Kimchi is a famous fermented vegetable dish from Korea. Usually served as a side dish, there are more than 300 different varieties of kimchi, depending on the main vegetable ingredient used and the region or season in which they’re made.
Nowadays, you’ll see a lot of ready-to-eat kimchi brands in supermarkets, but no matter how convenient they seem to be, many of these products are often loaded with artificial flavorings, toxic fillers, and harmful additives, and have also gone through excessive processing that may have eliminated any living organism in them.
To make sure that you get the quality, the freshness, and all the health perks that you’re after, I encourage you to make your own kimchi at home using this recipe:
Did You Know?
- Kimchi, the famous fermented vegetable dish from Korea, has more than 300 different varieties, depending on the ingredients used, and the region or season in which they’re made.
- Kimchi is lauded for its valuable nutritional benefits and potent antioxidant properties. It is packed with vitamins A and C, healthy fiber, lactobacilli and lactic acid, capsaicin, allicin, and indole-3-carbinol
- You can make your own Korean kimchi at home — here’s a basic recipe to help you out
- 4 cups of water
- 4 tablespoons sea salt
- 1 head cabbage, shredded
- 1 cup daikon radish grated or 1 cup asparagus cut into one-inch pieces
- 2 scallions, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 tablespoons fresh ginger, minced
- ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- In a large bowl, mix a brine of the water and salt. Mix well to thoroughly dissolve salt. Add the cabbage and daikon radish. Cover with a plate or other weight to keep the vegetables submerged. Soak for 12 hours.
- Drain the brine from the vegetables, reserving the brine. Taste the vegetables for saltiness. If they are too salty, you can rinse the vegetables. If they are not salty enough, sprinkle with a little more salt (one quarter teaspoon at a time).
- Combine the asparagus, green beans, scallions, garlic, ginger, and cayenne pepper. Add to the cabbage mixture.
- Put the whole mix into a jar or crock. Pour the soaking liquid over the vegetables, making sure that they are completely submerged in liquid.
- Cover loosely with a clean cloth and set aside for three to seven days. The ideal room temperature to help with the fermentation is around 70 degrees Fahrenheit. If it is colder, the fermentation takes longer.
- Check the kimchi daily. Make sure the vegetables stay covered in brine. After three to seven days, the kimchi will taste ripe. Once this happens, place in glass jar in the refrigerator. It will keep for months.
(From Healthy Recipes for Your Nutritional Type)
Don’t forget to squeeze your vegetables before putting them into the jar using your hands. "Bruising" the vegetables in this way allows the cell walls to break down and release their juices.
Korean Kimchi Cooking Tips
- Use only fresh and organic vegetables from your local farmer.
- Choose cabbages that are hard, heavy, and have densely packed leaves. The lighter, leafier varieties tend to turn into mush that doesn't ferment well.
- Peel your vegetables to avoid getting the bitter flavor from the skin.
- Feel free to season your ferment naturally according to your liking with bell pepper, organic Granny Smith apples, or a hot pepper like habanero (make sure you wear gloves!).
- Add sea vegetables or seaweed to increase the mineral, vitamin, and fiber content of your fermented vegetables.
- When adding aromatics, such as onion, garlic, and ginger, remember that fermenting increases the flavor multiple-fold, so a little goes a long way. Don't overdo it! A few medium-size cloves are enough to infuse a dozen jars or more with a mild garlic flavor.
- Use a starter culture dissolved in celery juice to speed up the fermentation process and to ensure that your ferment gets packed with essential probiotics.
- Make sure the veggies are completely covered with brine and that the brine is all the way to the top of the jar to eliminate trapped air.
- Put the lids on the jars loosely, as they will expand due to the gases produced in fermentation.
- Don’t eat out of the jar to prevent contaminating the entire batch with bacteria from your mouth. Always use a clean spoon to take out what you’re eating.
What Type of Vegetables Can Be Fermented?
Sandor Katz, author of Wild Fermentation, said that while all vegetables can be fermented, not all will produce wonderful results. Here are some practical fermentation pointers I learned from him:
- Summer squash – Because it’s extremely watery, fermentation makes it go soft and mushy in a short amount of time.
- Radish and cabbage – Sandor’s biggest batch of fermented vegetables every year is made up from daikon radishes, which he gets from a farmer friend who plants them as cover crop and who invites him every year to harvest truckloads of them. He then throws in cabbages, chili peppers, and garlic to enhance its taste.
- Dark green vegetables – While kale, broccoli, and other dark green vegetables can be fermented, oftentimes their high chlorophyll content gives off a really strong flavor that not everyone finds appealing. Sandor recommends using them as a minor ingredient rather than a major one. This way, you’ll still get hold of their valuable nutrients without having to put up with their overpowering taste.
I suggest fermenting vegetables that grow abundantly in your area. Try different vegetable combinations. You can never go wrong. As Sandor said, your imagination is really the only limit when it comes to what you can concoct.
What Type of Container Should You Use?
Where you store your kimchi and other fermented vegetables is also important. Ideally, you want to get a container that’s wide enough to fit your hands when you press down the vegetables. Here are some excellent options you can choose from:
- Glass jars or Mason jars
- Ceramic crocks
- Wooden barrels
Stay away from containers made of plastic or metal. Plastic containers have potentially toxic chemicals such as bisphenol-A (BPA) and phthalates, while metals may corrode when they come into contact with salt. Note that even if you don't add salt, most vegetables have some natural salts in them.
|Korean Kimchi Nutrition Facts
Why Is Korean Kimchi Good for You?
Kimchi is lauded for its valuable nutritional benefits and potent antioxidant properties, due to its fresh vegetable ingredients that are packed with:
- Vitamins A and C
- Healthy fiber
- Lactobacilli, and lactic acid
- Capsaicin, the active antioxidant component in chili peppers
- Allicin, the cancer-fighting chemical in garlic
- Indole-3-Carbinol in Chinese cabbage
Kimchi, along with other fermented foods, are important building blocks of Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride’s Gut and Physiology (GAPS) Diet. Dr. Campbell-McBride has used this unique nutritional protocol to heal countless kids and adults from a wide range of diseases, including:
|Attention-deficit disorder (ADD) and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
||Severe food allergies and intolerances
||Chronic digestive symptoms such as flatulence, stomach pain, burping, reflux, and diarrhea
||Type 1 diabetes
||Leaky gut syndrome
All these are made possible by fermented foods’ powerful chelating properties (which effectively get rid of harmful chemicals and heavy metals in your body), and impressive levels of probiotics, which are proven to:
- Improve the production and absorption of vital nutrients such as B-vitamins and vitamin K2, which keeps calcium in the bones and out of your arteries
- Regulate dietary fat absorption
- Lower your cancer risk
- Enhance mood and mental health
- Modulate your immune response and reduce inflammation
- Control asthma and reduce risk of allergies
Nutritional consultant Caroline Barringer says eating just as little as a quarter to one half cup of fermented vegetables one to three meals every day can deliver dramatically beneficial impacts on your health. But Dr. McBride believes this may be too overwhelming for individuals who are suffering from serious digestive disorders due to the compromised condition of their gut. She suggests starting with the juice of the ferment first and then slowly working your way up until you’re ready to take small amounts of vegetables.