Have you ever made a batch of kimchi or kraut that just came out too salty? Maybe you changed measuring spoons, switched brands of salt or followed a new recipe written by someone who just doesn’t share your taste preferences. That always bums me out. There are ways to avoid it (always use the same salt and weigh rather than measure, never switch measuring spoons, etc), but sometimes it just happens. It’s not the end of the world, either. Most overly salted things can be served in small portions with larger portions of unsalted food (rice/grains, salad, eggs, etc) and you’ll never notice. You can also mix in some fresh (unsalted) veggies and let it ferment for another few days to a week. The texture will be uneven, but the saltiness will be diminished.
My new favorite thing to do with over-salted ferments is to turn them into seasoning. Lots of people dehydrate their fermented vegetables and you can get a nice crispy snack out of them that way. There are a couple things I don’t love about dehydrated ferments, though. First, and this may just be a personal thing, I would rather just eat my ferments hydrated most of the time, so it’s not really worth the effort for me. Secondly, the vegetables are incredibly salty once you’ve sucked out the balancing and bulking water element. That’s actually what gave me this idea. If they’re already going to be salty, why not use them as you would salt?
I definitely do this with ferments that have a perfect salt level. It’s still fun and definitely still tasty. It also works well for ferments that have gone a bit soft in the back of the fridge. My very favorite version of this is the one pictured; the one I make with pesto-chi. But there are no bad choices here. Krauts of all kinds, kimchis and pickles of all varieties lend themselves to this process.
If you dehydrate below 110°F (43.3° C), you’ll keep the probiotic bacteria alive (although they won’t be active until the have access to some liquid again). If not, you’ll just be making something super tasty to sprinkle over pasta and soup or use as a meat rub.
Sauerkraut or Kimchi Spice Recipe
Yield: 1/2 cup seasoning powder
If you don’t have a dehydrator, the oven on its lowest temperature setting works just fine. On my oven the lowest setting is 170°F (76.7°C), which definitely kills the lactic acid bacteria. Just spread the pieces out evenly on parchment paper or silpat on your favorite cookie sheets. At 170, they’re done at about 2 hours. They may not be quite as crispy as they are in the dehydrator, but once they’re fully dried, they will powder with ease.
- Dehydrator (or oven, baking sheets and silpat)
- Spice grinder (or coffee grinder that you don’t mind taking on the spice flavor)
- 1 quart of kimchi or sauerkraut
- Pour fermented veg from jar into a strainer and push out as much liquid as possible. Liquid may be reserved for another use, if you like. Move strained veg to clean kitchen cloths or paper towels and pat dry. When working with kimchi, you want to remove as little paste as possible, but still, you don’t want them going on completely wet.
- Space pieces evenly over the trays of the dehydrator. If they touch, they’ll stick together. It’s also a good idea to put similarly-sized pieces on the same tray. Trays with smaller pieces can be removed when they’re done, leaving the larger pieces more time to dry.
- If your dehydrator has a temperature option, set it to 100°F (37.8° C) to keep the bacteria alive. If, like me, you have a dehydrator with no thermostat, turn it on.
- At 115°F (the temperature at which my dehydrator runs), it will take 4 hours for the kraut and napa cabbage to reach the right level of crisp and 5 hours for the thicker pieces (daikon and pickled vegetables) to become crunchable. Once they are brittle, it’s time to grind. Working in batches, place dehydrated vegetables into the spice grinder and grind until they make a fine powder. If you get clumps, your vegetables weren’t dry enough. You can stick the remaining veg back in the dehydrator if this happens with your first grinder batch.
- Once you have a powder, it’s ready to be used. Store in the spice drawer and use within a couple months for best flavor.