Kimchi is traditionally a salted, fermented cabbage used as a condiment in many Korean dishes. What occurs in kimchi is known as lactofermentation. Through an anaerobic process (meaning without oxygen), our friendly neighborhood bacteria, lactobacillus, (named such because it was originally found in milk cultures), flourishes.
Basically by mixing up chopped vegetables with plenty of salt and a smidge of sugar, then packing tightly in a jar for several days (or weeks) the tangy bacteria ferments the veggies, making them more digestible and delicious.
Here are some tips for success in your lactofermentation efforts:
•Use sea salt, pickling salt, or kosher salt when brining the vegetables as iodized salt can hinder the fermentation process
•Squeeze liquid out of cabbage as much as possible after brining for more pungent kimchi
•Chop, julienne, or dice your vegetables for easier packing into the jars, easier fermentation, and more diverse texture in your veggies
•Don’t cut yourself on the mandolin, if using
•When filling the jars, pack your soon-to-be fermented vegetables tightly to encourage an anaerobic environment
•Swap spices in to match your taste profile
I have never made kimchi before, or any other lacto-fermented vegetable. But, here is what I did, which is surely far from any traditional kimchi recipe:
½ red cabbage, (from Second Spring Farm), cored and chopped into 1 ½ inch pieces, rinsed and dried well
½ green cabbage, (from Second Spring), cored and chopped into 1 ½ inch pieces, rinsed and dried well
¼ cup of non-iodized salt, such as sea salt, kosher salt, pickling salt, etc
5 garlic cloves, from your favorite garlic farm
A piece of ginger, the size of your thumb
4 tablespoons (or more!) red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons fish sauce (or water)
1 tsp sugar
4 carrots, julienned (use a mandolin if you dare!)
6 green onions, sliced thinly
5 inches of daikon radish, sliced thinly into disks (during the right time of year you can find these locally)
Special equipment: mandolin (not necessary if your knife skills are good), food processer or blender, a jar funnel, enough widemouth canning jars and lids (I ended up with 5 pints of kimchi)
Place the prepared chopped cabbage in a large bowl and sprinkle salt over it. Use your hand to massage salt in. Let sit for 1-2 hours.
In a food processor, blend together garlic, ginger, red pepper flakes, fish sauce, sugar, and a splash of water until a smooth paste forms.
Prepare your other vegetables, like carrots, green onions, and daikon radish, to your size preference.
Once the cabbage has sat in the salt for 1-2 hours, give a brief rinse, and drain very well. Place all of your vegetables together in one large bowl and add spice paste. Use gloves and mix well.
Pack your jars tightly and screw lids on. You may want to place jars in a dish, in case of escaped brine. Leave on your counter for at least 48 hours. Give your lactofermented veggies a try. Leave on counter until desired tang is achieved then place in your fridge to enjoy.
Emma Beauchamp is the Local Food Coordinator for NW Michigan. She is a Traverse City native and has never made kimchi before. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org