Kohlrabi, Apple, and Bärlauch (Ramps) Kimchi

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Spring has arrived! If you are living in Germany, you might have guessed by the mention of Bärlauch in the title of today’s recipe. Bärlauch is called ramps in English, and directly translated, bear onion. 🙂  At glance, the leaves look like wide and tall grasses growing in the woods. Up close, rubbed between your fingers, they smell very strongly of garlic and onion. The first spring in Leipzig, I couldn’t make out where this onion-y and garlicky smell was coming from. My uni was right by the park, so the smell was kind of intense at times. In my second year in Leipzig, a Korean family invited me to eat Bärlauch pancakes at their place with Bärlauch they have foraged that day. It was so delicious. I mean, how could it not be, for someone like me who needs some kind of an allium at every meal. Since then, every year I wait for spring to arrive so I can go forage them. (for free!) The photo from 2008 underneath is a field of ramps growing in the woods in the spring.

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Kimchi is the most essential part of a Korean meal. It is served at every meal (not kidding). There are many many varieties of kimchi, and every household has a slightly different kimchi recipe.  I only started making kimchi myself only a year ago -shame on me- and I have to say, I was so proud of myself when my kimchi has fermented properly and tasted somewhat like my grandmother’s. I think I was steered away from making it before because I thought it was somehow super difficult to make and to ferment. (it is not).

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Kimchi can be made out of cabbage, Korean radish, cucumber during the summer, spring onions or chinese chives. I have opted for kohlrabi while looking to develop a new kimchi recipe. To quote Yotam Ottolenghi on kohlrabi, “People often ask me what to do with kohlrabi, an often unwanted child in the organic vegetable box. It seems to healthy, too weird, too German!” (from Plenty) Yup. This explains how I felt about kohlrabi when I first saw it. Maybe I have lived in Germany for too long, but I have become fond of this weird vegetable of brassica family. It’s delicious julienned in salads, and cooked in curries. I originally wanted to use pink table radishes while developing this kimchi recipe but they don’t come in season for another month or so, and kohlrabi can be bought at any given time of the year at german supermarkets. The boskoop apple gives a sweet and slightly sour contrast to the garlicky and spicy ingredients. I’m not sure if my grandmas would be confused or annoyed when I tell them I have included diced apple in my kimchi. Because I added a bunch of Bärlauch, I only added a small clove of garlic. I still want you to be able to meet friends after eating this kimchi. Bärlauch can be quite pungent especially when they have grown bigger.

Happy pickling everyone!

Kohlrabi, Apple, and Ramps (Bärlauch) Kimchi

If you can’t find kohlrabi, replace with a bunch of pink radishes. Ramps are hard to come by in some places, so a small bunch of spring onions would do the trick.

Makes a 500ml jar

1 kohlrabi, peeled and top and bottom trimmed, and diced

1 Boskoop apple, cored and diced (Granny Smith can be substituted)

30g ramp, roughly chopped

1 Tbsp sea salt

1 Tbsp all-purpose flour

2 Tbsp boiling water

1 tsp finely grated ginger

1 small clove garlic, germ removed, then finely grated

2 Tbsp Korean chili flakes

1/2 tsp Korean fish sauce (Optional)

1/2 tsp sugar

1. In a large bowl, toss the kohlrabi cubes with salt and let them sit for one hour. Drain, saving any brine from kohlrabi. Run the kohlrabi cubes very briefly under cold water. Drain well.

2. To make the sauce, sift the flour in a small bowl. Add the boiling water and whisk until it becomes a smooth paste. Add the brine, grated ginger, garlic, chili flakes, Korean fish sauce, if using, and sugar. Stir to combine.

3. Toss the kohlrabi, apple, and ramp in the sauce until well coated. Transfer to a clean jar and close the lid tightly. Let it ferment at room temperature for 24 hours before serving. Keep it in the fridge and eat within a week.