I am a major fan of fermented foods. They sound a bit scary, but in fact they are some of the healthiest foods you can add to your diet, as they are filled with beneficial bacteria (probiotics) that support healthy digestion, strong immunity, clear skin, and many other body functions.
Kimchi, or spicy Asian sauerkraut, happens to be one of my favorite ways to eat fermented food. I mix it into soups, slather it on sandwiches, and add a scoop to the top of nearly all my salads. It adds a wonderful spicy tang to any dish, as well as a hefty serving of probiotics.
Simple & Delicious Homemade Kimchi
Makes 2 quarts
- ½ head red cabbage
- 1 head napa cabbage
- 1 bunch radishes
- 1 bunch scallions
- 2-inch piece of ginger
- 3 heaping tablespoons of red chili paste
- 2 teaspoons salt
1. Thinly slice the cabbage and radishes (I like to use a mandolin grater), dice the scallions, and mince the ginger.
2. Combine the veggies in a large bowl with the salt. Roll up your sleeves and start mixing everything by hand. You need to massage the cabbage with salt to draw out the moisture. You should start to see liquid pooling at the bottom of the bowl after 5 minutes of massaging/mixing.
3. Add the chili paste and give everything one final mix (you can use a spoon this time).
4. If you have a fermenting crock that's terrific, but if not you can make your ferment in glass quart jars. Use the spoon to begin transferring the veggie mixture into the jars. Press firmly after each spoonful to really pack it in there. You need to keep pressing and squeezing until the liquid covers the top if the veggies. Note: Depending on the moisture content of the vegetables this can vary in time. Sometimes I get enough liquid right away, and other times I need to let the jars sit for an hour or so and then come back and press again later.
5. Set up a weight in your jars to keep pressing the veggies down and maintain the liquid level. This is essential because mold cannot grow on the veggies covered by liquid. I like to use a smaller glass jar filled with water for my weight. It's best to stick to glass and ceramic because plastic and metal can have funky reactions with the ferment.
6. Cover the whole contraption with a clean dishtowel and set it aside to begin fermenting. I tend to ferment right on my countertop, but you can find whatever spot works for you.
7. Check your kimchi daily to make sure no mold is growing (skim it off if it is) and to do a taste test. After about 3 days you should start to notice a change in flavor. I usually let my ferments go anywhere from 1-2 weeks depending on the temperature in my kitchen (warmer = faster fermenting).
8. Once the kimchi has reached your preferred level of fermentation, take out the weights, put lids on the jars, and store in the fridge. The cool air keeps the bacteria alive, but drastically slows the fermentation process so the flavor doesn't continue changing. The kimchi will stay good in the fridge nearly indefinitely, but I usually eat mine within 3 months.
And just in case you need more inspiration to give kimchi a try, here's my favorite recipe for a Rice Noodle + Veggie Bowl featuring a hefty dose of kimchi!
Photo courtesy of the author