We love making our own Kimchi, it’s so good for our gut health but also a great way to use up a glut of cabbage harvest and preserve it for the year to come. We make Kimchi using our own Chinese Cabbage, called Hilton. It’s a great crop to grow yourself but is also readily available from the supermarket.
Kimchi is a great way to get into fermenting vegetables. This is a Korean dish but most cultures have got a version of this – sauerkraut is the European equivalent.
If you want to go straight to making it, the recipe is right here:
Ingredients Part 1
2kg Hilton Chinese cabbage
100g salt (for the brine)
25g salt (for sprinkling)
Ingredients Part 2
1 tbsp rice flour
50g gochugaru (Korean chilli flakes) or other chilli flakes
250g daikon, julienned (cut into matchstick size strips)
150g carrots, grated (or julienned)
2 tbsp fish sauce
Half tbs fine sea salt
1 bunch of chives, chopped
10g mashed garlic
5g mashed ginger
1 tbsp jaggery or raw sugar
1 medium sized onion, pureed
Take off any tough looking outer leaves then cut the cabbage in quarters lengthwise.
Dissolve the salt into the water and dip each quarter into the water opening out the leaves so the brine goes all the way through.
Lay the quarters on a tray and sprinkle the 25g of salt over the thicker, whiter bits of the cabbage. Massage it in between the leaves.
Layer the quarters, cut side up into a bucket and pour over the brine. Leave for 6 hours – NO MORE (or it’ll taste too salty). If you can give the bucket a jiggle a couple of times during the 6 hours. Then, remove the wedges and rinse them well under running water, leave in a colander to dry for an hour.
Now for the paste – put the rice flour and water into a pan and bring to the boil. Keep stirring over a high heat for 7 minutes, then remove and pop it into a bowl. Let it cool before adding the gochugaru.
In a separate mixing bowl put the daikon, fish sauce & the half tbsp of fine sea salt, leave it for about 10 mins so the salt can get into the daikon and then add the carrots, garlic, ginger, jaggery/sugar, onion and the rice flour paste. Use gloves or have a scrubbing brush and hot water to hand as it’ll stain your hands!
Then get your cabbage wedges and massage the veggie/rice flour mix into each wedge, making sure each one gets an equal share. Then pop them into an airtight container – Kilner jars are great or, if you have an Asian supermarket nearby they often sell stainless steel kimchi containers which are awesome. Press the cabbage firmly into the bottom so there’s minimal air holes – it should release enough liquid to cover itself.
Leave it out for a few days to ferment. This is the fun bit – taste it each day and it’ll start to get that amazing sour taste – that’s the lactic acid bacteria working their magic. The longer you leave it the more sour it’ll get – when it’s hit the sweet spot for you whack it in the fridge, that’ll make the fermentation (virtually) stop and it’ll last for a few months at least in the fridge. (We’ve got stuff that’s kept just fine in there for well over a year).
There are a couple of ingredients you may not have in the recipe above – gochugaru which is a Korean chilli powder – this can be supplemented with chilli powder. And fish sauce – if you can get a Korean one then great, if not the standard Chinese will be fine. I usually add a dried fermented shrimp paste as well but feel free to experiment – increase/decrease the amount of spice or add other veggies if you want. A Chinese style cabbage such as Hilton is perfect for this and you can add cucumber, radish, extra carrots, apples if you like. Experiment once you have the basic recipe under your belt!
WHAT IS FERMENTATION?
There are a few different definitions of the term but essentially it’s nature’s preservation technique. Most food based fermentation relies on lactic acid bacteria (LAB) establishing a foothold in the mix and from then on they’ll act as guards to keep out any unwanted bacteria. Which is why fermented foods generally last for ages. Sauerkraut was used for months on ships hundreds of years back to keep scurvy at bay. As well as producing lactic acid – hence the ‘tang’, it produces carbon dioxide and the jar/container will need to be ‘burped’ occasionally to release any build up in the container. Salt is often used to kickstart a ferment – lactic acid bacteria thrive in a salty environment and many not so great bacteria hate it – so a brine gives the LAB a leg up on the fermentation process.
All the good stuff is fermented – bread, cheese, cured meats, wine, beer, chocolate and more!
WHY ARE FERMENTED FOODS GOOD FOR US?
Fermentation releases many nutrients that would otherwise be unavailable to our bodies – think of it as the bacteria pre-digesting our food for us. Releasing loads of goodness and saving us the energy of having to do it as well. There are trillions of bacteria working inside us synergistically – we feed them and they help us out. It’s how we’ve evolved over millions of years and we wouldn’t exist without them. And it’s only in the last generation or two that we’ve totally changed our local based food system and swapped it out for a globally based system that’s heavily reliant on fossil fuels, antibiotics, chemicals and crop mono-cultures. Which are all really bad news for our environment, health and society. Fermented foods are super rich in bacteria – which are essential to our well being, and not just our gut health but our mental wellbeing.
LEARN MORE ABOUT FERMENTING FOODS
Read more on fermenting through books by Sandor Katz such as ‘The Art of Fermentation’. There’s also a good one on the basics – ‘Real Food Fermentation’ by Alex Lewin.
This recipe was contributed by chef Mike Keen.
Follow him on instagram @mikekeencooks
GROW YOUR OWN CHINESE CABBAGE
Check out our Chinese Cabbage seeds from our online seed shop.
Learn more about how to grow cabbage with the video below: