I find that most of the cruciferous vegies are a bit bitter raw. I think they do that to protect themselves. Some, like mustards can be spicy or too sour. I like the sour taste and full nutrition of fermented vegies. I find that the sour of the fermentation balances a bitter or spicy well, and makes it yummy. My 2cents.
I've done a few small batches and I think that your best bet is to use a kale that's mild and quite firm. Older leaves are more bitter but they hold up better in liquid. You might try a recipe similar to that of kim chi. Really spicy stuff. If I were doing it again I would choose a kale like Red Russian. It's firm, sturdy, pretty and it keep it's shape well when cooked or pickled. Also not too bitter. Speaking of bitter... this just came out recently.
Why are they bitter? They are trying to kill you. Seriously. That's what they are up to.
There is a word for this, it's called "silage". Anything green can be lactofermented and turned into silage; alfalfa, Johnson grass, chicory, and yes, even an excess of kale. Now whether it is fit for human consumption, or whether it is just cow and pig fodder, that's another question. I have lactofermented chicory and threw in some kale into the mix. My results were like what a previous poster noted -- it was a bit slimy and on the bitter side. Maybe we humans are just a bit too sensitive to the bitter aspect, because that doesn't seem to deter rabbits, cattle, pigs, etc., from chowing down on it.
The other thing you can do after you've lactofermented it is to cook it in a manner that removes the bitterness. The Polish national dish of bigos is fresh cabbage stewed with fermented cabbage with some meat and other flavorings added. Cooking it a long time probably breaks down the bitter molecules and turns plant carbohydrates into carmelized sugars, so it ends up tasting pretty good. Let us know what you end up doing with your big barrel of lactofermented kale!
Hijacking the thread a bit to say that when I have excess kale, I chop, blanch and cold plunge it, then squeeze the water out, mold it into single servings with a small bowl and flash freeze it into hockey puck sized green packages. It's not what you were looking for, but it is a nice thing to have on hand, toss into some tomato sauce for a quick way to pump up the veg. I also like it with polenta.
Kale fermented with salt and white wine (or red wine if you are using red kale) makes a fairly good sauerkraut-like food. I find it is a lot better if you harvest the kale after the frost has made it sweet. Actually, kale always tastes better when harvested after the frost (at least in my opinion). I usually only have a couple of kale plants in the summer, and start sewing the seeds now for the fall and winter harvest, and save this time of year for the rabb and sprouting broccoli.
Kale in kimchi is also very tasty. There is a nice contrast between the crunchy kale stocks and the soft leaves.
When the plants start to get slimy, I think that it should have been fermented more quickly, particularly in the summer. Some things like beets can last awhile. I want garlic to be fermented awhile to take away the sting, as the previous poster mentioned, it is trying to stop you from eating it. Sometimes I will ferment garlic by itself until it's calmed down, and then put something like kale in it for just the last week or so, then eat.
We can reduce the slimy when fermenting greens like kale by fermenting them at a much cooler temperature or adding more salt at the beginning. Slimy is often from yeast or the less desirable bacteria which love warmer environments. Another possible factor that encourages slimy are chemicals from city water and soap (especially anti bacterial soap) residue.
In my experience, I've had a lot more slimy in ferments like this, while using an airlock, and seldom when using the traditional open vat system.
I tell people making kraut if they're going to wash the cabbage with chlorinated tap water to wash the sink well with regular soap (not anti-bacterial) then fill the sink with hot tap water and let it cool to room temp to let the chlorine off gas before washing the cabbage.
The good bacteria is already on the cabbage, don't kill it off with chlorine and anti-bacterial soaps.
Great idea, Roy. Cruciferous vegies are about the best for that natural lactic acid bacteria. I never thought about washing them off.
Also, keep in mind that although the antioxidants are used by the plant to defend itself, they end up being some of the best nutrients that we can eat to ward off cancer and other diseases. The bitter in the European salads leads to healthy compounds. Chinese medicine for thousands of years have stressed that bitter and sour flavors arent' a problem. They're an opportunity to gather other nutrients, and use them to achieve a healthy balance in our bodies. What are the two flavors we like the least? Bitter and sour. Those are the two "slimming" flavors, according to Chinese medical tradition. If we wipe out those flavors, is it a wonder that we're so fat?
one compound in kale that made me take it out of my diet was oxalic acid. Curly kale is supposed to be higher in this acid than dinosaur lacianato kale, and when I studied it I learned to avoid curly kale and spinach as well as steaming any dinosaur kale I eat (in smoothies or however). The steaming it reduced the acid content if I remember correctly. I do more romaine, buttercrunch and soft leafy greens, spring green mixes and seem to be doing well on those with no more decay. My teeth were rotting and I had to make a bunch of diet changes or keep paying for patch jobs. Doing my best to eat Weston price style, so far no cavities in probably more than 3 years now.
Location: North-Central Idaho, 4100 ft elev., 24 in precip
Thanks for all of the input! I think I took a little bit from everybody and came up with a kimchi-ish ferment to try out. I used mostly kale, a little nettle, some radish tops, lots of garlic and onion, some hot peppers, and maybe one and half times the amount of salt I usually use for my ferments. Started it this evening... wish me luck!
One other fermented product that we make from kale, collards or mustard is gundruk, which is a favorite of the Nepalese. It is a form of short term lactofermentation without salt. Sandor Katz devotes a few paragraphs to gundruk in The Art of Fermentation . The simple way to make gundruk is to wilt the brassica leaves for a day in sun and then pack into a quart or half gallon jar with the liquid coming from the bruised leaves. I usually cheat and add a small amount of whey to just cover and let it ferment for 5-7 days. This ferment is then dried. The Nepalese enjoy this plain, but we usually add it to soups or stews. The surprising thing about gundruk is that it tastes more like meat than a plant when it is done. A large amount of brassica can be reduced to a very small volume, and, provided it is dry, it keeps well. I prefer to make it when there is more intense sunlight for drying. It takes a fair bit of energy and usually I need either an oven on low or an electric drier to finish. Obviously, the traditional makers were more skilled and did not need these luxuries. It is a unique and enjoyable flavor that is very different from other ferments.
François Couplan gives in his book La Cuisine Sauvage a recipe from ' les trappeurs Cherokes (native american)' for fermenting leaves. Put some kale in a jar with salt and pour boiling water over it. let cool and it will ferment. Try id it and it works.
Let Nature work for you.
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