Here's an easy way to process your early spring and summer produce, tickle your tastebuds, and boost your immune system, all at the same time!
KIMCHI ("kim chee") is a traditional Korean recipe of fermented vegetables, eaten with meals, for aiding digestion and supporting overall body well-being.
While literally hundreds of recipes exist, using myriad vegetables, the basic recipe combines water-rich vegetables such as radish, daikon, pak choi, Napa or Chinese cabbage, and the like, with salt. The salt breaks down the plant cell structure, releasing the held water, to create a brine. The naturally-occurring bacteria on the veggies then start to multiply and ferment the veggies, in a facto-fermentation process. As they do this, the process releases valuable micro-nutrients, anti-oxidants, vitamins, and minerals into the brine. The recipe generally also includes a spice paste blended with the veggies, using ingredients that provide both flavor and medicinal health benefits, such as garlic, onions, ginger, turmeric, chilies and the like. Basically, the probiotic properties of kimchi helps feed and balance your gut biome, which helps balance and support all your other systems.
The recipe and instructions provided here are:
(1) adapted from a recipe by the wonderful folks at the Kalispell, MT Wellness Education Center, and
(2) designed as a jumping off point for you to play with and develop your own unique recipe that works with the ingredients in your garden. Enjoy!
Sample Ingredient List and quantities for 1 Quart Kimchi:
- 4 TBLS sea salt
- 1 pound pak choi/Napa cabbage/chinese cabbage
- 1 daikon radish or handful garden radish
- 1-2 carrots (optional)
- 1/2 bunch mustard greens
- 1-2 bunches scallions, whole leeks, shallots and/or onions
- 4-8 garlic cloves
- 3+ TBLS fresh grated ginger root
- 3+ TBLS fresh turmeric (optional)
- 1-4 fresh hot red chilies (optional)
STEP ONE. Choose whatever water-rich veggies you have in your garden. Wash and chop them coarsely. If using denser produce like carrots and beets, chop these into smaller pieces so they will more readily break down. We generally choose from daikon, radish, cucumber, scallions, pak choi, Napa or Chinese cabbage, and mustard greens.
Make a brine by adding 4 TBLS sea salt to each quart of non-chlorinated water. Stir to dissolve the salt. Soak the chopped veggies in the salt water for at least 3 hours or over night. Cover the bowl or jar where the veggies are soaking with a plate or other weight so the veggies stay submerged.
STEP TWO. Chop your garlic, onion source (scallion, leek or onion), grate your ginger and turmeric. If you don't have fresh sources for these, you can use dried powders. We love tumeric because of it's wonderful adaptogenic properties, and gorgeous color, and it's optional. So are the chili peppers. We keep them out, preferring a mild kimchi that gets its pepper kick from the radish and mustard greens. Other folks can't imagine kimchi without it. You can also use a preservative-free, pre-made hot sauce. We recommend El Topo Cantina's El Topo Habanero-Chipotle Hot Sauce out of Big Fork, MT. It is super-clean and de-lish.
Basically, know this: kimchi can absorb a LOT of spice. So experiment, and don't worry too much about quantities and varieties. It'll all settle out in the fermentation.
STEP THREE. Drain off the salt water from the veggies, and reserve it. When you take the veggies out of the salt water, they should be pleasantly salty, but not too salty. If you can't taste any salt, add a couple more teaspoons of salt (maybe 2-3) to the veggies and mix. If it is WAY too salty, rinse the veggies in fresh water.
Now blend the veggies and spice mix.
STEP FOUR. Next, pack the veg/spice mix into a clean quart glass jar (or use multiple smaller jars). With a wooden spoon, clean stick or pestle, mash the veggies to break down the cell structure and release their water. Keep going until the released water fills the jar. You can pack a LOT of veggies in this way. You want enough liquid to submerge the veggies. If you need to, use some of the reserved brine to fill the jar.
Cover your jar with with a plastic wrap and put on paper towel on a plate in a spot away from direct sunlight and drafts. Let sit 4-5 days, at least. Check it each day and, with clean implement or fingers, push the veggies back under the brine. As the fermentation progresses, carbon dioxide gets released, so expect some liquid to overflow and veggies to pop up to surface. If you are not going to be around, you can weigh the veggies down with a smaller jar or a zip-lock bag filled with some brine.
Taste your kimchi veggies after a few days (or every day!) When it is to your liking, after at least 4-5 days, move it to the refrigerator. It'll keep there for at least a month. For saltier, hotter kimchi, let it ferment longer before moving it to the fridge, which stops the fermentation process.