Kimchi making!

J and I were running low on kimchi. The last batch was from 3 or 4 months ago, so we go through about 1 quart per month. College friend S was interested, so we all got together to make kimchi!

We used Maangchi’s recipe, omitting the minari (dropwort) and the Asian chives, and substituting bonito flakes for the brined shrimp. This time, we also decreased the red pepper flakes to 1 cup. We didn’t have enough Korean red pepper flakes, so I substituted cayenne pepper powder for the remainder needed.

So much cabbage! It weighed about 7 lbs.

In addition to Napa cabbage (tongbaechu) kimchi, we tried making green onion (pa) kimchi. J really likes green onions 🙂

As usual, the kimchi turned out deliciously. It is much more edible this time around, thanks to halving the amount of red pepper in the recipe! The key to the flavor is the fish. Without it, the kimchi tastes bland (not enough umami); if you get it wrong, it tastes horrible. There was a memorable batch of kimchi several years ago where I used Thai shrimp paste that unfortunately smelled like rubber…

We got about 1.5 gallons kimchi, some of which will be going to friend S for her help! I added extra water to the jars to make sure the cabbage was submerged…bad idea. The CO2 produced by fermentation caused all but two of the jars to spill by the next morning.
Here’s the finished pa kimchi!

Out of curiosity, I looked up what bacteria are present in kimchi.

The picture [the experiment] paint[s] is that the microbial population changes fairly radically over time. At first, the cabbage, which was soaked in brine, drained, and mixed with a variety of seasonings, was populated mostly by unidentified bacteria and ones from the Deferribacterales group, whose representatives have cropped up in oilfields and in the guts of deep-sea shrimp. These bacteria may have been on the cabbage to begin with, rather than having anything to do with the fermentation, because as the days passed, and the oxygen ran out, others began to take over.

By the seventh day, DNA from the Leuconostoc group, which converts sugars into lactic acid and are behind the fermentation of kefir, a fermented milk drink, and sourdough bread, was on the rise. By day 13, members of the Lactobacillus and Weisellagroups had joined in. Like Leuconostoc, Lactobacillus andWeisella produce lactic acid from sugar, and they’re also part of the team behind cheese, kefir, pickles, and other fermented products. Together the three groups dominated the kimchi for the rest of the experiment.

From BBC Future.

And I discovered that there’s a fermentation subreddit for all your fermentation needs! (The top post at the moment is titled “The number one mistake fermentation newbies make is paranoia“!)

Thinking of making alcohol

Neither J nor I really drinks alcohol. We use it, in the form of mirin and sake, for cooking. So I’ve been thinking of trying to make sake. A similar process is used to make rice vinegar.

Generally speaking, sake is made by fermenting rice. Amylase is used to break down the starches in cooked rice into simple sugars. Yeast ferments the sugars into alcohol. Then there are a few filtration steps, to remove the half-digested rice chunks and clarify the liquid.

More specifically, the amylase is provided by koji (Aspergillus oryzae, used as well for soy sauce, miso, makgeolli, shouchuu, etc) in modern sake production. The yeast is a specific cultivated variety or varieties. The sake is clarified using activated charcoal. This is the best article I’ve found describing in detail how to make sake. Here’s another that might be easier to follow.

However I’m not interested in “proper” technique. I especially don’t want a fussy recipe where I have to buy things. I’d rather use materials I have on hand or that are available for free (like wild yeast).

So, there are less exacting traditional techniques that can be used. The amylase can be provided by saliva, as in the production of kuchikamizake (as seen in Kimi no Na wa). And the yeast can be wild, as in sourdough. I also suspect that you can use barley malt (leftover from making gochujang) for the amylase. After all, it’s used in other alcoholic beverages.

So, I’ll probably do some low-volume experiments with kuchikamizake, barley malt, and koji, of which I have a very small amount. We’ll see how it goes!

Vinegar-making

When friend S was over for kimchi making, we started talking about other foods we could make. It seems like there’s the most collective interest in vinegar and in alcohol. ( I’d like to make hard cheeses in the future as well.) So I embarked on some initial vinegar experiments!

According to this source, all you need to do is inoculate an alcoholic liquid with acetic acid-producing bacteria. Some other sites suggested adding sugar, to provide easier-to-access food. You can get the bacteria from unpasteurized vinegar (e.g. Braggs brand), but I figured I would try inoculating with kimchi juice, since it’s sour. I’m not sure what acid is in kimchi. Some of it is lactic acid, but there might be acetic acid as well.

So I mixed together some kimchi juice (1 part), a pinch of sugar, and sake (5 parts) in a little glass jar. I guess I’ll just let it sit and see what happens. I wonder if the sake is too alcoholic. It’s surely possible to kill off all the bacteria.

I also discovered a vinegar subreddit (I’m not even surprised at this point). If you just looked at this, you’d think that everybody’s making their own vinegar!

Protect your Identity with 5 Simple Steps

You may have heard that Equifax accidentally leaked everyone’s names, addresses, and social security numbers. Darn.

Here are some really easy steps you can take to protect your identity from being stolen:

Step 1. Sign up for a my Social Security account at: https://www.ssa.gov/myaccount/. Signing up prevents hackers signing up for you, and getting access to more of your personal information. Unfortunately, signing up only works about 30% of the time, and you can only do it during the website’s business hours. If you fail more than twice, you get locked out forever. Sorry.

You can try calling for help, but they’ll hang up immediately for your safety.

Step 2. Set up an initial fraud alert with one of the three credit unions. I would recommend TransUnion, because they have the best web interface: http://transunion.com/fraud. It’s free and lasts 90 days (you can renew it as many times as you like). If you do this, banks will call you to confirm if someone tries to open an account in your name. They’ll probably open the account for the hacker anyway though. Can’t be helped…

Steps 3-5. These can only be addressed during the blog’s business hours, 2pm – 2:15pm on every Tuesday with a full moon.

Waffle Iron!

We got an early 1950s waffle maker from a garage sale!

It looks like this.
And it looks like this when you close the lid. It has a light that turns red when it’s on (it’s actually just the glow from the heating element).
Here’s some info I dug up about the machine. It’s repeatedly “as bulky as a Buick.”
It transforms into a grill if you fold it down and take off the waffle grates.
After seasoning the cast iron, we made waffles! 

It’s pretty nonstick!

The finished waffles, only slightly burnt.

For dinner we made monjayaki using the griddle mode. It’s was great!

Plastic in tap water and sea water

These plastic fibers were captured by filtering laundry water from washing a fleece jacket. From Patagonia.

There is growing concern over the presence of plastic microfibers in the environment. Here is The Story of Stuff on the issue. Basically, when you wash plastic things (clothes, sponges, plastic containers, etc) or when plastic things degrade, they shed little pieces of plastic. These end up going down the drain to water treatment facilities. Unfortunately, most water treatment plants don’t have the means to filter these out, so they get released into local bodies of water and eventually end up in the ocean.

Fast fashion, which cuts costs by using cheap synthetic materials, is a major culprit. This infographic is from a Greenpeace blogpost.

There’s a lot of worry among environmentalists and marine biologists about potential effects on marine ecosystems, upon which humans rely, and the environment as a whole. It seems reasonable to think that if humans eat fish that ate plankton that ate microfibers, humans might experience negative health effects. However, before now, no one knew for sure if people were being exposed.

A recent analysis established that most tap water contains microfibers (94.4% of all samples in the US). Additionally, another project found that sea salt from various parts of the world contains plastic microfibers.

What can you do to help?

  1. Wash your clothes less. This especially applies to those made of synthetic materials, like polyester, lycra, nylon, spandex.
  2. Buy clothes made of natural materials, like wool, cotton, linen, hemp.
  3. Wash your clothes on cold. Higher temperatures cause the materials to break down faster and shed more plastic particles.
  4. Likewise, line dry your clothes instead of using the dryer.
  5. Use liquid detergent instead of powder. Powder is more abrasive and causes clothing to shred more.
  6. Don’t litter. Plastic items, like plastic bags, break down into microfibers in the environment. While it would be ideal to not use these items at all, it’s better for them to be in a landfill than in the ocean. When throwing a plastic bag or other flyaway item away, tie it into a knot first to make it less aerodynamic.

There are other things you can do, but they require more of an investment. You can purchase a washing machine lint filter (I’ve seen this and this recommended). You can also purchase a Guppy Friend, a (plastic…) bag to wash your clothes in. They are supposed to filter out 99% of microfibers.

 

 

Century-old Korean barbershop!

This awesome video is from my sibling. Notice the use of vinegar to rinse hair near the end of the video! Vinegar is actually good for your hair, and is used in the no-shampoo community as an alternative to conventional conditioner.

Also cool is the use of a straight razor! I’m surprised the barber had such an old razor, though. In Japan at least, the traditional razor, used before Westernization, is the kamisori. I figure Korea used something more similar to that than to European straight razors.

Kamisori example. From site.