Outdoor-temperature kimchi experiment successful

I was too lazy and I did not actually bury the kimchi underground. I just shoved it under the tent, where it is touching the ground and in the darkness, because it hasn’t been extremely hot outside, and kimchi can survive several days at room temperature in a house before it gets too sour.

The kimchi is fine several days later. I am eating a little bit of it each day, and it’s in a small jar, so I don’t have to worry about trying to eat it all as fast as I can. It’s just slightly more sour than it was at the beginning. I don’t like strong sour flavors. Our kimchi at Maki Yaki is sometimes more sour than I like it to be, and my jar of kimchi isn’t even as sour as that yet.

I learned something recently while researching lacto-fermentation. For some reason, I had read this thousands of times before, but never understood the significance of it and never remembered it. IT MATTERS THAT THE FOOD IS RAW. That’s important. I thought people were just somehow exaggerating the importance of this, but I read an explanation that made sense to me and somehow it sunk in, finally. Raw foods still have all the different competing strains of bacteria. When you ferment them, all the different bacteria in there are preventing the growth of botulinum or botulinium or whatever it’s called (I have to google it again). I had done google searches for ‘why don’t lacto-fermented foods give you botulism?’ or something like that.

Botulism happens in CANNED food, which is COOKED at high heat. When you cook it, you kill all the other bacteria, the weak and harmless stuff, leaving only botulinum, the strongest and most deadly one, because it’s the only thing able to survive very high heat. After all the competition is gone, botulinum thrives. (I need to google that word before I keep trying to use it again.) Clostridium botulinum – got it.

So in cooked foods, all the competition is destroyed. In raw foods, all the other bacteria are still alive and their competition prevents the excessive growth of botulinum.

This is why pasteurized milk and pasteurized cheese have more bacterial diseases associated with them than raw milk does.

So, it might seem scary, because I’ve been taught over and over again never to do this, never put anything into an anaerobic container because you’ll get botulism, but that’s how you make lacto-fermented vegetables, as long as they are raw. You also add salt, which makes botulinum unable to grow.

The toughest one to ferment is meat. That does actually have a greater risk. They do it in the Arctic, but it has to be done the traditional way. Using modern tools, people screw it up – you can’t just, say, put some meat in the back of your refrigerator in a tupperware container and hope that it ferments properly. It doesn’t work like that. People have indeed died from botulism or some other poisoning from trying to combine traditional methods with modern tools and methods. I don’t have enough knowledge to know what is right, but I vaguely know some of it: you have to bury it underground just above the permafrost, and leave it there for a few months. It’ll be just above freezing. I think you put it inside a sealskin poke. Don’t ever eat dead whales lying on the beach, either – people died from that.

Lacto-fermented vegetables are less risky than meat. I might try using a jar, some water and salt, and some particular vegetable, which must be raw. And if I were going to actually do it myself for real, I probably would bury it in the ground just to be safe. I’m less careful with the kimchi partly because I’ve seen how they handle it at Maki Yaki – if I recall correctly, they leave it at room temperature for a couple days when they make it, and I’ve eaten it (and noticed it’s more sour than I like it to be, but still edible and nonlethal, just unpleasant). I got used to eating kimchi from the grocery store, which is mild. I also ate it at a couple other restaurants in the past. Because of this I am more confident about possibly making my own sauerkraut or kimchi this way.

I wonder why particular vegetables are used, but not others. Why don’t I see lots of fermented leafy greens other than the cabbage family? Couldn’t I ferment, say, arugula and watercress? Is there some attribute of the vegetables that is important, such as, it must be crunchy and watery, or something? There are fermentation forums on the internet, which is where I read the explanations for why it doesn’t give you botulism. I could look this up there too.

The thing I like about this is, I get the impression that you do not have to have any kind of special ‘seed’ in order for it to work. It just takes the normal bacteria, not some special strain of bacteria, unlike other special foods where you have to use a seed of the stuff first. I can’t remember what it is, it’s like a white chunky stuff. Why am I not remembering this? It’s actually disgusting. Maybe I’m thinking of kefir granules. That must be it. I’m not interested in kefir because it’s alcoholic – I tasted it one time and detected the alcohol.

Oh, I forgot to mention. At Thanksgiving dinner with Aunt Jean, her boyfriend Jack, and their friend Wayne, I resisted the urge to get coffee. I had a coffee mug turned upside down on a saucer already at my place at the table. When the lady came around and offered coffee and poured it for Wayne, I was still listening to Aunt Jeannie and fighting the urge to turn over my coffee cup and ask for coffee. I didn’t. It was like a Bilbo/Frodo-and-the-Ring moment. The black rider is there and Frodo is trying not to put on the ring. I pictured a spoof of this (probably because I hugged Jack and I’m now under the influence of his transdermal drug residues). Ah! My old mug. I should like to just…. turn it over again. (finger moves towards the handle of coffee cup). It was an inaccurate spoof because if you’re turning a coffee cup over you don’t need to stick your finger through the ring of the handle, but I had to make it match the movie. But, I resisted this urge.

Asparagus? Can I preserve asparagus? That’s one of my favorite vegetables, but I can’t buy it when I live in the tent because there’s so much I can’t eat it all in one sitting. It would be good for lacto-fermenting. I’ll google it.

I really, really, really, really need a book about all the edible wild plants in Pennsylvania, both native and invasive. It’s best if it’s a book, a physical book on paper. It needs to be thorough. I don’t want a mere beginner’s book. I want it to have a key for identifying the plants, too.

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2 Responses to “Outdoor-temperature kimchi experiment successful”

  1. Anonymous Says:

    let me know when you get drunk…

    e

  2. Nicole Says:

    I didn’t get drunk, but had some funny sensations in bed this morning, so I decided not to eat the last little bit of it. It was quite good for two or maybe three days though.

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