Category Archives: Fermentation

Vanilla Essence Is Over-rated

Vanilla essence is over-rated
Vanilla beans


It’s been several years since I diversified from using vanilla essence in my baking. In fact, it is so few and far between that I have not missed it in my pantry. Vanilla essence is over-rated.

This may come as a shock to many bakers who can’t do without vanilla essence. It is the number one flavoring for cakes, ice cream, chocolates and even found in barbecue sauce and creamy dip. Rumour has it that one of the ingredients in Coca Cola’s top secret recipe, is vanilla.

Vanilla essence is over-rated
Most of the commercial vanilla ice cream does not contain real vanilla


Using vanilla in sweetmeats became popular after Hugh Moran an apothecary to Queen Elizabeth 1 introduced it to her in the early 17th century. The Queen became obsessed with it. Later the French began using it in their ice cream.

The U.S. is one of the most ice cream-craving-nation today with 96% of Americans admitting they love to eat ice cream. A 2014 National Geographic article claims that vanilla flavored ice cream beat chocolate as the number one favourite ice cream flavor in the U.S. However, a survey done among Americans by YouGov in 2018 lists vanilla in second place, after chocolate.

So how did I stray so far from this iconic rule of thumb of using vanilla essence for sweetmeats?

Vanilla is expensive

Vanilla is the second most expensive spice after saffron. Organic and pure vanilla essence could set you back about USD13.17 for just 2 fl oz.

The cheaper brands are not worth buying. They taste synthetic and are sugary sweet instead of the creamy rich toffee taste of real vanilla.

The reason real vanilla is so expensive is the painstaking effort to obtain them. The vanilla bloom only stays open for 24 hours. Many vanilla farmers don’t want to take the risk of relying only on the bees to pollinate within this short window of an opportunity. So they hand pollinate each flower. 

vanilla flowers bloom only 24 hours
vanilla flowers

If the pollination is successful a 6-to-10-inch pod will develop. The seeds inside these pods are then soaked in alcohol to obtain the vanilla extract.

Many companies prefer not to wait and instead add a sweetener like corn syrup to stabilize the extract.  I don’t consider these brands “pure” or “natural” vanilla although they are allowed to market them as such because the U.S. FDA considers “pure” as meaning the extract is made entirely from vanilla beans and not any other source. Still, it is better than the synthetic version, if you cannot afford the real stuff.

The total worldwide production of vanilla extract is about 2000 metric tons which is only a very small fraction of the huge demand for it . Therefore the bulk of the supply on the market is synthetic vanilla, using a compound called vanillin which can be manufactured from petrochemical, or by-products from the wood pulp and paper industry or even from secretion from the anal glands of beavers 

So unless you want to pay the high price for authentic vanilla, you would have to settle for the synthetic vanilla which is invariably the only kind used in many of the commercial ice creams and sweetmeats on the market.


A flavor should bring out the strong features of the sweetmeat 

I find vanilla essence too compatible to sugar. In my cooking, I’m looking for contrasts not compatibility. Vanilla essence simply makes sugary treats more sweet.  




















Take vanilla ice cream. Here vanilla plays a different role. Usually, it is the subtle ingredient that enhances the feature ingredient, but in vanilla ice cream, it is the feature. As the feature, consider how all it does is enhance the sugar in the ice cream. It does not stand out like chocolate or mint or blueberry. In fact, its subtlety is precisely why it makes for an ideal flavoring.


My favorite alternative to vanilla essence

I have been using home-made orange liqueur to flavor my sweetmeats. It is so easy to make. Simply take 5 large oranges or 8 small ones and use a vegetable peeler to thinly slice the peels off the oranges. When doing this be mindful to peel only the outer layer so that the white pith does not come off with the peel. Then soak orange peels in 1 litre of vodka for a week. After one week dissolve about 600g of sugar in half a litre of boiling water. Add the sugary water to the vodka and orange peels. Let it sit for a further week. Then discard the peels and bottle the liqueur.

In order to extract the flavor of the orange, a high alcohol base is needed and hence the choice of vodka. However, I made my orange liqueur using my own home-made wine as the base for extraction instead of vodka.

Bottled home-made wine after fermenting for a year

I made my wine with nothing but fermented grape juice from grapes I bought from a vineyard in the Barossa Valley in South Australia. I collaborated with the owner of this vineyard to run a workshop called Making Wine The Natural Way.

As my wine had not been treated with sulphur or been heated, it is rich in probiotics. So when I used this as a base instead of vodka, I allowed the sugary water to cool down first before I poured it into the wine. In this way, I would not kill the good bacteria in my wine.


Only a slight adjustment and you have two different flavors

If I wanted a spicy orange liqueur, I would add cinnamon sticks and cardamom at the same time I add the orange peels. Keep the spices in the jar when you add the sugary water. After the second week of steeping, remove the peels and spices. Now you have a second alternative flavor to vanilla essence.


I used mandarins from my tree to make my liqueur


How I use my orange liqueur

Almost all cakes and patisseries will be fine with substituting orange liqueur for vanilla. You need to be a bit more careful with ice cream. Vanilla essence goes well with chocolate ice cream but orange liqueur might not.

When I make chocolate ice cream, I don’t use any substitute for vanilla. I just make it with chocolate, milk and a sweetener like sugar, honey, rice or maple syrup. If you are using honey, rice or maple syrup, these will flavor it as they each provide their own unique flavor. You will note the taste of honey is variable too depending on the flowers from which the bees have collected the pollen used to make that particular type of honey.


Orange liqueur is more versatile than vanilla essence

Orange liqueur can be used in salads instead of sugar or honey. It is much better in barbecue sauce than vanilla essence, especially when it is of the spicy version. If you would like to have some vanilla essence in your pantry rather than not at all, make it yourself at home so you can be assured it is authentic.



HFJ-0072r:.Madame Mallory (Helen Mirren) and Hassan Kadam (Manish Dayal) in DreamWorks Pictures’ charming new film “The Hundred-Foot Journey”..Photo: François Duhamel.©DreamWorks II Distribution Co., LLC. All Rights Reserved..


Why change a 200-year old trait?

I believe Hassan played by actor Manish Dayal in the movie The Hundred-Foot Journey explains this well in his banter with Madam Mallory played by Helen Mirren.

Madam Mallory: What is this flavor that is fighting against the chicken?

Hassan: I added some spices for flavour to the sauce and coriander for garnish and freshness.

Madame Mallory: But why change a recipe that is 200 years old?

Hassan: Because, Madam, maybe 200 years is long enough.


Bottling Pure Wine

pure red wine
Beautiful red colour of the wine and so clear without any additives and chemicals
Contadino Farm wine-making workshop
Wine barrels for sale at the workshop

Healthy Country Life organised a wine-making workshop on 9th April, 2016 at Contadino Farm, Falls Creek, NSW, Australia. Twice we had to change the date because the grapes were not ready. As we were making “pure” wine with no additives or preservatives, we had no way of regulating it ( I call it interfering with nature). 

So we had to work with the elements to bring out the best in the grapes in terms of the best in taste and best in health value. So much control has gone into commercial wine-making to ensure the unique taste of a well-known brand remains the same from bottle to bottle to bottle.

Controlled fermentation is needed in commercial winemaking to attain a consistent result so that every bottle of wine will taste the same. To achieve this the commercial wine industry is known to use at least 19 additives and 37 different processing aids which include sulphur dioxide, potassium metabisulphite, egg and milk products, gelatin (a meat product), commercial yeast and other food chemicals. Our wine from the workshop had none of these contaminants. Now a year after the workshop I am bottling pure wine.

Mouvedre grapes tasting
Bunches of mouvedre grapes being passed around for tasting

Bruno Morabito, 62, the owner of Contadino Farm demonstrated how the machine discards the stems and crushes the grapes. As the crates of grapes passed the participants, Bruno and his assistants grabbed a few bunches and passed them around, sparking off the workshops glorious tasting sessions that began with grapes and moved on to free flow of wines, cheese, salami, olives, olive oil and bread.

During the year our grape juice has been fermenting, I have been in touch with the participants to see how they were doing with their fermentation and here are some of their comments:

Dennis O’ Reilly bottled his wine a month after fermenting. But he only drank his wine six months after bottling and had this to say, ” It was very drinkable.  Good fruit, although only medium bodied and I usually drink full bodied shiraz. A little tang on the palate as it goes down and I think it benefitted from decanting and a half hour of breathing.

“With Christmas arriving, I now have a plentiful supply of day to day drinking red. That should save me a few dollars when I go to Dan Murphy’s for my Christmas shopping. “


grape juice at the back of a Harley Davidson
Ninette Prospero who rode her Harley Davidson to the workshop geared up to ride off with her container of grape juice to ferment into wine at home

Ninette Prospero, who unfortunately did not have much luck with her fermentation. ” Very disappointed. I got the bottom of the barrel and after filtering many times sediment was half. And unfortunately mine was very bitter. However I thoroughly enjoyed the day.” It is good to know she at least had fun at the workshop.

Amanda Peek started drinking and sharing the wine with family and friends just four months after fermentation. She divided her wine into two batches though and kept the second batch in a cold area. This is what she discovered between the two batches.

siphoning finished wine
Siphoning finished wine with help from Kathy

“My first batch was lovely and thoroughly enjoyed by family and friends since August 2016. It had a slight fruity taste and was very pleasant. The second batch that I left in the cold after racking took on a more Shiraz taste. I prefer the taste of the first batch. But I have now bottled this and intend to leave it alone for a few years to see what sort of outcome I get.

“The workshop was a lovely experience and I would thoroughly enjoy another workshop on how to grow and brine olives and other fruit and vegetables. Thanks again for a once in a lifetime opportunity. I loved it.”

Bottling wine after a year and two months of fermentation
Bottling wine after a year and two months of fermentation

As for me at Healthy Country Life I racked my wine six months from the start of the fermentation and after ditching the sediment, I poured the wine back into the carbuoy to ferment for a further eight months. It was thoroughly dry by the time I bottled it and I was so glad to be bottling pure wine.

Throughout the duration of the fermentation, Kevin and I have been tasting a little every few months and it was exciting to see how the flavours changed as the fermentation progressed. It was extremely high in alcohol at six months old and had a very strong bite to the taste. By the time I bottled it which was one year and two months since fermentation started, the wine had mellowed and now in July 2017, it tastes incredible and alcohol level lower. I could just sit next to a glass and drink in the aroma alone without having any sip of it – such is the strength and sweetness of the aroma. Amazing!

When I collected the wine at the workshop I made sure I had an airlock and that airlock did not run out of water. Except for racking it once after six months, that is all I did during the course of fermentation. It is that easy. Initially I needed to add water often because the grape juice was very bubbly and the water in the airlock ran out often due to so much yeast activity. But the yeast eventually died out for lack of oxygen and then the bacteria went to work because they thrive in anaerobic conditions.

Even if you buy a kit to make wine it will almost certainly include Campden tablets to add to the grape juice and also commercial yeast. I didn’t resort to using any of these for my wine. I didn’t even sterilize my carbuoy with potassium metabisulphite but simply washed with soap and water and then air dried it before I filled it with the grape juice to turn into wine.

When bottling pure wine, I got about twenty seven 750 ml bottles out of 25 litres of wine. I lost some litres naturally due to discarding the sediment and racking.

Bottling Pure Wine
Sharing a glass of wine with Kathy. Cleo our horse was wanted a smell due to the fragrant aroma. She came close for a sniff

When bottling pure wine I used the simple method of siphoning out of the main carbuoy into individual bottles. In the video what Kathy is doing to help me is making sure the other end of the siphoning hose is just beneath the surface. Too deep and we will pick up sediment that will flow through the hose into the bottle (which we don’t want). If the hose is too high up, close to the surface, it could accidentally slip out and stop the flow. So she has to make sure the hose sits just right so as not to disrupt the smooth flow.










Danish Pastries Made With Hundred Percent Whole Wheat Flour

It takes me about three days to make these Danish pastries made with 100% whole wheat flour – two if my sourdough starter is already bubbling strongly. I normally start preparing the dough for these pastries at the same time I bake bread because then my sourdough starter is highly active and thriving and I can kill two birds with one stone – prepare bread and pastries.

Danish pastries made with hundred percent whole wheat flour

Danish Pastries Made With Hundred Percent Whole Wheat Flour

My Danish pastries made with hundred percent whole wheat flour are that they are made with wild yeast (sourdough starter). I grind the wheat grains myself before they are fermented in sourdough starter and turned into pastry dough. I have no white flour in my kitchen. White flour is devoid of nutrition. Wheat grains are loaded with nutrition but to access them you need to ferment them and that is why I need about two days to make my Danish pastries.

It is a myth that you can’t use hundred percent whole wheat flour to make them. I make them this way time and time again and they are perfect.Danish pastries made with hundred percent whole wheat flour

When Kevin and I stay at hotels we usually take the breakfast buffet that comes with our stay. A well stocked breakfast buffet must have Danish pastries. I cringe at the Danish pastries at these places. They are just airy, empty shells made out of starchy white flour, probably bleached and mixed with commercial yeast.

White flour pastry is devoid of the richness of flavour that only sourdough pastry can give. Let the wild yeast work its way through wholesome, freshly ground wheat flour with no additives whatsoever and you will have some of the finest Danish pastries.  I don’t think you will find them in the hotels, though because it takes time to create not only the best tasting Danish pastries but also the healthiest. Commercial establishments don’t spend this much time to create the best food. If you can’t grind your own flour, get them at health food stores. If you need softer flour for buns for eg just buy sifted, stone ground whole wheat flour

It was a delight to make this batch last Sunday morning. They sat on the rack to cool down before I packed them in the car and took them to church. Danish pastries made with hundred percent whole wheat flour and fermented by wild yeast/sourdough starter lasts longer. Those made with white flour and commercial yeast go stale in just one day.


Make Your Own Filling And Use Whole Berries

I know there are many different fillings for Danish pastries, but thus far I have been making them with creme patissiere which I make with kefir and eggs from my hens. Maybe one day I will try a different filling. On top of the creme patissiere I have put loganberries and blackberries from the garden and store bought organic blueberries. I was pretty excited to use these home-grown berries as they have been in my freezer for about four months.

The lovely thing about baking your own Danish pastries is that you can add a lot of creme patissiere and berries. Hotels and bakeries only give you a swab of both and the rest of it are all just flaky crust of the pastry. I like the pastry but only with a generous helping of the filling and berries.

With these Danish pastries, I piled them on as much as I could without them dripping. There must be enough to ooze into your mouth with every bite, unlike commercial ones where you chew on flaky crust all through and get only a trickle of the filling and maybe only the flavour of berries and hardly any whole berries.


Shaping Danish Pastries Made With Hundred Percent Whole Wheat Flour

I made them in three different shapes – the pinwheel, vol-au-vent and the cinnamon rolls which you can also call the snail shape. I always have a bottle of cinnamon sugar handy for my baking needs. I grind sugar with pure Cinnamon quills which is Ceylon Cinnamon and not the Cassia variety. That is all there is to it to making cinnamon sugar. This way the sugar too becomes very fine, like castor sugar.

Cinnamon Rolls Among The Danish Pastries Made With Hundred Percent Whole Wheat Flour

The cinnamon rolls have a thick layer of creme patissiere sprinkled with cinnamon sugar and raisins within its spiralling layers. In this sense it is slightly different from the other Danishes and lends a lovely contrast of flavours in a delightful breakfast basket.

Aioli With Garlic Fermented In Raw Honey

Aioli With Garlic Fermented In Raw Honey

Towards the end of 2015, I received a parcel from a French lady, who lives in a small village at the border of Switzerland. Inside the parcel, I found an assortment of French tokens from regional wine to chocolate coated biscuits. The biscuits came in a vintage, tin box. Among the many edible trinkets were bulbs of garlic with their dried leaves neatly braided to enhance the rustic effect. Wow! All the way from France, the land that has an annual festival for garlic.

Aioli with garlic fermented in raw honey
Fresh pink garlic

Organic Garlic

I remember a friend said to me, “That’s ridiculous! Who sends garlic all the way from France to Australia. I mean…it’s just garlic.” My jaw dropped. Just garlic? I was peeved that she could not appreciate beautiful, organic garlic.

In December last year I had my first harvest of garlic. They were pink garlic. I had about half a kilogram of them [wish I had planted more]. I decided to ferment the garlic in raw honey. Most people use this for medicinal purposes, but I have since used them in salads and even added a teaspoon into the juicer to blend it into the daily juices we drink. Here, though, we are going to make aioli with garlic fermented in raw honey.

Aioli with garlic fermented in raw honey
Pink garlic from my garden
Aioli with garlic fermented in raw honey
I harvested onions alongside the garlic

Consume Raw

It is best to consume fermented garlic in its raw form either on its own, in salad, over sandwich or as I have done in aioli. Fermented garlic is less pungent than unfermented. Furthermore when garlic is fermented its beneficial properties are greatly enhanced. For example, when allicin (a powerful antibiotic and anti-fungal compound naturally occurring in garlic) is fermented, it turns into S-allylcysteine (SAC) which is more easily absorbed by the body.

When you ferment, use only fresh garlic. My garlic went straight from the garden into the raw honey. Honey is very shelf stable and can never go bad. It consists of 80% sugar and 20% water, but if you increase the moisture even by a small amount, the wild yeasts in the raw honey will start the fermentation process. Hence it is best to use raw honey that is rich in wild yeasts with potent vitamins and minerals.

Garlic Fermented In Raw Honey

I filled a 500 ml jar with fresh garlic. Peel the skin but leave the cloves intact . Simply fill this jar with garlic till it is about half full. Then pour the raw honey over the garlic until they are fully covered. Shake and turn upside down if necessary to ensure all the garlic is fully coated with honey. This will be difficult when you first fill the jar, but leave it to sit on the counter for a week and the juice from the garlic will slowly seep into the mixture. This will make it easier to shake the contents in the jar.

This juice from the garlic will give the moisture needed for the bacteria and yeasts on the garlic and raw honey to begin fermentation. After about a week to ten days, transfer the jar from room temperature into the fridge to slow down the fermentation. During the time it stays in room temperature, make sure you shake the jar every day.

Aioli with garlic fermented in raw honey

Aioli With Garlic Fermented In Raw Honey


5 cloves of small pink garlic (lesser if the cloves are larger. It can be of any variety)

2 1/2 tbsp lemon juice

Aioli with garlic fermented in raw honey
Add egg yolks to the mashed garlic

300 gm olive oil

2 egg yolks

salt to taste


Mash garlic with mortar and pestle. Transfer to a large bowl. Add two egg yolks and then gradually add olive oil, using a teaspoon. I’m a little impatient. So I used a tablespoon. Beat by hand and the mixture will gradually thicken. Half-way through reaching it’s peak consistency, add lemon juice. Then add more olive oil until it reaches the thickness you desire. Finally add salt.

garlic fermented in honey becomes translucent

Serving suggestion:  As a dip for crackers or grilled vegetables, sandwich spread, sauce for fries or sauce for grilled fish. I even use it for falafel where I spread the aioli on the bread before making the wrap.


♥ The liquid in which the garlic has been fermenting will become a little watery as the honey has now been diluted. This liquid can be used as a glaze for meat, fish and vegetables, as a salad dressing.

♥ I used up my fermented garlic within five months. It was left at room temperature for one week and then remained in the fridge for the rest of the time.

♥ I used up my aioli with garlic fermented in raw honey within three weeks 

The more oil you add the thicker the aioli gets. So if you want it less thick, add less oil








Cherry Chocolate Oats Bliss Balls

Having three square meals a day is said to be the healthier option to snacking.  Or if you are inclined that way tea might become the fourth square meal. The English certainly can’t claim to be guardians of the tea culture [I mean the meal not the beverage] as it is very popular in Asia too.

In Malaysia there is a multitude of delicacies that cater specially to tea such as pisang goreng [fried bananas] and kuih muih which has no real translation in English and the simple term “cake” simply doesn’t do justice to these bite size Malaysian delights. In India there are samosa, pakora, urad dhal vadai and much more.

The boundaries get even more blurred in Australia. My husband and in-laws call lunch “dinner” and they call “dinner” tea. 

cherry chocolate oats bliss balls
Cherry chocolate oats bliss balls coated in coconut

We’ve done away with the formalities at our home and just snack all day. Ha! Just kidding. Breakfast and dinner are the main meals at our home and in between, we snack in moderation. I don’t believe snacking to be unhealthy as it promotes eating in smaller quantities thereby regulating insulin levels and boosting metabolism.  This is just my opinion as science is still split on this issue.

cherry chocolate oats bliss balls
Have a guilt-free snack by making your own with real food

Snacks get a bad rap because they consist mainly of processed food. If that snack is wholesome and especially if you made it yourself, it should be part of the day’s overall, healthy consumption.

One snack I like to leave in the fridge is bliss balls. At the health food store they cost about AUD$2.50 to 3.50 a ball and they are small. So usually one is not enough.  You can save a lot of money by making your own. They last in the fridge for several days and having them handy to reach for every time you get the urge to snack, keeps you away from those heavily processed packets of crisps or even commercial chocolate. Just take a look at the ingredients on each chocolate bar and you will find sugar listed first.

Product ingredients are listed by quantity, from highest to lowest amount.That means that the first listed ingredient is what is most used by the manufacturer. When I looked at the ingredient list of every brand of chocolate on the shelves of my supermarket, I found only one that did not have sugar as the first ingredient. Don’t get me wrong. I love chocolates. Who doesn’t, right? But I satisfy my chocolate craving by making my own chocolate cakes, peanut butter chocolate ice cream and kefir chocolate sauce that is so versatile it can be used for a multitude of things such as spooning it over a bowl of blueberries and strawberries or… as with this recipe, by making cherry chocolate oats bliss balls.

cherry chocolate oats bliss balls
Cherry chocolate oats bliss balls before they are coated in coconut

The wonderful thing about bliss balls are that they are made with raw ingredients and you can mix and match ingredients so that you can have a different type of bliss ball each time. This recipe is an oats based bliss ball.

Oats are technically gluten free but they tend to get “contaminated” with wheat as they are grown with wheat and processed together with wheat.

cherry chocolate oats bliss balls
Soaked oats clump together after dehydration and they are crispy and can be easily ground into oat flour or coarsely ground for a more crunchy texture

I don’t have a problem consuming gluten and so I don’t mind the “contamination” but my concern is the phytic acid in the raw oats that is difficult for the digestive system to break down. You don’t want to give up on oats simply because of that as it is soooo nutritious. The solution is to unlock the nutrients that the phytic acid is holding hostage and you do that by soaking the oats in acidic water for 24 hours.

I buy organic raw oats and roll them in my hand mill. I cover the rolled oats in water and a little lemon juice or whey for 24 hours. Then I dry them out in my Excalibur dehydrator.  This greatly reduces the phytic acid and allows your body to extract the nutrients from the oat kernels.

I have a jar of fermented cherries sitting in my fridge and now is a great time to use them in my bliss balls.


Cherry Chocolate Oats Bliss Balls


3 cups oats

1 cup honey

6 tbsp tahini

15 fermented cherries chopped into small pieces

2 tbsp raw cacao powder

1 cup desiccated coconut


After soaking and dehydrating the oats, grind to a semi-powder in a dry blender. Add honey, tahini, cacao and mix together. Then scatter the cherries over the mixture and incorporate it fully into the mix without breaking the cherries too much. As they are fermented cherries, they should be soft but not mushy.

I mix them all by hand. Grind organic dehydrated coconut in a dry grinder till it becomes fine like powder.

Pinch a little of the mix and roll it into a bliss ball half the size of a golf ball. Keep doing this until the entire mixture has been turned into bliss balls. Roll each ball in the powdered coconut. Cover with cling film and leave in the fridge to set. The cherry chocolate oats bliss balls will harden and be ready to eat in four hours

Fermented cherries

1/2 cup honey

1/4 cup wine

1 kg cherries


Mix the honey and wine together and pour over the cherries in a mason jar. Do not add water. The natural juices from the cherry will in time seep out to provide more liquid. Shake it well and then place it in the refrigerator for two weeks before using. Best used within three months.

Cooking Tip: Avoid using water even if you find the mixture too thick. It will make the balls mushy. It should be hard and not soft and if you like the bliss balls very hard adding fat such as butter, coconut oil or other fat will make them harder/more firm.

Related article using fermented cherries: Potato Chocolate Cake


Purple Top Turnip Kimchi


Kimchi with purple top turnips
Always weigh the vegetables before chopping and placing into your fermenting vessel so you will know how much salt and water to add

All the purple top turnips have been pulled out of the ground. What do we do when we have access vegetables? We ferment them. So this was a good time to make purple top turnip kimchi.

Kimchi with purple top turnip
Cleo loves the turnip greens

What fun we had collecting our harvest. Horses poked their curious noses over the fence for a nibble at the green turnip tops. We always give the greens to them fresh and that means within minutes of pulling those turnips out of the ground.

Normally I would just pick what I need for the day’s meals and leave the rest in the ground but summer was upon us and these turnips are a winter crop. So I had exhausted my flexible-harvest time frame and had to move into full clearing.

Kimchi with purple top turnip
I washed the turnips in my laundry basket

This is a shame as these green tops contain four times the percentage of  daily value of calcium  as its less bitter counterparts such as cabbage, for instance. One serving also provides 588% vitamin K which is needed for our bodies to use calcium effectively for the bones. Without Vitamin K, calcium can be directed to the wrong places such as arteries and organs causing problems that include hardening of arteries. So one serving of these greens provides enough Vitamin K for a whole week!

If we didn’t give these green turnip tops to the horses, most of them would end up in the compost bin as they have a bitter taste and not popular on the dinner table [don’t know why horses like them. Probably for the same reason I like bitter melon].

To create a myriad of flavours I have included beetroot and their leaves too in my ferment. Beet leaves and turnip leaves are high in oxalic acid which can bind important minerals such as calcium and make them inaccessible to our bodies. Fermentation breaks down this oxalic acid and releases these minerals so our bodies can easily metabolise them.

Purple top turnip kimchi
Grate beetroot and turnip
Split the stems of the turnip leaves to ensure they are not too thick
beetroot leaves
chop up the beet leaves so they are not too long and stringy in the ferment

Purple Top Turnip Kimchi

It is not necessary to soak the vegetables in a brine as fermentation will occur without it, but you will have a mushy kimchi instead of kimchi with crunchy vegetables.

Salt holds back the activity of the yeast so that your vegetables stay crunchy. Some probiotics enthusiasts believe too much salt kills probiotics and you end up with just a “brine-cured” food and not a healthy lacto-fermented food.

Sandor Katz leading fermentation revivalist does not agree. He believes, the beneficial bacteria we’re after, Lactobacillus, is salt-tolerant and abundantly present even in salty krauts. He agrees salt-free ferments may be more biodiverse but the mushy texture compromises taste. So if adding salt produces a far superior flavour and texture with just as much beneficial bacteria, he argues in favour of using salt. His basic formula for salt is 3 tablespoons for 5 pounds of vegetables. The general rule in salting your ferments according to Sandor Katz: “More salt to slow microorganism action in summer heat; less salt in winter when microbial action slows”. I use special led-free crock pots imported into from Poland to ferment my purple top turnip kimchi.

Purple Top Turnip Kimchi Recipe

5 kg of both purple top turnip and beetroot

1.6 kg of the leaves of purple top turnip and beetroot

10 cloves whole

1 cup honey

4 spring onions


stone weights to press down the vegetables so they stay submerged

I fermented my vegetables in my 10 litre crock pot. I filled my crock pot with 5 litres of water and made a brine brine solution consisting of three tablespoons salt, based on Sandor Katz’s guidance on preparing brine. There are more complicated guidelines based on the type of vegetables you use, but this simple form works for me. Remember some vegetables such as cabbages will produce a lot of water. Keep this in mind when you add water. The idea is to keep the vegetables completely submerged to ensure good anaerobic fermentation takes place in this purple top turnip kimchi.

Lead-free crock pot

My crock pot comes with a water moat in which the lid sits. I poured water into this moat at the rim of the crock pot and placed the lid on top of the water.This creates an airlock and thus provides the perfect anaerobic environment. At the same time it allows the carbon dioxide released by the vegetables during the fermentation process to bubble out, thus preventing pressure build up. This same concept applies for brewing wine.

I did not use the stone weights that came with the crock pots to press and keep the vegetables under water because I did not have enough vegetables to fill the whole pot 10 litre pot. You can still use the weights if you do not add as much water as I did.

Stirring creates more oxygen for the wild yeasts and thus you want to keep stirring to a minimum. Your target is a sweet ferment and yeasts will tend to make it too sour. For example when you resort to an aerobic fermentation for grape juice which is where you allow oxygen into the juice it will fuel the yeasts more than it will the bacteria and you end up with vinegar instead of wine.

These crock pots are expensive and if you can’t afford one or don’t have access to one, simple use a food grade plastic container. However, avoid metal containers like  cast-iron, copper, aluminum, and tin, all of which can react with the acids in fermented food and give it a strange flavor. These metals can also leach into the food.

I left my vegetables alone to ferment in a cool and dark place in my pantry for one month. Two weeks will be appropriate for most ferments but I wanted a stronger taste. It was exciting to hear the concoction bubbling the first few days. After sometime the bubbling will stop and the lacto fermentation will begin under anaerobic conditions.

After one month, my purple top turnip kimchi was ready. I took the vegetables out of the water and placed them in glass jars. Sieve them to remove most of the water. They will still release some water in the bottle resulting in them sitting in a watery liquid in the jars and that is all right as you want them to remain submerged under water. Place these jars in the fridge and eat as an accompaniment to rice dishes or place them in sandwiches. 

I was looking to have a light meal for dinner and so I had two full boiled eggs, some kimchi and raw cucumber. Did you notice the double yolk in one of my eggs. I just love my chickens. They give me wonderful, healthy eggs. The bottle contains the Kimchi. The red condiment on the plate is the Kimchi. It becomes red due to the beetroot and if you add a little paprika it brings out the red colour more vividly


Related articles: Making Fermented Food Part Of Your Regular Diet

For more photos visit my Pinterest Board