I had a dream the other night that I smelled like old cabbage and everyone around me was too polite to say anything. I have been spending a lot of around fermenting cabbage lately… So far nobody has been bold enough to tell me that I smell like sauerkraut, but clearly my subconscious thinks I might. Oh god, DO I?!
At least I am on trend. Home fermentation projects are picking up steam, which is great news for the world’s intestinal health. Imagine a world where all of our intestinal bacteria was in balance! It could only lead to world peace.
Kimchi, a spicy, more interesting version of naturally fermented sauerkraut, is a Korean staple, and I totally understand why (and that’s before we even get into the health benefits). It is tart, salty, pungent, complex and sooo very addictive. The version that I make is not authentic, as I have kept the ingredients fresh and as local as possible (no rice starch or fish sauce etc) but it is equally delicious and addictive.
This version is radish-heavy (aids digestion/cruciferous), includes Napa cabbage (more cruciferous), lots of ginger and turmeric (anti-inflammatory party), green onions and garlic (allium family of cancer-crushers), carrots (orange = beta carotene/vitamin A), macro kelp (minerals!) and black sesame seeds (zinc, magnesium, healthy fats).
It probably can’t technically be called kimchi without the signature gochu chilies used in the traditional recipes, but I’m ok with this (just call it khimchi). I would prefer some fresh, organic chilies in mine, or leave them out entirely if spicy food or nightshades are not your thing (as I have in the recipe below).
For those of you who are hesitant about the idea of fermented, raw garlic or radishes (or cabbage, or fermented veggies in general), let me assure you, they mellow out over time, becoming less acrid and giving off far less funk than you might be expecting. The final product tastes AMAZING and I would eat it even if it wasn’t good for me. I have to ration it at my house (aka hide it from my husband) or it would be gone in less than a week. It’s the gold.
I use a fermentation crock for the fermented recipes that I want to make in volume, but it is possible to make it in a mason jar (or several) too. I have some tips here on how to do so, but basically you want to keep all of the solids below the water level. It helps to reserve one of the bigger cabbage leaves (leave it whole) to submerge down over the top of the kimchi to keep the ‘floaters’ down, and then a weight on top of that (smaller jar filled with water works well).
Once the fermenting is done, there is going to be some liquid leftover -don’t throw it out! I put the finished kimchi into jars and into the fridge with just enough liquid to cover it. I then put the leftover liquid into its own jar and use it as a condiment. It will taste vinegar-y and a bit salty with all of the savory flavours that are in the kimchi itself. The liquid is also full of live probiotics and is great for intestinal health.
Keeping it raw will help it retain it’s health benefits but for fermented garlic and radish reasons I probably don’t need to tell you that it might not find a comfortable home in your smoothie. If you think about places that need a flavourful, savory acid though, the possibilities are endless: in a vinaigrette or salad dressing (replace half of the acid with it), in hummus, guac or salsa (again, replace half of the acid) drizzle it on steamed veggies, rice or other grains after cooking, blend it with hot peppers and use it as hot sauce.
For the kimchi (khimchi) itself, the sky is the limit! Add to a bowl of warm quinoa and veg, top off any salad with it, add to salad rolls or collard wraps, top off a veggie burger, or add at the last minute to any curry. Just like the liquid, be sure not to heat it up too much (keep it as raw as possible) or it will lose its probiotic super powers.
The real trick is to make it fresh every two weeks so that you are never waiting too long for more, and give plenty away to friends and family. There is nothing like the gift of intestinal health. Also, I really don’t think that eating kimchi will make you smell like cabbage, but if by chance it does, this way your friends and family will too.
- 1 medium head of Napa Cabbage
- 5 Carrots, grated
- 6 Green Onions, sliced
- 1 c Daikon, grated
- 1 large Black Radish, thinly sliced
- 1 bunch (regular, red) Radishes, thinly sliced
- 3-6 Garlic Cloves, minced/grated
- 4 Tbsp Ginger, minced/grated
- 4 Tbsp fresh Turmeric, minced/grated (2 Tbsp if using dry)
- ¼ c Black Sesame Seeds
- 3-4 sheets of Macro Kelp, torn up into pieces (wakame, kombu or dulse would be ok too, just use less)
- Several Grinds of Black Pepper (to enhance turmeric absorption)
- 2 Tbsp + 1 tsp Sea(weed) Salt
- Water as needed
- Large-dice or shred up the cabbage and put it in a large bowl (reserve one large leaf).
- Add everything else and massage it altogether with your (clean and/or gloved) hands, it will release some liquid.
- Fill a large jar or crock with the contents (use a wide-mouthed funnel for ease).
- Press the contents down firmly, packing it down to raise the water level.
- If there is not enough water to cover the contents, add more water until the contents are covered well.
- Place the reserved cabbage leaf on top and press it down so that it keeps the floaters down.
- Place a weight on top of this, jars of water work well (or if you're using a crock, it came with a fitted weight), and a lid.
- Put it somewhere dark and wait veeeeery patiently for 4 weeks, checking every few days to make sure that everything remains submerged under the liquid (adjust weights or add some water if it isn't).
- Store in the fridge, in a jar covered by its own liquid. It will keep for months at a time like this as long as you don't contaminate it (use dirty utensils in the jar).
- Eat raw with or before meals to power up your digestion (and reserve the liquid to do the same!)