Before canning, people fermented to preserve food. Fermenting foods can store the harvest bounty for later consumption during the winter months. Fermentation also increases the nutrient content of the base food. Fermented foods are alive and full of probiotics that can help improve our gut health and immune function. This is especially important during the cold winter months.
Traditional fermentation requires a crock, or you can always make smaller amounts using a glass mason jar or a Pickl-It. Here is a recipe for a making kimchi, our family’s favorite fermented vegetable. Below is a photo essay on how to make larger amounts of kimchi using two types of traditional fermentation crocks.
The most difficult part about making large qualities of fermented foods is finding a container big enough to mix all the ingredients. I have four pails for chopped cabbage and one pail for all the spicy vegetables. As I load up the pressing crock, I mix about four parts chopped cabbage to one part spicy vegetables. As I am filling the pressing crock, I add the sea salt to each load of cabbage and spicy vegetables. I fill the crock up to the top and press the vegetables down until the liquid comes out. Normally, the crock will be half full after pressing. I will refill the crock to the top and do a second press before transferring the pressed kimchi and liquid to the smaller crocks. It is best to press, not pound, the kimchi. If I get tired I just take a break and the sea salt will do most of the work for me.
After all the floating pieces are removed, I put the lid on the crock and pour water around the lid to air-lock the crock. It is important to remember to add more water as it is lost to evaporation. I made 30L of kimchi in three crocks from about 80 pounds of cabbage and 20 pounds of assorted spicy vegetables. This might seem like a lot of kimchi for a family of four, but I try to encourage my family to eat a small amount of kimchi with each meal to improve digestion.