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10.18.2017 - Free Investing Newsletter Bookmark

Kimchi

 

Today’s commentary is going to be way way off the normal path. Why? Over the weekend, I got to swapping some recipes with some friends of ours. Then it dawned on me that in 25 years of putting out commentary on just about every topic imaginable, I’ve never put a recipe out.  Or, if I have it’s been so long ago I forgot I did.

 

Anyway, while desperate for the recipe to our friend Karen’s incredible Osso buco recipe, which she sent over Sunday, she asked for one in return. One I didn’t think she’d ever be interested in, caught me off guard. She wrote “Bob, do you know anyone that makes Kimchi?”  Bingo. Yes I do.

 

In the past year or so, I’ve seen quite a few articles popping up around the net concerning “fermented” foods. It seems to be making a big comeback, and more and more people are enjoying the age old traditions of making it, along with the health benefits it grants.

 

I like to cook. However, I hate the cleanup part and maybe that’s why I never got the urge to be a chef. That said, there are a few things that I make, that are really quite good, just as every household seems to have a few versions of their favorite dish.

 

Love it or hate it, I like Kimchi. So, what is it? Kimchi is a traditional Korean food, and it has been made for well over a thousand years. Basically Kimchi is a “fermented food”, and its health benefits are almost legendary throughout Korea. When made properly it will be delicious and give you the health benefit of creating billions of “good bacteria” along the lines of a yogurt for instance. These are beneficial for your digestive system and your immune system.  In our family, we like it for several reasons. One is that it is delicious. Second is that if you eat it regularly, you do indeed “feel better”.  It is a low calorie, low carbohydrate treat for sure.

Throughout the regions, Kimchi is made slightly differently in each area depending on the vegetables and seafoods that may be in season at any particular time.  So the following is my recipe for Kimchi, that I’ve tweaked over the years to suit our tastes. Not too sour, pretty hot and pretty darned good. ( to us anyway)

 

Ingredients…

2 large Napa cabbages
1 Large Korean radish (Daikon it is called)
10 – 15 Scallions
2 large carrots
1 cluster of Chives
2 entire heads of Garlic
1 two inch piece of fresh Ginger
1 Apple
1 Yellow or Spanish onion
1 Cup sweet rice flour
1/3 Cup Korean hot pepper flakes
1-2 cups NON iodized sea salt
¼ Cup table sugar for ferment.

The start….

Take the two Napa Cabbages and cut them both in half-length wise. Then take each half and cut it in half again, giving you four quarters. Cut off the hard “base” ends, then cut all the cabbage into about 1.5 inch pieces. ( they will shrink later to be quite perfect in size)

Take a BIG bowl ( we have two large plastic storage bins that we use for this, each is 18 quarts)  and layer the bottom with the chopped cabbage. Now take a good handful of the Sea Salt and sprinkle liberally all over the cabbage. Then lay down a second layer of cabbage and again salt that. Go layer by layer until all the cabbage is in the bowl and very well salted.  Then using your hands, press down on the cabbage to squeeze it down to the bottom of the bowl.

The salt will do several things. It will draw out a ton of water from the cabbage, making it considerably smaller. It will become a preservative, and it will promote the growth of the good bacteria found inside the cabbage.   About every 30 minutes give the cabbage a good toss and then press down on it again compacting it. You will see a considerable amount of water in the bottom of your bowl or bin.  Tilt your bowl and drain the excess each time.  Let this sit for about 1.5 hours, turning every 30 or 40 minutes.

When the cabbage is good and wilted to where even the wide “white” parts are “bendable soft”, take it over to the sink and get ready to wash. This is the biggest pain in the butt about Kimchi. We need to get EVERY trace of that salt off the cabbage. I Put several handfuls at a time in a huge colander and spray it and mix it really well in the sink. Then I put that rinsed cabbage in my second big “bin” and rinse another few handfuls. Do this until all the cabbage has been well rinsed. Then, DO IT AGAIN. Take that bowl of freshly rinsed and run it through again. When that’s done, DO IT AGAIN.

Yes you read right. The standard Korean family will wash the cabbage 3 – 5 times. I’m happy with 3. Okay, when that’s done, just set the incredibly clean cabbage aside.

Now we’re going to work on your “porridge”. This is going to be a wet blend that we will eventually want to mix on every piece of our kimchi cabbage.  Your porridge or wet mix is the thing that will be blended into every piece of your veggies.  For this, it is VERY important to use a food processor or a blender. I’ve used both and the food processor wins, hands down.

Peel the cloves on TWO heads of Garlic. Place those 20 cloves or so in your food processor or blender.
Peel the onion and cut it into small chunks. Into the processor they go.
Peel the apple and use half to ¾ of it. All if it’s small. Cut into chunks and into the Processor.
Peel the Ginger, cut in small chunks and into the processor.

Let that sit there until we get our rice porridge going.

Stir about 1/3 cup of sweet rice flour into 2 cups of water in a suitable pot. It blends better if the water is cold. Then put it on medium-low heat stirring frequently. Eventually it will be well blended. Keep the heat on until it turns translucent, and a bit thicker.  About 5 minutes total.

This rice/water has to cool down a LOT, so you can put the pot in the sink with a few inches of water, or set the pot in some ice water, what ever. It doesn’t have to come down to room temp, but it can’t be “hot”. Warm is…okay. The cooler the better.

When it’s pretty cool,  we’re going to start the Processor.  Put the lid on your processor which already has the garlic, apple, onion, and ginger in it, and hit the chop button. Once it’s pretty well chopped up, now we’re going to add some of the Rice/water mix. Here’s the problem. We are NOT going to use it all. So, how much? Well, I only add enough that when I’m done doing the puree, I have a thick creamy mix. The last batch I made, I used about 1 full cup.  Anywhere from 1 to 1.5 cups will be fine.

Now once you have your cup or so of rice/water mix in the processor, add the ¼ cup of sugar and BLEND this well. Let that processor sing…chop all that into a fine puree. When it’s good and chopped you’ll have a creamy thick “soup”. Perfect. Let it sit there in the processor until we need it.

 

Now it is time to work on your veggies. Cut a large Korean radish In half Lengthwise.  Then slice one half into thin pieces like you might be making thick potato chips. When it’s all sliced into chips, then slice those chips into juliennes.  A good cut will leave you with a piece of radish about 1.5 inches long and about an 1/8 of an inch thick. Think of it like a skinny French fry. Place your sliced radish in your second “big bowl”.  At this point one big bowl has your cleaned cabbage, the other was empty. Use the empty one.

Julienne your two carrots. You’re looking for the same effect, “short thin French fries” of carrot.  Toss them in the big bowl with the Radish.

Chop your green onions (scallions) into about ½ inch pieces, green tops and all. Toss them in the big bowl with the radish and carrot.

Chop your Chive bunch into ½ inch pieces. Toss them into the big bowl with the radish, carrot, and green onion.

Now the FUN begins!  I ADVISE that you use rubber gloves for this folks. You’re going to get messy and probably stained red from the pepper flakes. I use disposable “exam” gloves and wash them well first.

Take your porridge from the processor and pour it all over the carrots, radish, cloves and green onion in the bowl. Then pour your half a cup of red pepper flakes on the porridge. Now with both hands, get in there and mix all that stuff together for a good 2 – 3 minutes. It should be one fairly thick, red mess!

Finally, bring the bowl with the cabbage in it over. Take about a third of the cabbage and put it in the porridge /radish/green onion/chive mix bowl and coat every bit of the cabbage with the mixture. Then some more cabbage and finally the rest of it. Mix it with your fingers, “mush” the stuff around. We want ALL the cabbage to be coated with an even coating of “red”, the color of the pepper.

When it is all mixed as well as you think you can mix it, now it is time to cure it.

Because this is a ferment food, we’re going to do something that sounds “dangerous” to all us germ hating clean freaks, but alas it has to be done.

We’re going to fill our mason jars with the Kimchi, pushing it down very firmly into the jar with any tool that works. I use a one inch round piece of wooden dowel. Tamp it down into the jar adding more as it compacts. If you’ve done it right, you’ll have about a half inch layer of “brine” or juice on top of the Kimchi, and about an inch of jar left between the Kimchi juice and the lid.

Put your lid on, but NOT TIGHT. Here’s the situation.

The best way to do this is in a true ferment jar. That’s a jar that has an “air lock” that lets gasses out of the jar, but doesn’t let oxygen ( air) back in. Why? Because as the Kimchi ferments it will produce CO2, and if you don’t let that squeak out, the bottle “could’ explode. Well, I don’t use airlocks, I just don’t put the lids on that firmly. Just enough pressure where you figure if it has to escape, it can probably squeeze out.

Once you fill your masons, probably 3-4 in this case, Set them in something that can catch some overflow, like a baking dish, or shallow pan. Again, as the kimchi ferments and creates pressure inside, it can force some of the Brine out of the bottle. You don’t want that running all over your kitchen, believe me. I’ve done it, and well.. oh never mind.

Place the Kimchi somewhere where it can sit at ROOM TEMPERATURE for 2 full days. Yes folks, 48 hours without refrigeration.  This is where the ferment will start it’s magic. After 2 full days, it is ready to eat. Place the kimchi in the fridge from here on out, to keep the ferment at about the same level of “sour” so to speak.

Kimchi can last for months in the fridge. Ours never lasts two weeks because we devour it.

Use Kimchi as a side dish to anything you like to eat. You can even add it to soups, or eggs in the morning. It is very versatile. We’ve used it as a topping for hamburgers. But our favorite is a side dish alongside our regular dinner.

Good luck with this recipe folks, it’s really pretty easy and the results are great.

 

The Market:

It’s hard to come up with riveting commentary about a market that only goes up. Despite the fact that it is earnings season and thousands of companies are spilling their guts about their last quarter, In a lot of ways, it’s all worthless drivel.

 

Consider today. IBM had released earnings that supposedly beat the estimates and the Street went wild. In the pre-market it was indicated to open up over 10 dollars per share. Yet what really was the good news in IBM? Was there any? Not really. They made the numbers because of a tax benefit they got. In reality, revenues actually fell for the 22nd quarter in a row.  This is what passes for “good” earnings in 2017.

 

But wait, because the DOW is so heavily weighted, considering it’s just 30 stocks, when the DOW was up 140 points this afternoon, IBM was responsible for 90 of those points. So, by 2pm if you happened to glance at the screen and saw the DOW up 161, you’d say “wow, the market’s really doing well!”  Uhm, no. IBM was really doing well, most of the rest were just holding on.

A 2 pm we got the Fed’s “Beige” book, and in those memo’s we saw them say such gems as “Hurricanes caused some disruptions” and most areas saw reasonable growth.  Pricing pressure remains “modest”.   All in all, it was another in a long string of worthless reports.

 

For once I’d like to hear the Fed’s discuss the Shiller P/E ratio. Standing at 31.4 as I type, that’s a very very expensive market by anyone’s book. Yet instead, they talk about goofy crap that makes no sense. I for one would like a Fed head to come out and talk about how all the global QE has pushed stocks to bubble levels and what they’re going to do about it.  But that discussion never comes.

 

So we ended the day with the DOW up 160, the S&P up 2, and the NASDAQ up half a point. Along the way today, we picked up some INTC as it broke out of some congestion at the 40 level.

 

The DOW is now over 23,000. No amount of showing you proof as to why it doesn’t belong up there is going to work. No, not in a market that’s feasting on the 15 trillion that’s been printed over the last 7 years. This run is intact, until…it isn’t. We don’t know when that is.

 

I suspect that despite all the reasons this market should fall, it is going to continue to melt up into year end. Why? Think about it, let’s say you’re a fund manager and you haven’t believed in this rally.  So you didn’t get fully invested and you’re behind your peers. You have two choices, try and explain to your clients why you didn’t do so well, OR, hold your nose and jump in. I think we’re seeing a lot of jumping going on.  That’s why this “could” just keep going. The only thing that could even dent it, is if they hike rates in December ( they will) and everyone bails out then. Crazy? You bet. But here it is, and it’s real. Lean long, but don’t trust it. It’s all we can do. 


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