As noted last week, I have a slight obsession with rhubarb, especially in savory preparations, but this jar of fermented tartness is one that I urge you make immediately. The season is so close to the end and now is the time to preserve. The stalks are no longer small and zippy, they are a little woody and a lot tart. That may not make great jam or pie, but it makes damned near perfect kimchi. Kimchi is, after all, one of the world’s great pickles and is a fantastic method for preserving.

In an attempt to find flavors that go well with rhubarb for next year and for the kimchi, I pushed a little out of season until I found fennel. Fennel has a sweet, licorice flavor I thought would go well with the tartness of rhubarb. I also thought that the crunch would make the kimchi slightly more familiar, if in texture only. The only other switch from the basic kimchi formula was the addition of green garlic. I had leftover green garlic that I added to the jar in hopes of adding an additional layer of savory flavors.

Otherwise, the process is identical to making napa cabbage kimchi. The rhubarb and fennel are salted first. After overnight in the salt to maintain the kimchi crunch, the rhubarb and fennel had released over a half cup of water, but without leafiness, the bulk had reduced very little.

Once the water was poured off, the remaining ingredients were added in a proportion of double the amount as in the napa cabbage kimchi given the starting weight of the base ingredients since the volume of the rhubarb and fennel had not reduced.

Once jarred, the kimchi sat for two weeks to ferment. While my favorite time period for kimchi is at about a month when it has gotten a little fizzy, the tartness at two weeks had abated a little and the flavors of the rhubarb and fennel had come together really nicely with the heat and funk typical of kimchi. You still have that funk and heat, but adding tartness and additional complexity from both the rhubarb and the fennel, I think that this combination makes for one of the better variations that I have tried.

After the midday scoop from the jar, I opted for using the kimchi to top a grilled pig’s ear along side a fermented baby crab and seaweed. The ear was meaty enough to carry some heft while the chewiness was cured a bit by crisping it over coals. That same textural complexity is the part of this kimchi that I like the best. Without leafiness, you have the stalks, from both the fennel and the rhubarb, which add crunch. If you have something texturally challenging, like an ear, the crunch can ease the difficulty to a level where you can appreciate it instead of focus on it and with the flavors here, it is hard to eat the kimchi in a dish where it isn’t the star.

Rhubarb Kimchi 

  • 300 grams rhubarb sliced
  • 200 grams fennel, bulb and stems, sliced
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 10 garlic cloves, minced
  • 20 slices ginger, minced
  • 1/2 cup kochukaru
  • 1/4 cup fish sauce
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons jarred salted shrimp
  • 1/2 cup 1-inch pieces green garlic greens
  • 1/4 cup green garlic whites, minced
  • 1/2 cup julienned carrots

Step one: Combine fennel, rhubarb, salt and sugar. Let sit overnight in fridge. Pour off water.

Step two: Combine remaining ingredients and add water until the texture of the mixture resembles vinaigrette.

Step three: Add in rhubarb and fennel, stir, jar, and wait for a few weeks.

Step four: Consume with abandon