What's all this stuff?

Recently, we've been getting questions about our fermented foods that we feature on the menu. I wanted to explain a little of the process that goes towards making these foods, so that everyone has an idea of what it is you're eating, and how to make some of your own!

Kimchi. We used to order sauerkraut from the same people who supplied our pickles. They make excellent food, but it bothered me that we weren't making our own fermented cabbage when it's so easy and delicious when it's made in house. I can add a lot more flavour, and control exactly what goes into the dish, and I can control the quality of the ingredients to ensure that only the best of the best ends up in the final dish.

Kimchi is made from napa cabbage, daikon radish, scallions, ginger, garlic (a lot of garlic, actually), a bit of sugar (to get the cultures started), and salt. It's left to ferment for three days to get the initial juices going for the cabbage and daikon, and then it's aged for two weeks or so to mellow out some of the harsher flavours. By the time it's ready to use, the kimchi has become sour, and has all the flavour of the ginger and garlic infused through it.

We don't add any soy sauce or anything that's got an oceany taste (like nori, or kombu), or any hot pepper flakes, because we want the cabbage taste to come through. It tastes like a sauerkraut with a more rounded flavour. I'm glad that we switched to making our own kimchi, because it ensures that I know exactly what's going into it, and can make sure that it works well with the other ingredients in the dish it's served in (the Tempeh Rueben, to be specific).

Cashew Kefir (kee-fur). Kefir is yoghurt product. It's used in Eastern Europe and Russia. We make our kefir with rejuvelac, which is a fermented grain beverage. Rice or quinoa (or both) are soaked overnight. The water is discarded, and fresh water is added to the grains. They are left to ferment for three days to get the wild yeasts and bacteria going. That liquid is poured off, and used to soak the raw cashews. The cashews soak overnight in the rejuvelac, and are pureed the next morning in the blender. That is then left to ferment for another three days to really get properly sour.

The cashew kefir is the base for the cashew sour cream. More cashews are added to the liquidy cashew kefir, and blended together. That is then allowed to ferment for three more days, so that it gets thickened and tangy.

The instructions for making rejuvelac and a host of vegan dairy products (cheese, yoghurt, sour cream, cream cheese) can be found in Miyoko Schinner's book Artisan Vegan Cheese. It's filled with interesting and different cheeses, using techniques that dairy cheese makers use, but adapted to vegan ingredients and needs.
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