For our fall farm trip, we decided to return to Straight Out of the Ground Farm, a small family-run sustainable farm in the Catskills from where we source speciality produce. They recently added a commercial kitchen space to the farm and are making farm-fresh fermented vegetables under their label Harvest Kimchi. As devoted kimchi consumers, Pastry Chef Amy Hess and I were eager to learn more about the process and make our own batch with the help of Madalyn (the head farmer) and her Korean mother, Ji. We also wanted to soak in the last of the balmy Indian summer temperatures and get a peep of the fall leaves.
We made an apple picking stop at Locust Grove Orchard in Milton-on-Hudson. The Kent family has been selling heirloom fruit at the Greenmarket for decades. We always appreciate their vast variety of apples to choose from, often with enticing names and profiles: Snow Queen. Ashmed’s Kernel, Newton Pippin, Rhode Island Greening, and Pristine, just to name a few. This was their first year opening up their Orchards for “u pick.” Although many other fruits suffered this year from the early warm spring followed by severe late frost, the apples were coming out strong. Their trees were chock full of more apples than you could imagine, they truly looked like a fake version: bright red, plump, covered branches glistening in the afternoon sun.
We snatched up a few cider doughnuts and tangy fresh pressed cider, and headed back onto the road and up into the Catskill Mountains.
We arrived to Straight Out of the Ground Farm in Roxbury right near sunset. We settled into the farm house and prepared a hearty Korean short rib stew with fall vegetables and concord grape pie to celebrate the harvest.
The next morning we got out into the field with Madalyn and her sister Jen. Our project for the the day: kimchi making, which started with pulling carrots, leeks, green onions, and cabbages from the ground.
The next step was intensive rinsing of each vegetable in the kiddie pools. Then of course the garlic peeling and vegetable chopping. And finally to the fun part, the seasoning and mixing.
Ji joined us for this finishing phase and guided us in the salting of the vegetables and mixing of the chili, fish sauce, garlic paste. To this mixture she also added a bit of local honey, which she prefers instead of the standard sugar because it has antibacterial properties and other health benefits.
My biggest take away from this part of the process was just like in cooking you need to taste throughout. We tasted the vegetables raw while chopping them, then we tasted them salted, we tasted the chili paste, and once it was all mixed we tasted the unfermented kimchi. Let me tell you it was potent with garlic and spice but that will all mellow with fermentation.
We headed back to the city with enough kimchi to last us throughout the winter. Needless to say, it emitted a strong scent for the car ride back. Nonetheless, we were thrilled to have what may be the freshest kimchi we will ever make, that came quite literally, “straight out of the ground.”