What is Kimchi? Kimchi is korean sauerkraut; a spicy-sour, fragrant, delicous fermented cabbage that has allegedly been used to prevent the avian flu. This may be apocryphal, but supposedly Korean farmers were giving it to their chickens to save them from the bird flu. All I know is that I am addicted to the stuff. It has an ….odor…well, it is fermented cabbage. My sister has the same lust for kimchi that I have, but her 6 kids can smell it in the next room when she stealthily opens the jar in the refrigerator. “Oh Mama, you’re into the Kimchi again!” they chorus. Maybe the Korean farmers’ children were sprinkling kimchi around the chicken coops so their parents wouldn’t eat it in the house!
Fermentation is a miraculous and wonderful thing. Think of all the things we eat and drink that are fermented. Wine, beer, cheese, vinegar, pickles of every kind, whether brine pickled or vinegar pickled, yoghurt, kefir…. Fermentation breaks down and transforms raw materials by the aid of friendly bateria, in a way that not only preserves food but also makes it more nutritious to us. The lactobaccillus in sauerkraut protects your stomach from nasty invaders. I read that Julius Caesar carried barrels of sauerkraut with him and it protected the Roman soldiers from dysentery as they drank water in different lands. I don’t know if that’s true but it’s logical. Kimchi makes my stomach feel good when I eat a little with every meal.
So by now I hope I convinced you to try making some. I use the Nourishing Traditions: The Cookbook that Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats recipe. (This is my new Amazon link to a page where you can buy it and I get 4 cents.) This is a cookbook everyone should have. The author, Sally Fallon started the Weston Price Foundation and has a farm not far from us. If you haven’t heard of Dr.Weston Price you have a treat in store. His discoveries on the benefits of a pre-industrial diet are really enlightening reading. But I need to get down to the kimchi!
1 head Napa cabbage, cored and chopped
1 bunch green onions, chopped
1 cup grated carrots
1/2 cup grated daikon (optional and I don’t)
1-2 tablespoons grated ginger root (man up and do 2)
3 big cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1/2 tsp dried chili flakes, or 2 fresh cayenne type peppers
2 teaspoons sea salt
2 tablespoons whey (if not available add another 2 tsp of salt)
1/2 cup filtered water.
I have almost directly qoted Sally’s recipe here. I just lean towards more garlic, ginger, and spicy peppers. The whey is a thing us fermentation heads keep around. If you add it to the soaking water for your beans, oatmeal, etc. it makes them more digestible. You can skim it off the top of some yoghurt, and just add a little more salt, and it will work. Salt prevents the beginning of nasty cultures until the lactic fermentation can get going. The whey kickstarts that.
I don’t shred the Napa cabbage because I like the texture of inch long pieces of cabbage midrib. So I chop it rather coarsely. There isn’t much core to a Napa, either. Her recipe implies that you can use other cabbages, but I really love the Napa. Put all your ingredients in a large bowl and toss well to distribute the salt. The cabbage will immediately start to wilt and give off water. Take a potato masher or something blunt that you can bash with, like even a jam jar if you can get a comfortable grip, and pound the cabbage. You are out to bruise it thoroughly so that the lactobacillus can penetrate the tissues rapidly, and the plant sugars can feed it. Just bash it, turn it, and pound some more.
When it looks like it has given up, pack it into a glass jar or a crock with a good lid. You want to pack it down with a clean fist, so that water is coming to the top. Add the water after it is packed, if necessary to cover the cabbage. Let it sit at room temprature for 4-5 days. As it ferments bubbles will push up the cabbage, so push it down periodically. There won’t be any scum like with German sauerkraut. There will be a smell though. You can taste it any time to check how it is coming. When it is pickled enough for you, or you don’t want it any sourer, you can pack it into smaller jars and refrigerate. That will slow it down for months.When you are ready to make more, save the liquid from the last of the kimchi to start new batch. So delicious!