Radishes are the red and white stars of my spring pickling classes. If you have more radishes in your garden than you can eat, or if you are just looking to try something new—I say pickle them! Not convinced? Here are five reasons radishes are to be fermented.
1. First to harvest = First to ferment. The cheery round Cherry Belle radish or the longer oblong heirloom French Breakfast radishes are harbingers of the coming garden season. I know people who hardly eat radishes but plant them just because they delight in radishes’ quick growth in the cool beginnings of the waking garden.
2. Radishes can be your starter pickle. Never fermented before? Maybe you have been hearing the rumors of how good fermented vegetables are for you. Guess what? Now that the energy of the growing season is bringing new crisp vegetables to the market, it’s time to try. Radishes are easy to pickle or ferment, even if you’re brand new to fermenting.
3. Radishes are incredibly healthy—especially in the spring when our bodies are rousing to their warm-weather selves. Eastern medicine sees radishes as a spring tonic; you can link to a little more about that and a recipe for a Spring Radish and Fennel Ferment. A few other radish benefits are that they help with respiration and ridding our bodies of cold symptoms. They are high in Vit. C (even higher after they are fermented.) And they are calming on the digestive system since fermented probiotic-rich foods are also soothing—it stands to reason fermented radishes are a 2-for! Indeed a good gut choice.
4. Fermenting radishes offers variety. While we think of radishes as having strong flavors, in fermenting they act as a base to whatever flavors you can dream up. If you are a kimchi fan, you probably know most kimchi recipes contain radishes. Did you also know they can be sliced thinly and fermented as fermented radish salad?—yup here is another plug for the radish and fennel ferment. And if you like your radishes plain, simply fermenting them in a brine gives you pickles that are cheeky little bite-sized orbs of effervescence that can be popped straight into your mouth.
5. Fermented radishes are tasty I encourage you to try fermented radishes at least once even if you don’t particularly like radishes. It can be a surprise how much the flavor changes. For example that mustardy hot bite mellows out so much that it is often gone.
Cubed Spring Radish Kimchi Recipe
Makes a little less than 1 quart
This recipe is based called Kkagdugi, a common traditional kimchi. Kkadgugi is usually made with Korean radishes, which are much like a daikon. I have enjoyed this type of ferment with a variety of radishes. The large daikon should be cut into cube shapes; small round radishes make little half moons.
• 1 pound globe-type radishes, quartered if small, chunky slices if larger
• 1 teaspoon unrefined fine salt
• 1/3 cup Korean red pepper powder, or 1–2 Tablespoons hot chile flakes (see note)
• 3 scallions, sliced crosswise in ½ in pieces, include green
• 3–4 cloves garlic, minced
• 1/2 teaspoon sugar, preferably unrefined
• Optional: 2 teaspoons pickled baby shrimp from Asian market
Variation: When fresh radish tops are available it is wonderful to add in a few of the tops, minced. Watercress is a traditional addition. Add about ¼ cup chopped greens.
Prepare the radishes, add salt and pepper powder and mix until coated. Massage a bit to help the brine begin to form. Set aside. Prepare the remaining ingredients and add to mixture. If using pickled shrimp, finely mince the shrimp and add some of the liquid when measuring the 2 teaspoons. Massage the entire mixture. Taste; add salt if needed. You should be able to taste the salt (like a chip) but it should not be overpowering. You should have a brine developing.
Follow the instructions for putting the kimchi mixture in your favorite fermentation vessel. If you don’t have one, put the mixture into a quart mason jar pressing out air pockets as you go. Wipe any excess off the sides of the jar with a clean cloth or paper towel. If you have small weights put them on the ferment. Screw a lid tightly on the jar.
Put this in a corner of the kitchen to cure. Watch for air pockets forming in the kimchi. If you see them, open the lid and press the kimchi back down. If the lid starts to bubble up, simply open the lid for a moment to “burp” the ferment. Remember, this process is anaerobic.
Allow to ferment for 10–14 days. During storage, the less airspace above a ferment, the longer it will last, so fill the jars to the rim and transfer the ferment to smaller jars as you use it. This ferment will keep, refrigerated for 6 months.
Note on pepper powder: This recipe calls for the Korean-style pepper powder found in Asian markets. Look for powders with little or no added ingredients. The one that I get does have some added salt, which I adjust for by tasting when using in recipes. If you cannot find the Korean-style chile powder, use chile flakes. They are often hotter than the traditional pepper powder, so you will use much less.
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