My love affair with kimchi dates back almost 15 years, when my husband and I spent a year teaching english in Korea and fell in love with this fermented side dish. While on teacher's retreats we would get some strange looks, lining up with Korean teachers for a breakfast of kimchi and rice rather than the more conventional cereal and oatmeal options preferred by our fellow expatriates. Kimchi is served with every meal in Korea, and the health claims we heard are wide ranging, from boosting the immune system to curing various and sundry diseases. I was somewhat skeptical at the time (much as I loved this crunchy, pungent goodness) but science and studies on the powers of fermented foods have subsequently supported these claims. Kimchi helps with healthy digestive function as it is rich in probiotics and healthy fibre, and also contains ingredients like red pepper powder, garlic and ginger which are anti-inflammatory and help to boost the immune system.
Kimchi is definitely an acquired taste, spicy and pungent it is definitely not for the faint of heart! That being said, we've found that once you get a taste for it, this crunchy goodness is highly addictive. We have found some great companies at health food stores (Wild Brine, Pyramid Ferments, Raon Kitchen) however making your own is a much more cost effective option. You can use cayenne pepper in place of Korean Chili Pepper, but it's worth seeking out the Korean variety at a local Asian market as it has its own, unique flavour. I need to give credit where credit is due, this recipe was created by my husband, our residence kimchi expert. He started with the recipe in Crudessence and has since tweaked it to make it his own. We have started using apple in lieu of maple syrup as a sweetener, on the recommendation of a lovely Korean chef we spoke with on Vancouver Island.
1 quart mason jar
1/4 cup salt m/litre water
1/2 head cabbage, thinly sliced (savoy or nappa is preferred)
1 cup turnip, peeled and cut into small cubes
Small onion, diced
1 Tbsp ginger
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 apple, cored and diced with the peel left on (or 1 Tbsp maple syrup)
1 1/2 tsp toasted sesame oil
2 Tbsp (or more) Korean chili powder
Filtered water, as needed
Soak cabbage and turnip in salt water for 3-4 hours.
Purée paste ingredients together and set aside.
Strain the cabbage and turnip and add to a large bowl.
Massage kimchi paste into the cabbage until evenly distributed
Pack the cabbage mixture into a jar, making sure liquid completely covers the vegetables and cover with cheesecloth and a rubber band. Keep checking the kimchi periodically to ensure that the cabbage mixture is fully submerged in the brine, giving it a "shove down" (my husband's words) as required. If need be you can put a weight in the jar to keep the mixture submerged, or if the jar is completely full, you can place a plate or lid with a weight on top. As long as the lid isn't sealed, gasses can still escape and this ensures the mixture stays submerged. Kraut Source also has a great fermenting lid specifically for this purpose that works like a charm.
Let it sit at room temp, out of direct sunlight for 3-4 days (more or less depending on the season). We usually test after 3 days and either dig in or let it ferment a bit longer, depending on where it's at. Natural fermentation is dependent on so many different factors and the length of time required can change.
Kimchi can be stored in the fridge for several weeks, although it likely won't last that long!