Sarah spent every Friday on our fields for a couple years while she lived in Maryland. She was in glee with every green thing we grew. Sarah is rooted in the soil. Helping on the farm fueled her week with energy and veggies. She became a workshare on the farm and a friend to our family. When she moved away, I wanted to tribute a blog entry to Sarah and I knew it would be about making Farm Chi.
Farm Chi is Sarah’s version of kimchi, full of mixed veggies, whatever is fresh from the farm. We would send Sarah home with veggies from the farm, and some of them would make it into her jar of Farm Chi. Sometimes cabbage and bok choi and sweet turnips and broccoli raab. Sometimes nappa cabbage and kale and carrots and garlic scapes. Kimchi is fermented vegetables, full of probiotics good for your gut. Farm Chi contains all the energy of the farm, spicy and crunchy and vibrant and good for you. It contains all the energy of Sarah too, cheerful and smart and vibrant and connected to nature.
Sarah’s in the car on her way out of town, talking to me on the cell. I’m writing down notes as she explains to me how to make Farm Chi. Coarsely chop whatever’s in the frig, says Sarah. Nappa, strips of carrots, turnips, kale, broccoli raab, garlic scapes. Submerge in a salt water brine (1 TB salt: 1 cup water) overnight. Pour off the brine and save it. Optional rinse. Pour the sauce into the veggies: hot chili powder, three garlic cloves, an inch of ginger, ten garlic scapes, fish sauce. It’s flexible. Blitz the sauce in a blender or food processor, then pour it in with the drained veggies. Stamp it down with a wooden paddle, then add back some brine until there’s liquid at the top. Set it out on the counter for 3-4 days, ideally around 72 degrees. Pack into jars and put it in the frig.
Sarah had limited space in her little downtown apartment, yet she made things happen, like Farm Chi. She made small batches in recycled jars and containers. She didn’t come up with excuses on why she should do these things later, when she had her own garden or a bigger kitchen. She made do and made things happen.
Me, I asked my hubby for a crock for my birthday. I love my big three-gallon fermentation crock. I make big batches with three nappa cabbages and all the Farm Chi fixins, but the crock is not required. Some non-metallic container (salt corrodes it) would work. The crock liner of a crockpot would work great. The cabbage is bulky at first, then the salt shrinks it down.
Sarah’s enthusiasm for healthy living shines through her smile, just as it does through her Farm Chi. That’s why I think of her when I make a batch. She loves all things natural and how we can create connections that reflect nature. She studied permaculture. She stuffs bok choi leaves in her mouth with the joy of a child. She taught me how to make Farm Chi.
I have tinkered with my Farm Chi a little, as I make it my own. I have integrated ideas from another excellent kimchi tutorial. I salt the cabbage alone without the other veggies, sprinkling salt between the leaves, or pouring in the salt water brine from Sarah’s recipe. I rinse it well the next day, then add the chopped veggies and the sauce. I stamp everything down with a heavy wooden spoon that has a thick handle. Stamping it brings out the juice and creates a brine. You want the liquid to cover the mixture. I don’t add fish sauce, but I might try that sometime. I save some whole leaves of salted cabbage to seal the top from oxygen. My crock has a fancy little wooden circle to set on top of that and press so liquid comes up. I set a couple jars of water on top of it as a weight. Sarah finds something around the house to use for this, I’m sure. She’d make do. I was using ancho chili powder, because I don’t like things too spicy, but I recently bought Korean red pepper. It has a great authentic taste and not too spicy either. Another great source for fermented everything is Wild Fermentation by Sandor Katz.
Sarah is creating community and gardening and shaking things up in New York now. Join her rally against fracking in New York, as she organizes for citizens of New York to keep their roots in nature and good food.
And meanwhile, I share the joy of Farm Chi. I taught my brother Ron to make it.
He calls his Ron Chi…
Ilene White Freedman operates House in the Woods organic CSA farm with her husband, Phil, in Frederick, Maryland. The Freedmans are one of six 2013 Mother Earth News Homesteaders of the Year. Ilene blogs about making things from scratch, putting up the harvest, gardening and farm life at Mother Earth News and blog.houseinthewoods.com, easy to follow from our Facebook Page. For more about the farm, go to www.houseinthewoods.com.