Sauerkraut is one of the most well-known European ferments. At its simplest it is just salted cabbage. As with many fermentation processes, the correct ratio of salt, time and temperature creates an optimal environment for the growth of beneficial microorganisms, primarily lactic acid producing bacteria. As time goes on these bacteria break down vegetables, altering texture and the bioavailability of certain nutrients.
These practices have obviously been practiced far longer than the history of microbiology. People originally created Sauerkraut (and most traditionally fermented foods) as a means of preservation. In cold winter climates it was necessary to preserve foods in order to eat through the winter. A picked head of cabbage can last a fairly long time in a root cellar but Sauerkraut will last drastically longer.
While the English word Sauerkraut comes from the German for “sour cabbage” there are similar traditional fermented cabbage practices throughout Eastern and Central Europe. It may have first arrived from outside the region with some evidence pointing to the Tatars or Mongols. Throughout Europe it is commonly eaten with pork, often served warm. This is a common Pennsylvania Dutch New Years tradition to this day. In Baltimore, it is commonly served alongside Thanksgiving turkey.
Kimchi is a fermented vegetable preparation from Korea, it is served with nearly every meal, and its significance cannot be overstated. There are many different varieties and styles featuring seasonal vegetables. The most common kimchi in the US is mak-kimchi or Tongbaechu-kimchi. Both are made with napa cabbage, ginger, garlic, chilis and various alliums bulbs and greens. Mak is cabbage cut bite sized and Tongbaechu is cabbage split in half and fermented in bigger pieces. Even recipes for those most common styles vary widely from different regions and different families. Seafood factors heavily into food from the Korean peninsula and Kimchi is no different. Dried fish and shrimp, fermented fish, fish sauce, oysters all feature in some recipes. Some recipes are vegan but they are generally less common in packaged commercial versions.
When starting FF, creating a vegan kimchi with local produce was a big priority for us. It was a long and argument-filled process working out a recipe we were happy with. We followed inspiration from traditions that surround the long history of kimchi, and experimented, a lot.
To start, our Napa Kimchi is most similar to mak style. In keeping our kimchi vegan, we use shiitake mushroom powder and seaweed powder since they are rich in amino acids and compounds that contribute to umami flavor and complexity.
Our kimchi might be considered "mugeun" kimchi, meaning aged or well-fermented. And if you hold onto one of our jars past that "best by" date, then you'll have "sinkimchi" on your hands - since the fermentation and aging never stops, this "sour," overly-aged kimchi packs an intense punch and is well-suited for dishes like fried rice, stir-fries, stews, or soups.
Our Lil' Phil's brand line of hot sauces is all about being pepper centric and preserving fresh and bold flavors.
We don't cook our sauces. We don't rely on vinegar to preserve our sauces. We don't add a bunch of onion, carrot, sugar, or whatever to stretch out our sauces. Instead, the process always starts with a pepper mash, where peppers are allowed to develop through fermentation. This undiluted mash is always the main ingredient.