellix Katz suggests using sunchokes in his root kimchi recipe. I am a huge fan of Mr. Katz, author of Wild Fermentation. Through his experience with a life-threatening illness, he basically healed himself by learning about and applying the health benefits of fermented foods. HIs first cookbook, published in 2003, now in its second edition, offers the basic fermenting of kimchi and sauerkraut, beans and grains, making beers, vinegars, etc. You get the idea. (I am not receiving a kickback from Sandor, I just love his books).
I believe it was last July or August when I arrived at the farm (my CSA is Tierra Vegetables), I spied a ginormous wall of green. The row of plants ran half the length of the field and loomed over 10 feet tall. I inquired, and Wayne, the co-owner and farmer-extraordinaire, said they are sunchokes, a perennial sunflower. Sometimes they go by the name Jerusalem artichoke or earth apple. A native to North American, the sunchoke grows very tall stalks (like a sunflower!) that provides the nutrition for the tuber resting underground. Farmers pick them just like potatoes. Now, in early winter, the nutty tubers show up in our subscription boxes.
The beauty of having a CSA subscription; you receive what is in season, what the farmer is currently harvesting. I doubt I would choose to buy sunchokes at a grocery store (if they were available), but when they show up in my weekly box of veggies, well, the time has come to learn all about these little gems.
As I mentioned in my previous sunchoke post, if eaten raw, they may cause a fair amount of flatulence. Cooking well or, in this case, fermenting, will mostly eliminate that embarrassing issue. Just saying…
This recipe follows the basic kimchi-ing process –
- brine (soak veggies in salt water)
- make a paste
- mix veggies in paste and leave alone to ferment
Part of the fun is tasting the kimchi each day as it goes through the lacto-fermentation processes and as the flavors change and evolve. Really, just about any vegetable, root, or greens can be kimch-ed. (Wow, I made another new verb!) I hope you have fun with the process!
Use your taste buds and especially your nose. Smell and taste your kimchi daily and you will know the difference between good-bad and bad-bad. You will be able to tell the difference between the sour/sweet fermented aroma and something that has truly gone bad.
Kimchi-style fermented Sunchokes
- 2 medium carrots, sliced thinly
- 7-8 medium sunchokes, washed and sliced thinly
For the brine
- 2 tbsp. salt
- 4 cups water
For the paste
- 1 medium onion, roughly chopped
- 1 bunch scallions, roughly chopped
- 2 dried chilis – medium spicy
- 1 tsp. powdered turmeric
- 1 tbsp. soy sauce or Bragg's Liquid Aminos
- 2 tbsp. sugar
- 2 tbsp. kosher salt
- 2 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
- 3 medium garlic cloves, peeled
- ½ cup water
Brine the root vegetables
- After washing and slicing the sunchokes and carrots, soak them in the brine solution: 4 cups water and 2 tbsp. salt. Submerge the vegetables completely in the bring and let soak for a few hours or overnight. Use a plate with a weight on top to keep the vegetables submerged. The purpose of the brining stage is to draw out the moisture from the vegetables and help them to soak up the seasonings.
Make the kimchi paste
- In a blender, add the onion, scallions, chilis, turmeric, soy sauce, sugar, salt, vinegar, and garlic. Blend into a paste and add water as needed if the paste is too thick and stalls the blender.
Pack the jars and begin fermentation
- After the brining process, drain off the brine. (reserve a cup of the brine).Add the paste to the brined vegetables and mix well.
- Using a clean 1-quart glass jar, fill the jar with the vegetables and pack them down well. Leave a 1-inch space at the top of the jar. Make sure all of the vegetables are below the surface of the paste and add some of the leftover brine to the top of the jar to make sure the vegetables are submerged fully. Sandor suggests weighing down the vegetables with a jar of water or a zip-lock baggie filled with some brine. Cover lightly with a towel or set the lid on top. This will allow for gases to escape while the fermentation process takes place.Put the jar in a dark, cool place. Check the kimchi every day by tasting and checking to make sure vegetables are still submerged.After 7 days, place the jar of kimchi in the fridge. Enjoy!