How to Make Kimchi
I keep hearing about fermented foods and how great they are supposed to be for our gut health. A good deal of this talk (from where I’m sitting anyway) comes from yogurt commercials. In these commercials, health conscious women walk around their kitchens talking excitedly about the health benefits of their favourite yogurt brand. Live cultures! good bacteria! Eat yogurt for a happy stomach!!
All this talk made me curious. Yogurt is great and everything – so much so that I wrote a post on how to make it yourself – but surely there must be other foods that provide the same benefits. I mean, what if we get sick of eating yogurt everyday? Variety is the spice of life, and all that.
My internet searches brought me to the book Wild Fermentation (which I later received as a gift for Christmas, thanks mom and dad!). As it turns out, there are tons of fermented foods that can be made at home. I decided to make kimchi, as it looked like an easy recipe to start with.
To be honest, I wasn’t sure if I would like this recipe. I had tried kimchi before and it had unnerved me, probably because I didn’t know what the heck it was. There’s something about red cabbage in a jar of mysterious liquid that is just a bit unsettling. However, I decided to give it a try, figuring that a homemade version might be slightly less gross than a commercially made product.
To my surprise, I actually enjoyed making it and eating it! I tasted the kimchi daily for a week, noting how the salty vegetables gradually soured to a sharp, flavourful bite. Standing over the kitchen counter, I ate it by the spoonful and didn’t feel guilty. After all, it is a much healthier snack than spoonfuls of peanut butter dipped into chocolate chips (not that I do that, of course)!
Now here is the recipe, which is from the cookbook Wild Fermentation. I did not make any major changes, but I have included my notes for possible improvements such as shredding the carrots instead of chopping them, using hot pepper paste instead of fresh, and using extra garlic. Also, I think that next time I’ll add extra radishes and maybe possibly chopped kale.
You’ll need one pound of cabbage, several carrots and radishes, and sea salt.
Cut it all up and add to a container. I used a peeler for the carrots then cut the ribbons into smaller pieces, but it probably would have made more sense to grate them. You can add other veggies too if you want.
Now add 4 tbsp of sea salt to 4 cups of water and mix until the salt has dissolved. Pour the salt water mixture over the vegetables and allow to sit for several hours or overnight, until the veggies have softened.
I left mine for about 2 hours.
Next, prepare the seasonings: one onion, 3 tbsp (or more) of minced ginger, 5 (or more) cloves of minced garlic, and several red hot peppers.
You can also use hot pepper paste instead of, or in addition to, fresh peppers. Just make sure it has no preservatives added to it or it can mess up the fermentation process.
Mash it all together in a blender or processor.
Now, drain the vegetable mixture and reserve the brine. Add the seasoning mixture to the vegetables and stir until well combined.
Stuff it all into a jar. Make sure it is completely submerged in the liquid. You may need to add some of the reserved brine to top it off. Make sure it is completely covered, or the uncovered veggies could grow mold. Cover the jar with a lid or with cheesecloth.
Leave the jar on the counter at room temperature for about a week. Taste it every couple of days. Temperature influences the fermentation process, so if your kitchen is especially hot or cold, the kimchi may be ready before or after the week is over.
If the vegetables poke above the brine, push them back down or add more brine.
When it is ready to eat, store it in the fridge! This is the final product.
As you can see, my kimchi is not the typical red colour. I think this is because I used fresh peppers instead of paste. If you want yours to have that characteristic red tinge, I’m guessing that hot pepper paste would do the trick.
I mostly snack on it when I’m bored or add it to bowls of rice with hard boiled eggs. You can also add it to veggie dogs or make kimchi soup. I haven’t actually tried kimchi soup but it sounds tasty, so if anyone knows of a good recipe please let me know!
Have you had any fermented food adventures in your kitchen? How do you eat your kimchi?