Not sure what to do with Napa cabbage? Try out this delicious, healthy, lacto-fermented Korean pickle. You can make it as mild or as spicy as you like, and you may be surprised at how much the spice mellows during fermentation.
Eating lacto-fermented veggies, like this kimchi, or homemade sauerkraut, increases the beneficial bacteria in the digestive tract. Including lacto-fermented veggies as a part of your daily diet may contribute to better digestion, increased energy, and overall well-being. Start off by eating a small amount daily (a spoonful or two) so as to let your digestion get used to this beneficial food. If it doesn’t taste good to you, and you don’t feel great after eating it for a couple days, listen to your body – your system may not need or want it right now.
Making kimchi is a bit of a process. It’s best to read through the recipe so you have an idea for the timing. Prep is a couple hours, split. Kimchi is ready in about a week.
Fresh local veggies
Napa cabbage or bok choi, roughly chopped, one head
Radishes, sliced thinly, one bunch
Kohlrabi, sliced thinly, one bunch
Veggies can be any combination of the ones listed, or any other fresh, fleshy vegetable you want to try. Try snow peas, cauliflower, turnip, etc. Experiment to find the combination you like best.
Local alliums for spice paste
Green garlic, two bulbs with tender portion of stalks
Chives and garlic chives, a handful
Scallions or onion, one bunch or one medium
Spice mix can be any combination of spicy veggies. A more traditional kimchi also uses grated ginger and fresh hot pepper or chili paste; though not yet available locally this season they add a nice, full flavor. It’s OK to have a lot of spice paste.
Make brine: dissolve 1 Tbs. sea or kosher salt, for each cup of non-chlorinated water. Make about 4 cups to start, and mix a cup at a time if you need more.
Prepare veggies: Wash veggies and roughly chop or slice as directed, except for spice paste ingredients. Place veggies in bowl and cover with about 4 cups brine. Place a plate with a weight on top; mix up more brine if needed to keep veggies fully submerged. Soak for at least 4 hours. Once veggies are limp, drain, reserving brine. Veggies should taste pleasantly salty. Rinse briefly if they are too salty.
Once veggies are drained, mince or grate the ingredients for the spice paste. Add spice paste to veggies and mix well. Transfer veggies into quart-sized mason jar, packing well after every few handfuls to encourage release of juices (use gloves for this step if you have sensitive skin.) When veggies are about two inches from top of jar, cover with a whole cabbage leaf and tuck in to make sure all veggies are covered with liquid. Add a bit of reserved brine if needed to bring liquid above veggies – keeping liquid about an inch from top of jar. Use an 8 oz. glass Ball jar full of water, or a Zip-Loc bag full of brine (must be salty in case it leaks) to weigh down veggies. Liquid should rise up around weight to form a seal and keep veggies completely covered with liquid. Cover with a light dish towel or cloth to keep out dust and place on a plate for overflow.
Let ferment at room temperature, around 70° for about a week, or until done, and then transfer to fridge. Start tasting after 3 days – pull whole leaf aside and use clean fingers or a fork to grab a bit to try, then tuck leaf back in and replace weight.
Kimchi is done when it has a ripe, sour, spicy and satisfying flavor. Spice will mellow as it ferments, and it will continue to slowly ripen in fridge. Speed of fermentation will depend on air temperature and can differ with each batch. Kimchi will keep for at least a few months in the fridge. A bit of “bloom” or foam on the top of the liquid is normal and can be skimmed off. If you find your veggies getting slimy, creamy, or brown, throw out the batch and start again. If it smells good and tastes good, it is most likely safe to eat.
Use extra brined veggies for a delicious, simple sauté. Rinse briefly under cold water to mellow saltiness. Heat 1 Tbs. coconut oil or ghee or your favorite cooking oil in a sauté pan or skillet over med-high heat and add veggies. Cook, stirring frequently, just until veggies are tender and wilted. If the veggies are fresh, they will be delicious just like this. You can also try adding some chopped fresh cilantro, lime juice, grated ginger and mirin (a sweet rice wine).
Lily K. Morris is a writer, artist, certified health practitioner, and healing foods specialist, among other things. She loves to wander the woods and fields of Chappy in search of beauty, inspiration, and nourishment. Find her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Check out these resources for more information and inspiration: Wild Fermentation by Sandor Katz, and Nourishing Traditions by Sally Falon.