Ginchi – fermented edible gin flavoured vegetables
Ginchi is the staple of British cuisine, a traditional side dish made from salted botanicals and most commonly cabbage with carrots – it must always have the addition of juniper berries.
Ok, so ginchi isn’t actually traditional, nor is it a staple of British cuisine outside my house. Ginchi is, however, very tasty indeed. The fermented juniper berries burst with flavour as you bite into them and the other botanicals lift the whole taste sensation to something utterly unique. It is, I guess, nearer to sauerkraut than Kimchi in flavour but Ginkraut didn’t sound quite so good.
I’m used to fermenting drinks and cocktails so making fermented foods has been a leap of faith. But I’m very glad I jumped! What I discovered is that there are some flavours principles that work however you serve them. The main one in this delightful, fermented food is that if you mix carrot family botanicals together they tend to work in fact they tend to work really well. In this case, I used hogweed seeds, caraway, fennel and of course some carrot.
If you are not a forager then perhaps omit the hogweed Heracleum sphondylium(but if you are they are tremendous). Just ensure that you don’t pick giant hogweed seeds- Heracleum mantegazzianum. In fact, the carrot family can be rather unforgiving so make sure you know what you are picking! This should help.
Bristol Dry Ginchi suggested ingredients
I say suggested as you can play fast and loose with the botanicals. Just copy the ones that you find in your favourite gin – just avoid barks as they are a little too chewy. This is a Bristol dry Ginchi.
- 1 x red cabbage (1 kg/2lb)
- 2 tablespoons salt
- 1 litre/a pint or two of cold water – left overnight
- 225g/8 oz grated carrot (organic if possible)
- 4 kale leaves, ends trimmed, cut into 1-inch pieces (use all parts)
- 1 tablespoon juniper berries
- 1 teaspoon caraway seeds
- 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
- 1 teaspoon hogweed seed (if available – or sub slightly crushed coriander seeds)
- Teaspoon flower petals – use violets, elderflower or dried rose petals.
Cut the cabbage up as if you were dicing an onion – ie into 2cm x 1 cm (1-inch x half an inch) chunks and throw it into a big mixing bowl.
Next, grate and add your carrots, tear up your kale then, sprinkle over your salt and all the other botanicals (all other ingredients bar the water).
Give everything a big stir then massage it. Squeezing as you go. The cabbage with be dry at first but keep going until you notice water coming out – then massage some more. I tend to go for around 15 mins or more.
Now, pack the mixture into a two litre/quart mason/kilner/re-sealable jar – but do not seal it. Push it right down, really down, forcing more water out. Try not to break the jar – I use the end of a 1 piece rolling pin for this job. King of fermentation, Sandor Katz, recommends doing this periodically over 24 hours – every time you think of it.
Top up with the water and put a small plat on the top of your vegetables with a weight on top to keep everything submerged. Also, put a tea towel over the top of the jar. Place the jar in a cool dark place and leave for around a week. Keep checking. If any mold appears just skim it off, rinse the plate and return it. Sandor describes this as “bloom”.
Put it in the fridge and serve with a pint of gin… sorry, I guess not everyone drinks gin by the pint… so for you moderate drinkers, serve with other bar snacks during your cocktail evening.