One of my favorite cultured vegetables and easiest to make is Kimchi, there are so many variations of this, in Germany it is known as Sauerkraut, usually made simply with cabbage and a few caraway seeds; there are version in Latin America with additions of carrots, onions and spices, as in Korea and Japan.
I am fond of the Korean ‘Kimchi’ version, the recipe can just be a guideline to you as ingredients can be left out or increased according to taste, I like more carrots in mine, make it your own!
(Makes 2 Pints)
1 head Napa Cabbage, cored and shredded (or regular cabbage)
1 bunch Green Onions, finely sliced
2 cups Carrots, grated
1 cup Daikon Radish, grated
1 Tbsp. Ginger, freshly grated
1 tsp. dried Chili Flakes
Starter Culture Options (pick one):
- 2 tablespoons Sea Salt (such as Celtic Sea Salt)
- 4 tablespoons Whey, plus one teaspoon Salt
- Salt brine as needed prepared with 3 tablespoons salt dissolved in 1 quart water
- Culture starter liquid prepared to package specifications
2 pint Mason Jars
Prepare the Mason jars by rinsing out well with boiling water, especially if they have been washed in the dishwasher as commercial dish washing soaps are very toxic and can interfere with the fermentation process.
Bring all your vegetables to room temperature before working with them, as they will release their juices more easily. When shredding the cabbage set aside a few of the outer leaves to use as seals later.
Dry salt and whey methods:
Place all the vegetables in a large bowl; if using the dry salt or salt and whey option, sprinkle with the salt and whey and mix together. Set aside for at least 15 minutes, the salt will begin to draw the juices from the vegetables. Pound with a meat hammer or mallet to further release the juices, this takes a little effort, perhaps 10 minutes or so of pounding!
Scoop the kimchi into the jars and press down firmly to allow the juices to rise to the top, there should be at least a 1 inch space between the top of the jar.
Liquid brine methods:
If using the liquid brine option, pack the vegetables into the jars and firmly press down with a small mallet, adding a little brine as you work. Top off with brine.
Air lock and Lid methods:
The important thing with culturing is that the vegetables are under the brine at all times, in an ‘aneorobic’ environment, meaning without air. There are several options for keeping the vegetables pressed down:
- Take a cabbage leaf, remove the hard spine, and fold over on top of the kimchi, pressing down and tucking it in around the sides. Add a weight to the top to keep the vegetables well under the brine. Options are boiled and cleaned tumbled non porous rocks, ceramic weights or the ‘Pickle Pebble’ weights.
- Lid options; a two part lid for a mason jar can be used, however this must be ‘burped’ every day to release the gasses or it might explode.
- Better options for lids are the ‘Pickel it’ silicone top for Mason jars, or the ‘Pickle Pipe’, both of these are self burping.
- Place the lid of choice on and allow to rest at room temperature, ideally 72F for three to four days, longer for colder climates, until the culture has reached the desired taste.
- Store in the fridge or a cool basement, the ideal temperature should be around 40F.
The culture will ‘improve’ with age, it can be kept up to around six months, the longer it is aged the more tangy it will be. For those unaccustomed to enjoying cultured vegetables start with just a heaped teaspoonful at a meal; these cultures are powerful and will detoxify the body, and aid digestion.