Kimchi is a staple Korean side dish of fermented veggies primarily cabbage, carrots, radishes and onions. Kimchi has become more trendy as the health benefits of fermented foods becomes more well-known. As the popularity has grown, kimchi is now readily available at most grocery stores including Target, Cub, Trader Joe's, Co-ops and Whole Foods (who probably has been carrying it for decades). Also, it may be considered an acquired taste as it is a little tangy and sour. I use kimchi every morning with my eggs - I cannot eat eggs by themselves (it's a texture thing), so I will throw a spoonful of kimchi on top. I also use kimchi on top of avocado toast, with a sweet potato or even on top of a salad or rice bowl.
Dee's DIY Kimchi:
- 1 1/2 head of cabbage
- 3 whole carrots
- 1/2 red onion
- High quality salt: I prefer Himalayan pink salt
- Seasonings: I prefer to add some heat either with ginger and/or jalapeno. I used 2 poblano peppers in my batch today, because, truth be told, I accidentally planted a poblano plant this year instead of bell pepper.
**This will make 1/2 gallon of kimchi.
If you are experienced with making kimchi, you can probably just make this in a big glass or ceramic crock, but I purchased this kit off Amazon and love it! It comes with a lid that has a gasket, a regular lid for storage, and a clay weight. There are many versions available, so find what works best for you!
1. Before you chop your cabbage, I highly recommend to peel off the outer layer and save it for later. Chop 1 head of cabbage into a LARGE bowl - I prefer to chop mine so they are in skinny strips, but anything will do.
2. Sprinkle with lots of Himalayan salt and massage the s*** out of the cabbage. Do not feel the need to measure the salt, you will continually add lots of salt throughout the process. The goal here is to break down the plant walls of the cabbage to release water, which will also release enzymes that are essential to the fermentation process.
3. Wash and peel carrots into the bowl. I just use a regular peeler and don't worry about what size the shavings are. Try to use up as much of the carrot as you can without shaving off any skin.
4. Sprinkle more salt on top and get back to massaging!
5. Chop and add the other 1/2 of the cabbage. Again, add salt and keep massaging. There is a pounder available to use to help with massaging and breakdown process. I have used a masher and that works fine, but I think using your hands work best. And yes, if you have any cuts on your hands, you will feel them!
6. Let the bowl of massaged cabbage and carrots sit for 5-10 minutes. By allowing the veggies to sit post-massage, they tend to relax a bit (who knew veggies were so much like humans?!) and release more water.
7. While the veggies are relaxing, feel free to cut up and add your flavors of choosing: onions, jalapenos, poblanos, ginger. Whatever you chose! You will see in the pictures below how I chop those veggies.
8. After allowing the veggies to sit for 5-10 minutes, here comes another round of salting and massaging. Remember, the goal of this process is to create liquid, which is called a brine, that is essential for the fermentation process.
9. Continue to cycle between massaging and letting the veggies relax until you have a puddle of brine at the bottom of the bowl. You don't need to add more salt unless you are struggling to break down the vegetables- you will know what I mean once you start making some headway on the massaging.
10. Transfer the vegetables into your fermentation vessel. Here is where your outer cabbage leaf comes into play - once the vegetables are packed into your vessel, use your hands and the cabbage leaf to press the vegetables down until the brine is covering the top of the vegetables. Cover the top layer of the vegetables with the leaf, place the clay weight on top and you are ready to cap it off. It is important for the brine to be covering the top layer as that will create less chance of mold and the kimchi from drying out. If you do not have enough brine to cover the kimchi then you should probably toss everything back into the bowl and get back to massaging as well as sweet talking your veggies.
11. After the clay weight is placed on top, screw on the lid with the gasket and place the gasket in its spot. As the kimchi processes, it will release a gas through the gasket - please note, you should not use a mason jar with a regular lid to ferment - the pressure will cause an explosion! The gasket may fill and overflow with liquid, feel free to dump it out and place it back on top. This is just a sign of more brine being created throughout the fermentation process. Allow your kimchi to sit in a safe spot for about 2 weeks. Yes, on the counter and yes, it may stink. Sometimes, I clear a cabinet to put it in to help hide the smell, but not always. The fermentation time is totally preference - feel free to taste it daily after 1 week to see if it is sour enough or not. I prefer about 2 to 2 1/2 week fermentation time. At that time, you can switch the lid and place it in the fridge.
|Here is the beginning of the process with just cabbage and carrots|
|Thinly sliced poblano peppers for a little kick|
|Post-massage and mid-rest. Do you see the brine started to form at the bottom of the bowl? That is a great sign!|
|Thinkly sliced onions added (as you could probably guess, onions break down faster than cabbage and carrots, so you can add them later)|
|Time to transfer! This doesn't look like a lot of brine, but it takes quite a bit of work to get this much and it is enough to cover the vegetables.|
|The finished product! Key things to look for here: the cabbage leaf on top under the clay weight. You can also see brine all the way through to the top and the gasket on the lid. This will be ready to eat in 2-2 1/2 weeks.|
I completed this process while I was making some other meal prep items so I could do other things in between massage cycles - and yes, I am the queen of multitasking, which is good and bad. This 1/2 gallon jar cost me about $7, took me about 30 minutes (hands on time), and will last me about 6 months. Not too bad!
If you are interested in learning more about fermenting, I highly suggest this book! It provides great background on why and how to ferment and also offers endless simple recipes to try fermenting.
Let me know if you give this a shot!