With the spring planted kohlrabi coming in from the garden, now is the time to begin fermenting it to turn it into kraut, pickles and kimchi. In the past, my two favorite things to do with kohrabi were to make kraut and to make kohlrabi pickles. My wife and I love both treatments, and the pickles are one of her favorite ways to consume kohlrabi. I did a ‘how to’ on these two ways to prepare kohlrabi a couple of years ago called Fermented Kohlrabi Two Ways. Since then I have experimented with more options and methods, and I want to share some of them today.
First up, I have really come to enjoy adding garlic to all of our krauts. Either raw garlic or roasted garlic adds another level of flavor to the fermented veggies, and since I love garlic (and grow a lot) it seems like a perfect fit. For a pint jar of kraut, I generally add two cloves of minced garlic, or four cloves to a quart jar. I like to run my garlic through a press instead of chopping it up with a knife, because I think it extracts a lot of flavor plus it is easier when you have a lot of garlic to mince. For the roasted garlic version, I wrap a whole head of garlic in foil and roast it in a 400°F oven for about 45 minutes until soft and mushy. One whole head seasons a pint of kraut nicely, while I use two heads to flavor a quart. Once cooled, you can squeeze the garlic out of the skins and chop lightly before adding to the kraut.
Another new thing I have come to like is kohlrabi kimchi. My recipe is still evolving, but I will share it here soon when I make another batch of it. It’s a bit more involved than making kraut, or kohlrabi pickles, so I got the bright idea of making the pickles with kimchi seasoning as sort of a shortcut. I’m calling these kimchi pickles, and I have made them with both kohlrabi and with daikon radishes, or a combination of the two. After peeling, I cut up the kohlrabi into half inch slices then cut again into pieces about a half inch wide.
To season the kimchi pickles, for a pint jar I add about a tablespoon each of grated ginger and minced garlic. Then I add somewhere between a teaspoon and a tablespoon of Korean pepper flakes (gochugaru), depending on the desired heat level. I add the kohlrabi pieces, then cover with the brine. I generally add about a tablespoon of fine sea salt to two cups of water, which works out to about a 3.5% brine. I leave the pickles to ferment for about two weeks, or until they reach the desired level of flavor. Of course, if you don’t want the heat you can use less of the hot pepper, or omit it entirely.
It is important to always keep vegetables submerged under the brine when fermenting. The fermentista’s mantra is ‘under the brine, and all will be fine’, and I use glass pickle pebble weights to help keep my ferments covered by the brine. That’s the only special equipment I use for fermenting veggies, other than plastic storage caps. I find the metal ones corrode quickly when subjected to the acidic and salty liquids associated with fermentation.
For more information on lacto-fermentating vegetables, I can recommend a couple of books I use for reference on the subject. One is Ferment Your Vegetables by Amanda Feifer. The other book is Fermented Vegetables by Kirsten K. and Christopher Shockey. Both address the basics of fermenting vegetables at home, and also have a lot of useful recipes, many of which I have tried. Both will help to make sure your fermentation projects are successful, as well as to give you ideas.