Welcome to another Sam I Am moment. You remember Sam, don’t you? He’s the guy with the friend that can only say, ‘I do not like green eggs and ham.’
Brave as I am when it comes to food (refer here if there’s any question), when the word ‘ferment’ is included in any recipe, I balk. And grimace.
I know, I know. Fermenting is present in many common kitchen ingredients and foods. The vinegar add to my vinaigrette? I’m well aware that it’s fermented cider. Or wine. Or champagne. Or sherry.
Beer. All hail the mighty brew. The might fermented brew. Beer gets its own paragraph.
And then there’s cabbage. Why cabbage? People have enough trouble eating the stuff, so what made someone decide to ferment it?
It was the Koreans, in case you’re curious. They did it several thousand years ago. I’m guessing that it was the best way to preserve a super-abundant crop of cabbage, but I don’t really know. The Koreans’ fermented cabbage, or kimchi, is the original sauerkraut.
Sauerkraut, if you’re curious, is an Eastern European adaptation of kimchi. The Koreans fermented their version with rice vinegar. German chose to use salt instead.
I’ve never eaten kimchi. I’m scared of it and I don’t know why. While I’m not a huge sauerkraut fan, eating it only on a well-made Reuben, I won’t shrink back (much) when offered some at a German food-inspired dinner party.
Maybe it’s because kimchi’s red and I don’t know why. Maybe it’s because people throw the word ‘fermented’ around when talking about kimchi, but when discussing sauerkraut they only debate the bag or bottled varieties.
No matter what the reason, I’m not ready to head there. Yet. Give me a little time. Maybe start with cucumbers.
I’ve been toying with making this recipe since I received the magazine, but seemed to always ‘forget’ to buy cucumbers and never went so far as to tab the recipe on page 77. Then a friend gave me a bag full of beautiful garden cucumbers.
After several meals of tomato and cucumber salads, I knew I had to do something with the rest before they started to liquefy. Since I don’t have any fresh dill, cucumber kimchi seemed destined to be.
Since there was a bunch of mincing, I used my little chopper, so that part of the prep went quickly. The rest was just a matter of waiting.
I cut the cukes, salted them and let them sit for an hour. Then I rinsed them well, stuffed them with the minced mixture and packed them together in my container. I covered them and waited.
Because of the heat, I didn’t even offer these to Dudette. In fact, since this was my food challenge, I put a cucumber on a plate and did my taste test when I was all by my lonesome. Of course, since I’ve never had kimchi, I have nothing to compare this with so I will have to tell you what I think this tastes like, not how it measures up to the cabbage variety.
It’s very good. There is no spoiled flavor (which is what I was most afraid of). The magazine describes these as being ‘salty, tangy, slightly spicy…’ I would rearrange the words a bit to say, ‘slightly salty and tangy, spicy.’ Emphasis on spicy. But very good too.
I love these as an alternative to pickles. Remember the Sausage Burgers with Sriracha-Honey-Mustard Sauce? Cucumber kimchi would be awesome alongside the burger.
Now I can’t wait for Hubby to get home and give these a try. He’s gonna love them.
What I’d Do Different Next Time
I really didn’t get tangy or salty. Maybe it’s because I rinsed my cucumbers well like the magazine told me to. I missed the zing. I would either add a teaspoon of salt to the stuffing or a tablespoon of sherry vinegar.
- 1 lb. small cucumbers, such as Kirby or small Persian (about 6), ends trimmed, halved crosswise
- Kosher salt
- 1 small yellow onion, finely chopped (about ¾ cup)
- ¼ cup very thinly sliced scallions, both white and green parts (about 2 medium)
- 10 fresh chives, sliced crosswise into 1-inch pieces (1 Tbs.)
- 1 tablespoon chopped saeujeot (Korean salted shrimp) or fish sauce
- 1 medium clove garlic, minced (1 tsp.)
- 1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
- 1 teaspoon gochugaru (Korean red chile flakes) or crushed red pepper flakes, or to taste
- Stand the cucumber pieces on their trimmed ends and, using a small knife, cut an X into each, stopping about halfway down. Season inside and out with 1-1/2 Tbs. salt and let sit in a shallow bowl at room temperature for 1-1/2 hours to soften.
- Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, combine the onion, scallions, chives, saeujeot, garlic, ginger, gochugaru, and 2 Tbs. water; set aside.
- Rinse the cucumbers well inside and out under cold running water and shake dry. Gently spread open the cucumbers and press about 1 heaping tsp. of the chile mixture into each piece. Transfer to a shallow glass or plastic container, standing them on their trimmed ends and packing them tightly together. Press any of the remaining chile mixture in and around the cucumbers and pour over any accumulated liquid. Cover and let sit at room temperature to ferment for at least 24 hours. Refrigerate until chilled, at least 30 minutes, and then serve.