Gut health is all the rage these days. This must be why there is so much hype about the benefits of fermented foods and beverages. Fermented foods can help aid digestion and offer a good dose of healthy probiotics. They are also a yummy addition to many dishes. The best thing about them is that they are easy to make yourself! This DIY kimchi recipe is a simple and easy way to get started.
At health food stores, you can buy all sorts of fermented foods and probiotics, and new products are popping up all the time. Fresh, homemade kimchi, however, is infinitely better tasting than anything you can buy at the store. For this reason alone it is worth making your own! If you’ve never had this kimchi, which is just a fermented side dish, it's like a spicy version of sauerkraut. You can basically add whatever vegetables you want, but there are standard veggies that most people like to use in addition to cabbage, like carrots, onion, cauliflower, daikon radish.
This specific recipe is more of a cross between kimchi and sauerkraut. The veggies we used were red cabbage, carrots and a handful of spring onion bulbs. Kimchi is wonderful because its gorgeously pink, a bit tart, crisp and very aromatic.
1 large head of red cabbage
1 large or 2 small fresh carrots
1 bunch spring onions, or 1 white onion
1) Slice 3 cups red cabbage (one large head should give you this yield, or two medium sized heads) into approximately 1/4" slices.
2) Slice 1 cup thinly sliced carrots
3) Slice a handful of spring onion bulbs sliced in half, or half of a large white onion sliced into 1/4" slices
The quantity of cabbage and/or other veggies you use will vary based on how big of a batch you want to make. The important part is the veggie-to-salt ratio, which should be approximately 1 Tbsp salt for each 1 1/2 lbs of veggies.
In a very large bowl, massage the salt into the cabbage until the leaves start to release liquid
Cover with water and let the cabbage sit at room temperature for at least an hour while the salt draws out moisture. Periodically toss the cabbage and work your hands through the leaves to expel more moisture.
After about two hours, the cabbage should be soft and limp, and the volume reduced in half. At this point there will be some liquid in the bowl from the moisture that has been drawn out of the veggies by the salt.
IF you want to make it spicy (recommended), whip up the following spicy paste to add to the veggie mix:
2 Tbsp fresh ginger
1 Tbsp fresh turmeric (or 1 tsp turmeric powder)
1/4 cup red pepper flakes
2 medium cloves garlic
1/3 additional medium onion
Take the ginger, turmeric, garlic, red pepper flakes and onion and mince and combine. Mixing pastes like these are easier In a food processor, but chopping finely works just fine too.
Once the cabbage has sat with the tossed salt for an hour or so, combine with the spice paste. Mix well to distribute evenly.
Put the whole veggies mixture into your jar that you will leave it in to ferment. It works well to use a one or two liter glass jar with a clamp lid, so that it seals fully once the fermenting process is done. However, during the fermenting process, you will keep the jar unclamped because you want to allow the ferment to breathe. You don’t want to cover a ferment tightly until you jar it up and put it in the fridge.
Press the ingredients down with a spoon. Your goal is to have the liquid rise to more than cover the ingredients. If the liquid doesn’t cover the vegetables, just give it some extra time, compress again and leave it be for 8-12 more hours. If the liquid still doesn’t cover it, add some water and mix it all up well so that the dissolved salt is well distributed. Also, the more fresh your ingredients are, the more liquid will naturally leach from the veggies.
Let the whole mixture sit in your semi-ventilated vessel (such as the glass clamp-lid jar described above with the top simply unclamped but "closed") in a cabinet, or corner that does not receive direct sunlight. Let it sit for 3-4 days. Taste on day 3 to see how you like it and if you want it to ferment longer. The longer it sits and ferments, the stronger the taste.
There is a lot of room for variety with kimchi. Once you understand the basic process, you can start to get creative with the foods and flavors you add to the ferment!