I was reading an article recently that said all of us come to the realization at some point in our lives that adulthood isn’t a place we arrive at one day. Apparently most of us secretly feel like we’re not fully grown up yet (regardless of our age). However, the trick is that some of us simply mask this feeling better than others.
Phew! You mean it’s not just me?! Hallelujah!
I look around my life sometimes at friends and acquaintances who are getting married, having babies, and buying homes and think to myself… how the heck are we the same age??!
Don’t get me wrong here: I am a totally responsible person. I have a stable job, I pay my bills, I take good care of my body, and I have no credit card debt. And, the truth is, I’m pretty happy with my life overall. I just find it fascinating how different people’s lives can be regardless of age. (If you can relate to this, you might enjoy this Thought Catalog post like I did.)
So maybe there’s not one particular milestone that marks adulthood… but I suppose if there were, it might just be making kimchi. And, if you’re new to the kimchi and fermented food game, I promise it’s never too late to get started…
Some of my favorite posts and tutorials on this blog have involved fermented foods and my obsession with kimchi continues today. This recipe incorporates baby bok choy (one of my favorite spring veggies!) into the kimchi for a little extra crunch. Yum!
(Spoiler alert: I also have a really fun sauerkraut recipe coming your way shortly. I can’t wait to share it with you!)
So let’s start with some basics:
What exactly is kimchi?
Kimchi is a spicy and tangy fermented Korean food.
Why should I eat kimchi?
Kimchi is a fermented food and fermented foods are a really important part of our diet and have been used in many cultures as a way to preserve foods and make them more digestible.
We all have microflora (bacteria) in our intestine which is absolutely necessary to keep us healthy. In the body, there is “good” bacteria and “bad” bacteria and it’s important to keep the “good” bacteria thriving.
Fermented foods contain populations of the “good” bacteria that help to keep the microflora balanced. This is necessary because antibiotics are so prevalent in our world (especially in modern agriculture production) and they kill the bacteria in your body, regardless of whether it is “good” or “bad.”
Wait, but I don’t like spicy things. How can I get the benefits of fermented foods without eating something spicy like kimchi?
No problem. Try sauerkraut instead.
Whether you’ve been making fermented foods for awhile or are new to this territory, here are a couple of resources I think you might enjoy:
- How To Make Kimchi – this is particularly helpful if you’ve never done this before as you can see how to make it at home with step-by-step photos
- How To Make Sauerkraut – a similar step-by-step tutorial showing how to make sauerkraut
- Wild Fermentation – the gold standard when it comes to fermentation cookbooks
- Fresh and Fermented – my favorite cookbook of 2014 and a fabulous resource for fermented recipe variations
And now for the recipe…
- 4 cups filtered water
- 4 tablespoons of sea salt or kosher salt
- 1 medium head (about 2 pounds) green cabbage, cored and chopped
- 1 medium-large daikon radish, shredded
- 3 medium carrots, shredded
- 4 baby bok choy, chopped
- 1 medium yellow onion, diced
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 2-inch knob of ginger, minced
- 2 teaspoons gochugaru (Korean red chili pepper flakes)
- 3 green onions, chopped
- Mix a brine from the sea salt and water. Stir well to thoroughly dissolve salt.
- Add cabbage, daikon radish, carrots, and bok choy to a large glass jar or ceramic crock. Let vegetables soak in brine, covered by a plate or other weight to keep the vegetables submerged. Soak for at least 3 hours.
- Use a food processor to process onion, garlic, and ginger into a paste. Mix in the gochugaru and green onions.
- Drain brine off of vegetables, reserving brine. Taste vegetables for saltiness. You want them to taste decidedly salt, but not surprisingly so. If they are too salty, rinse them with water. If you cannot taste salt, sprinkle the vegetables with a couple of teaspoons of salt and mix.
- Mix the vegetables throughly with the spice paste. Pack them tightly into a clean jar or crock, pressing down until the brine rises. If necessary, add a little of the reserved vegetable-soaking brine to submerge the vegetables. Weigh the vegetables down with a plate or other weight to keep the vegetables submerged.
- Ferment in your kitchen or other warm place. Taste the kimchi every day and check it to make sure it is still submerged under the brine. Depending on your tastes and the temperature of where it is stored, the kimchi can be ready in as soon as a few days or a few weeks. The fermentation process generally takes longer in cool weather and shorter in warm weather. When your kimchi tastes ripe (sour and tangy), move it to the refrigerator. It can last for several months, if not longer, in the fridge as long as it still has some brine in the jar.
Be sure to ferment your kimchi in a glass jar or glazed ceramic crock. Since the brine and vegetables are heavily salted, it is important to avoid using metal or plastic.
Do NOT use iodized salt or any product with preservatives in your kimchi. Iodine is antimicrobial and will prevent the kimchi from fermenting.
You do NOT want air touching your vegetables. It is vital to keep everything submerged under the brine. As long as everything is submerged under liquid, mold will not develop.
After your vegetables have soaked in the brine, they will lose a lot of moisture and will decrease in volume. Depending on the size of your jar, some of the brine might flow over as the kimchi ferments so sometimes it's helpful to put a glass plate under the jar as it sits.
Gochugaru (Korean red chili pepper flakes) can be found at any Asian grocery store or ordered online through Amazon.
This recipe yields about 40 oz.