Kimchi is a traditional Korean ferment. There are hundreds of variations using cabbage, radish, scallion or cucumber as the main ingredient. The paste can contain a variety of ingredients. There may be more than 187 different varieties, all from different regions of Korea. Traditional ingredients will may use garlic, ginger, red pepper, some also add sugar, vinegar, fish sauce or paste to add to their recipe. Families will pass on their different seasonal varieties and they are traditionally buried in the ground to ferment.
Traditionally made by brining the vegetables and then mixing in a paste before packing it into a fermentation vessel to become full of probiotic bacteria and flavour.
Fermented cabbage has a long history of providing benefits for many different health conditions (see my sauerkraut here and a flavoured version here). The fermentation process produces the living probiotic microorganisms that are beneficial to the digestive and immune system, plus making nutrients in the foods being fermented come to life and are more accessible.
The fermentation process increases the bioavailability of nutrients rendering Kimchi even more nutritious than the original starting points.
Salt is one of the most amazing natural products. Hugely beneficial to the body when consumed in the right way. I am often asked which salt to use- these are my salts of choice:
Sea salt – originates from drying the sea water in the sun, salt lakes or other methods. This is what I prefer and generally prefer those from Wales, France or Scotland. Sea salt nutrients can vary and may contain up to 80 or more minerals than table salt (which is refined down to one or two) it will hugely depend on where the sea salt was obtained. In addition to sodium and chlorine, you are likely to find potassium, phosphorus, calcium, sulfur. Trace minerals in sea salt can include iron, iodine, manganese, zinc, bromine, boron, copper.
Pink Himalayan salt – this salt is traditionally harvested in the Pakistan side of the Himalayan mountain range and the pink colour may be due to the salt containing iron oxide. Harvested from caves of ocean salt settled into geological pockets. It is an unrefined, unprocessed raw mineral, mainly mined by hand. The salt can be up to 250 million years old, which is pretty cool! Its nutrient content is similar to sea salt (since they both originated from the sea).
I use these two salts in fermenting, in cooking, in the bath, as a scrub, as salt lamps and also on the carpets to help deep clean them.
- 1 head of Chinese cabbage thinly sliced
- 1 daikon radish thinly sliced
- 2 carrots thinly sliced
- 1.5% weight sea salt/ pink Himalayan salt
- 10 garlic cloves
- 1 ½ inches fresh ginger
- 1 ½ tbsp. Korean red pepper
- 1tsp coconut sugar (optional)
- 1tsp Fish sauce or water
- 1tsp fish paste (you can also use seaweed)
- Weigh cabbage, radish and carrot to work out how much salt is needed.
- Try and retain one of the out side leaves for later. Add the thinly sliced cabbage to a non reactive bowl (plastic or ceramic)..
- Weigh and add the salt to the vegetable in water. Mix into the cabbage with your hands to massage and work in the salt. Leave for 1-8 hours.
- Make the paste by adding the remaining ingredients to a mini chopper and pulsing until a paste.
- Drain the vegetables from the brine, taste to determine saltiness. (note the saltiness will mellow). Rinse if necessary.
- Wearing gloves, mix in the paste, massaging the vegetables.
- Add to your fido jar pushing the vegetables down with a wooden spoon, potato masher or fingers. You will notice the brine being created and rising up to the top of the cabbage.
- When all the vegetables are in the jar then you place the retained cabbage leaf on the top- this will ensure all the stray bits remain under the brine. You may weigh down the cabbage with either ceramic baking beads, marbles, rocks or a shot glass. This step is not compulsory but does help the first few days of fermenting as it makes it easy to continue to push the kraut down to keep the cabbage in the brine.
- Leave for 1-2 weeks on the counter and taste, depending on the temperature and humidity levels of your fermenting spot- leave for up to 28 days. Ferment to taste so continue to taste and then refrigerate when you like it!
- It is optional to use 1tsp fish paste, you can also use seaweed in the paste.
Here is my video on how to make the paste to add to your vegetables:
When it comes to flavoring your Kimchi the only limitations are what you have available!
You can add anything. Play with other root vegetables, using vinegar, fish sauce and other spices in your paste (like turmeric, cumin or coriander).
Kimchi is added to most foods, soups, noodles, stews, pancakes and so on. It is really nice mixed in to sauces like BBQ, mayo and ketchup. Kimchi is also delicious with cheese and also eggs…