The latest book on my bedside table is not the lastest chick lit bonkbuster but rather "Wild Fermentation", a book by Sandor Katz. Fifty shades of fermentation if you like. Katz is, by his own admission, a "fermentation fetishist" and the owner of quite possibly the most spectacular moustache I have seen this millennium. The book is part text book, part recipe book and contains oodles of fermentation theory topped off with many many recipes. The only shortcoming - apart from the incredibly lurid design of the front cover - is that there are no photos, quite a rarity for cookbooks of the Oliver era. Thing is I don't think that most fermented food photographs well, looking more brothy, frothy and brown than is usually desirable. Perhaps a scratch and sniff edition would be more appropriate?
The book is handily divided into different types of fermentation. My baking skills would definitely make Paul hollywood wince, I don't have the kit for tibetan beer, and am yet to get hold of a kombucha scobie. I therefore decided to start with fruit kimchi. Relatively simple compared to other recipes in terms of ingredients and processes, and another chance to use the kimchi container.
Katz suggests that the recipe came to him from a former missionary working in Korea. A quick bit of googling about fruit kimchi in Korea doesn't reveal a tonne of information on the topic - rather there are quite a lot of posts by people who have made the kimchi and who are similarly questioning where the recipe comes from. While the fruit kimchi does have jalapeno chillies, it doesn't include the distinctive Korean red pepper powder that is included in all other kimchi recipes.
The recipe involves chopping up some apples, pears, plums and pineapples, and adding some grapes. This is them mixed - rather controversially - with some chopped onion, minced garlic and ginger, and chopped jalapeno chilies. This is mixed well and then left to ferment for around a week before being transferred to the fridge. The fruit mix on its own looks fairly appetising, even with the garlic and onion.
As instructed, the kimchi container was left out of the fridge for the first week to get the fermentation going. I imagine that, as with most fermented foods, it is personal preference as to how fizzy you go and how much tang you want your end product to have. I tasted the kimchi as it fermented every other day and I think, in hindsight, would have stopped at around day four or five rather than keeping it out of the fridge for the whole week. For me this was the optimum point were the fruit had a good bit of fizz and tang but where it was still quite firm.
The end result, although a little too fermented for my palate, is still surprisingly delicious with the pineapple and grapes the stand out fruit. Like many fermented products, with the one exception of sourdough, It is certainly not going to win any beauty prizes and looks a little past its best. Looks are fortunately deceiving with the onion, garlic and ginger giving a depth of flavour rather than tasting savoury and the chilli having a good kick without being overpowering. I would ditch the cashews next time as they went soggy and didn't add that much.
What to eat it with? I have had a bowlful with a good dollop of yoghurt but also have plans for a salsa-style side to some tacos or fish.