I enjoyed a fun day recently, making Kimchi and Sauerkraut with a delightful couple called Madi and Arthur who live and produce their fermented jars of wonder in South Wales.
Fermented foods can provide many health benefits such as anti-oxidant, anti-microbial, anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory, anti-diabetic and anti-atherosclerotic activity.*
These jars are so colourful and enticing aren't they? It was so easy and fun, I thought I'd write-up the variations I made and give you more ideas to make your own. It's quite and exciting form of cooking.
What is it? I was asking that not so long ago! Kimchi originates from Korea and is a collection of roughly chopped veg and spices, given the right conditions to ferment, in other words - to break down. Used as a compliment to cooking and as a side dish with cheeses, meats (and almost everything if you put your mind to it). Traditionally with chilli and ginger added, you can really create any flavour you like! Mine is the orange jar on the left and this is how I made it:
KIMCHI (750g jar) - WHAT YOU NEED:
1/2 Chinese leaf cabbage (these are sometimes hard to find in the big low-cost supermarkets but you can usually get them in Sainsbury's, Waitrose or in smaller grocers). Cut into biggish 1" chunks. Save one big leaf for the end (that's intriguing isn't it?)
1 large carrot, thinks sliced - I cut mine into thin discs
3 inches of white radish (also called mooli or daikon) - this isn't essential if you can't get it. You could substitute with fresh fennel which gives an additional aniseed flavour (sliced thinly). Or pak choi works well too.
4 spring onions, sliced
3 cloves garlic pressed
1/2 inch fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
1-2 tbsp gochugaru chilli flakes (this is a sweeter chilli flavour which I really like - and I'm quite feeble about chilli). If you love hot and spicy you can use dried chilli flakes or fresh chillies!
white miso paste
2% salt - so this means once you have trimmed off the veg you need to weigh it and then work out 2% salt = multiply by 0.02. The salt is crucial for the fermentation process.
Overall you're looking for is about 680g of veg matter (that sounds a bit wrong but you know what I mean) and for that you'll need 13 salt. This amount of veg is perfect for a 750g jar (with a tightly fitting seal lid)
WHAT YOU DO:
Chop the cabbage and add the salt straight away to start the breaking down of the vegetable. Give it a little massage (wear kitchen gloves if you think you might have any cuts on your fingers!).
Chop or slice all the remaining vegetables and add to the cabbage.
Add your desired amount of chill to the garlic, ginger and miso. I used a little jam jar to mix up the paste. You can also add another spices at this moment if you want to but I'd suggest for the first batch you keep it simple, to see what you like as a base Kimchi. I'm now adding a combination of turmeric, Aleppo pepper and paprika, so far!
Add the paste to the vegetables and get stuck in! Mix and massage to encourage the salt, to extract as much liquid from the veg as possible.
You've done enough when you can pick it up and squeeze and liquid pours out like you're a washer-woman.
Pack tightly into the jar and add all the liquid. Place cabbage leaf you set aside on top to keep all the veg down in the liquid. Make sure it's all covered because anything above the liquid could become mouldy. You need some space at the top to allow the fermentation gases to have space to move around.
Seal the jar and leave in a place out of direct sunlight and ideally between 18-22 degrees centigrade. And then wait.... My kimchi took 5 days to be ready (because my house isn't very warm). I'd wait at least 3 days and then taste it.
Once the flavour is right for you then you can keep it in the fridge (this virtually halts the fermentation) or just leave it in the warmer space until you like the taste. You can burp your jar every 1 or 2 days (any bubbling is normal!) Keep an eye on it and make sure that all the veg stays below the liquid. It keeps for ages.
SAUERKRAUT - again for a 750g jar
Kraut is traditionally less spicy but doesn't have to be! (and it doesn't originate in Germany despite the name). But it's softer than kimchi, predominantly cabbage and usually cut much more finely. My purple concoction was very tasty and below is what was piled into my jar. (You're looking for approx. 680g veg, as you did for the kimchi):
WHAT YOU NEED:
1/2 white cabbage (ordinary - doesn't have to be Chinese leaf this time)
1/2 red cabbage - both sliced or grated with the big slicer side
2% salt - so as with the kimchi if you have 680 you'll need 13.5g of salt
This is where the fun starts! The additional ingredients are really up to you. I chose:
2 teaspoons dill
1 grated fennel bulb
2 grated carrots
1 thinly sliced apple
1 thinly sliced pear
2 teaspoons black peppercorns
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 clove garlic finely chopped
1 teaspoon white wine or cider vinegar (optional, depending on how 'pickled' you want it to taste)
Other additional ingredients might be a leek, onion, 1/2 pepper, fresh ginger, fresh garlic, fresh or dried turmeric, mustard seeds, caraway seeds, cumin, miso, white wine, chilli flakes, beetroot (makes it a gorgeous red colour!) etc. etc....
WHAT YOU DO:
The method is the same as for the kimchi, except you don't have a paste to add and the vegetables must be shredded finely. Make sure you massage really well with the salt, to release the water trapped in the veg and allow the salt to start the process of breaking down before it's packed into the jar. Kraut fermentation to make the veg soft takes much longer than Kimchi so patience needs to kick in here because you'll need to leave it for about 21 days! Keep checking regularly that all the veg is submerged beneath the liquid and burp if it's getting gassy.
Label both your jars with the date and perhaps some of the key ingredients (particularly any herbs or spices), so that you can repeat (or vary) next time.
If you've decided this is all far too labour intensive then you can buy some excellent kimchi and kraut from these two sources:
Kefir Kraut, Pineapple, Ginger and Chilli 450g | Tibico (tibicohealth.com)
(for all Tibico products I have a discount code: LORI. This will give you 10% off all their health promoting products).
Live Fermented Foods | The Crafty Pickle Co. | Wales
Madi and Arthur's kraut and kimchi shop
Happy days! Here are more of my blogs on food and recipes
* Şanlier N, Gökcen BB, Sezgin AC. Health benefits of fermented foods. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2019;59(3):506-527. doi: 10.1080/10408398.2017.1383355. Epub 2017 Oct 20. PMID: 28945458.