Kim Chi

Homemade kim chiKim chi is an ace up the sleeve, delivering instant, intense flavour to bland ingredients like rice, flour, and eggs.  And unlike most condiments that pack that kind of punch – things like hot sauce or fish sauce – kim chi is quite wholesome.

Kim chi fascinates me because it is simultaneously very similar to and wildly different from a preparation that I am much more familiar with: sauerkraut.  Both are ostensibly fermented cabbage, but where sauerkraut is thinly sliced and acidic, with an almost floral, yeasty aroma, kim chi is chunky, salty, often burn-your-face-off spicy, with something of a fishy aroma.  Sometimes, amazingly, it is also effervescent.

Sauerkraut is made with European-type cabbages like savoy.  The relatively low salt content (I use 1.89% salt) and the relatively warm fermentation temperature (15-20°C) favour both the acid-producing bacteria as well as the aroma-producing yeasts that give sauerkraut its characteristic flavours.

Kimchi can be made with any vegetable, though nappa cabbage is by far the most common.  It almost always has other vegetables mixed in, things like daikon, green onion, and carrot.  A relatively high salt content (~3%) and relatively cool fermentation temperature (4-10°C) favour gas-producing bacteria that give kim chi its subtle effervescence.

While every crock of sauerkraut is a little different, there are really only a few ways that styles of sauerkraut differ from one another.  Kim chi is a much more complicated and variable preparation, and when I first undertook its production it made my head swim.

Like many white kids my age, I owe a lot of my knowledge and appreciation of many Asian preparations to David Chang.  The kim chi recipe in his Momofuku Cookbook is the first I ever made.  It is a frustrating recipe as it uses very imprecise measures (“one small to medium head cabbage”) and so can have quite inconsistent outcomes.  My other beef with the recipe is that it is incredibly sweet, with sugar being the most important ingredient after cabbage, about 12% of the weight of the cabbage by my measurement.

So starting with the Chang recipe I made several iterations week after week as my mother-in-law continued to bring me heads of nappa cabbage from her garden.  By the fifth iteration I had a pickle I was quite happy with.  This is how I answered some of the many questions that came up.

What vegetables to use in kim chi?

I came to realize that a major contributor to the flavour that I expect from kim chi, the funky part, is more from daikon than it is from fermentation.  So in addition to nappa cabbage I use daikon.  Green onion is essential for the flavour I was seeking, plus it’s a good pop of green in the sea of fiery red.  I also appreciate the visual contrast and crunch provided by carrot.

How to achieve 3% salt content?

One of the most important things I wanted to do with my recipe is dial in the salt content so that I knew exactly how many grams of salt to add per kilo of vegetables.  In On Food and Cooking Harold McGee says kim chi should be about 3% salt by weight.  The tricky bit is that we’re using kosher salt and fish sauce, which is extremely salty.  I decided to take the kosher salt quantity from my sauerkraut recipe, then add the fish sauce on top of that.

Should l use sugar in kim chi?

My main problem with the Chang recipe is that it’s way too sweet.  I plan to eat large amounts of kim chi, and want to feel good about it, so I entirely removed white sugar from my recipe.  There is some sugar in the fish sauce, so the kim chi is not entirely devoid of sweetness.

Do you really need to use gochugaru, Korean chili?

In a word: yes.

I was extremely skeptical of the websites that say you absolutely must use gochugaru to make kim chi.  I figured it was a bit like a website telling you that you need to use Italian olive oil to make proper pasta: just a bit of pretension.  Turns out they are more or less correct.

Gochugaru is quite different than North American chili flakes, mainly in that all the seeds of the pepper have been removed.  The flavour is very fruity, and a touch smoky.  As the seeds and surrounding membrane are a major source of capsaicin, Korean gochugaru is actually not as hot as chili flakes, which means you can add a lot of it before the mixture gets too spicy.  This is good because it gives the kim chi a vibrant red colour.  The other important difference is that gochugaru is ground to a consistency finer than chili flakes, but coarser than chili powder.

I made several batches with standard North American chili flakes.  They were all tasty, but did not really have the real flavour and red-stained brilliance of true kim chi.

What fish sauce to use?

This is one component that I haven’t play around with yet.  I had a bottle of Squid Brand Fish Sauce in my fridge, so that’s what I used in all my experiments.  It’s likely that different brands have different concentrations of salt and sugar and may require adjustments to the recipe.

 

Kim Chi Recipe

I chose to write my kim chi recipe as a baker’s formula.  I distinguish between two types of ingredient: the vegetables and the flavouring agents.  When added up the vegetables total 100%, like the flour in a baker’s formula.

Kim Chi
from scratch

A plate of crispy kim chi pancakes

Crispy kim chi pancakes with sesame and green onion.

Ingredients

  • 87.89% nappa cabbage, cut into strips about 1″ broad and 2-3″ long
  • 7.29% daikon, cut into thin half moons
  • 3.30% green onion, sliced into 2″ lengths
  • 1.52% carrot, julienne
  • 1.89% kosher salt
  • 7.12% fish sauce
  • 3.43% fresh garlic, finely minced in a food processor
  • 3.43% fresh ginger, finely minced in a food processor
  • 1.36% gochugaru

Procedure

  1. Combine cabbage, daikon, green onion, and carrot.  Toss with salt.  Cover and let stand at a cool room temperature overnight.
  2. Meanwhile, combine the fish sauce, garlic, ginger, and gochugaru.
  3. The next morning, press the vegetables and strain off the liquid that has pooled at the bottom of the container.
  4. Add the chili mixture to the vegetables and mix thoroughly.  Cover and let stand at a cool room temperature for 48-72 hours.
  5. Transfer to the refrigerator.  After about two weeks a tanginess will have developed.
  6. Store tightly covered in the fridge.
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Metro Cooking Class: Greek Mezze

On Wednesday, November 28, 2108 I will be leading a class for Metro Continuing Education called Greek Mezze.

Take a culinary voyage to the sunny Mediterranean! Greek cuisine is famous for its deliciously simple treatment of fresh produce, seafood and lamb. Come learn the nuances of several classic Greek appetizers, or mezze. Make your own tzatziki, hummus and village salad from scratch, and work with paper-thin phyllo dough to make spanakopita and its many variations.

You can register for this class here.

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Metro Cooking Class: Charcuterie at Home

Slices of homemade peameal baconOn Wednesday, November 21, 2018, I will be teaching a class for Metro Continuing Education called Charcuterie at Home.

Curing and smoking your own meat at home is much simpler than you might think. Chef Allan Suddaby will walk you through all the ingredients and equipment required. You’ll learn how to turn fresh pork belly into the best bacon you have ever eaten and fresh pork leg into amazing holiday ham. Hands-on course.

You can register for this class here.

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Metro Cooking Class: Sweet and Delicious Cider Making

A glass of applejack beside a glass of cider: note the darker, bronze colour of the applejackOn Thursday, October 11, 2018, I will be leading a class for Metro Continuing Education called Sweet and Delicious Cider Making.

There are countless apple trees in Edmonton, and cider is one of the best ways to preserve and consume local apples. Learn how to make sweet and aromatic apple juice and hard cider like you’ve never tasted before. Allan will show you how to crush, press and ferment your cider using affordable homemade equipment. Demonstration course.

You can register for this course here.

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Metro Cooking Class: Sausage Making – The Next Step

My introductory Sausage Making class has now run more than a dozen times with Metro Continuing Education, so there are quite a few “alumni” that are eager to take their craft to the next level.  So, on Wednesday, November 7, 2018 I will be leading an intermediate class called Sausage Making: The Next Step.

Build on your sausage savvy! Add nuance and variety to your homemade sausages by using meats such as wild game and adjusting the texture with progressive grinding and emulsifying techniques. We will delve into traditional styles and use unique casings to perfect the look of our links and enhance the experience of eating them. We will also discuss how to develop signature recipes tailored to our own palates and the ingredients that are available. Intermediate course.

It is recommended that you take the introductory Sausage Making course before taking this one.  Or at least have a few sausage-making sessions under your belt.

You can register for this class here.

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Metro Cooking Class: Sausage Making

A sausage plate from Salz Bratwurst Co: featuring a classic brat, liptauer, krautsalat, and käsespätzle.On Wednesday, October 3, 2018 I will be leading a cooking class for Metro Continuing Education on sausage making, one of my favourite topics.

This class will teach you everything you need to know about making sausage at home form scratch.  Discuss how to source great local meat and then learn how to grind, mix, and stuff that meat into natural casings.  You will make two recipes: classic garlic and spicy Calabrese.  Hands-on/demonstration course.

You can register for this class here.

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Metro Cooking Class: Sweet and Delicious Cider Making

Autumn's gift to summer: sparkling hard cider.On Saturday, September 15, 2018, I will be leading a class for Metro Continuing Education called Sweet and Delicious Cider Making.

There are countless apple trees in Edmonton, and cider is one of the best ways to preserve and consume local apples. Learn how to make sweet and aromatic apple juice and hard cider like you’ve never tasted before. Allan will show you how to crush, press and ferment your cider using affordable homemade equipment. Demonstration course.

You can register for this course here.

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Greek Lamb Sausage

I have Greek food on the brain.  The current infatuation has many diverse origins.  For starters this summer is the ten year anniversary of an epic trip through southern Greece, and I have been reading old food notes from the journey.  Also I’ll be doing a class on Greek mezze for Metro Continuing Education this fall.  With all this in mind last week I made a Greek lamb sausage.

Coils of Greek lamb sausageIn 2008 I spent five weeks in Greece, eating in tavernas two or three times a day.  I don’t think I ever had a sausage like this.  In other words this sausage is not traditional, but it is very much inspired by Greek loukaniko, a pork sausage flavoured with orange zest.

This version is made with 100% lamb shoulder, so I figured we may as well go ahead and use lamb casings.  And we may as well wrap them up into adorable little coils and skewer them.  I never saw this in Greece but it makes for an interesting mezze.  And as I wrote here, Canadian Greek food is very much wanting for interest right now.

 

Greek Lamb Sausage

Ingredients

  • 2.270 kgs lamb shoulder – I like Four Whistle lamb
  • 35 g kosher salt
  • 54 g garlic, minced fine
  • 25 g orange zest (I use a zest compound called Perfect Purée)
  • 6 g ground black pepper
  • 3.6 g allspice
  • 2.38 g dried oregano
  • 1.8 g cayenne pepper
  • 1.17 g bay leaf
  • 0.9 g chili flake
  • 240 mL chopped parsley
  • 220 g ice water

Procedure

  1. Cut lamb shoulder into 1″ cubes.  Mix with salt and spices.  Spread onto a sheet tray in a single layer and semi-freeze.
  2. Grind meat using a 3/16″ plate.
  3. Transfer mixture to the bowl of a stand-mixer.  Add chopped parsley and water.  Mix on speed 2 for two minutes.
  4. Stuff mixture into lamb casings.  To make the spirals shown in the photo above, stuff into 19-21 mm lamb casings.  Be careful not to over-stuff as spiralling puts a bit of pressure on the contents.  Link into 22″ lengths.  Cut the links apart.  Curl into spiral shape.  Set spirals right up against each other on a sheet tray so that they are holding each other in shape.  Skewer.

Yield:  Approximately 16 spirals

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Papa Suds’ Pizza Dough

This is my family’s pizza dough recipe.  We make pizza almost weekly, so it is a workhorse recipe, one of the most important in our kitchen.

People familiar with our neighbourhood have asked why we make our own pizza when we live literally one block from a pizzeria.  The answer is that it’s easy and good and fun and cheap.  The scaling and mixing of the dough take less than ten minutes.  All together the ingredients for our homemade pizza cost under $5 per 12″ pie, something that we pay $18 plus tip for down the street.

I feel obligated to mention that our recipe is adapted from the little booklet that came with our KitchenAid stand mixer.  I resent having to mention that, because the recipe in that booklet is completely useless!  Firstly because the quantities are all in volumes, making the results wildly inconsistent, and secondly because the quantity of flour it calls for is “2 1/2 – 3 1/2 cups”.  Such a huge variation is absolutely ridiculous.  “You either need this quantity of flour, or 40% more flour than that, I’m not sure.”  How can it even claim to be a recipe when it makes statements like that?  It’s more like a Vague Outline for Pizza Dough.

Anyways, we made the following changes:

  • Converted all units to precise, reliable weights.
  • Dialed in the flour quantity so that the dough is nice and wet but still workable.
  • Increased the salt content from a meagre 1/2 tsp to a much more sensible 1 1/2 tsp.

 

Papa Suds’ Pizza Dough
Adapted from the absurd excuse for a pizza dough recipe in the KitchenAid Stand Mixer booklet

Ingredients

  • 240 g warm water
  • 8 g dry active yeast
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 330 g all-purpose flour
  • 1 + 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • extra olive oil for greasing fermentation bowl
  • extra flour for rolling out
  • coarse cornmeal for baking

Procedure

  1. Weigh the water in a bowl. Add the yeast and oil.  Stir to moisten yeast.  Let stand a few minutes.
  2. Weigh flour in the bowl of the stand-mixer.  Add the salt.
  3. Add the liquid components to a well in the centre of the flour.
  4. Mix the dough using the dough hook on low speed until the dough comes together in one ball and the sides of the bowl are clean.
  5. Turn the mixer speed to 2 and knead for 2 minutes.
  6. Put a splash of olive oil in a large bowl. Wipe the oil up the sides of the bowl. Put the dough in the bowl. Turn the dough so its entire surface is coated with oil.
  7. Cover the bowl with plastic and a towel and leave at room temperature until the dough has doubled, roughly 90 – 120 minutes.

Yield: dough for 2 x 12″ pizzas

 

Homemade pizzas with sausage, peppers, and provolone.

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Buranelli Cookies

Buranelli cookies in the traditional "esse" shape.One of my favourite Italian desserts is simple, elegant, and endlessly adaptable: cookies and sweet wine.  In Italy I’ve seen this dish served with every manner of cookie, from amaretti to lady fingers to biscotti, and sweet wines as various as Vin Santo, Recioto, and Pantelleria.  You could easily take the dish outside the realm of Italian cuisine and try something like ginger snaps and sweet applejack.  A particularly memorable experience was being served s-shaped Buranelli cookies with a glass of sweet Zibbibo in a small restaurant in Venice on a wet, chilly September afternoon.

Buranelli are from the Venetian island of Burano.  The dough is a bit like shortbread (more sweet and less buttery than my preferred Scottish-style shortbread) enriched with egg yolk and flavoured with lemon zest and vanilla.

There are two classic shapes, the bussola (“compass”) and the esse (“s”).  The compass is just a strip of dough curled into a perfect circle.  For some reason the s-shapes are made backwards to how the letter is normally written.  It’s a simple, versatile dough that could be made into any shape, including the classics of Scottish shortbread like fingers and petticoat tails.

Buranelli Cookies

Ingredients

  • 125 g unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 3/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 110 g white sugar
  • 80 g egg yolk (4 large egg yolks)
  • 1 tsp lemon zest
  • 1 + 1/2 tsp vanilla paste
  • 250 g all-purpose flour

Procedure

  1. Combine butter, salt, and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer.  Using the paddle attachment, cream ingredients thoroughly, roughly 10 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl every few minutes.
  2. Combine the yolks, zest, and vanilla.  Add to the creamed mixture and paddle until well mixed.
  3. Slowly add the flour will the mixer runs on its lowest setting.  Stop mixing as soon as the flour is incorporated.
  4. At this point the dough can be wrapped in plastic and refrigerated for later use, but note that the dough is much easier to work with when it is at room temperature.
  5. Divide the dough into 20 equal portions.  Roll each portion into desired shape.
  6. Line portions on a heavy bake sheet lined with parchment or a silicon mat.  Refrigerate for 15 minutes.
  7. Bake in a 375°F oven until the edges and bottoms are just starting to brown.

Buranelli cookies with Recioto, a sweet wine from Valpolicella.

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