Fermented foods are the best (and least expensive) way to add probiotics to the diet. Fermented foods contain so many more strains of beneficial bacteria than you get in a supplement. This simple kimchi recipe is perfect for the beginner fermenter just starting out.
What is Kimchi?
Kimchi is a fermented vegetable dish that usually includes:
- napa cabbage
- Korean radish
- red chili paste
- red pepper
Kimchi can be made with a number of different vegetables and spices though. Kimchi is the oldest traditional food in Korea, dating to around 37 BC – 7 AD. In fact, it’s the countries national food!
What are The Health Benefits of Eating Kimchi?
Kimchi is gaining popularity among the healthy living community lately. And it makes sense — kimchi has many health benefits including the following:
- Live probiotics that help colonize the gut. Gut health is tied to mental health, immune function, and many other important functions in the body.
- Probiotic rich foods help with food cravings and are easier to digest than fresh vegetables.
- Antioxidants that help rid the body of toxins and support organ function.
Additionally, fermented foods typically have different vitamins than fresh vegetables. This is due to the fermentation process. Including fermented versions of certain vegetables in the diet helps you get a variety of nutrients.
Is Kimchi Good or Bad for You?
You may be confused if you’ve heard the most recent news. Studies have shown that kimchi consumption may increase the risk of stomach cancer. While this is concerning, we have to put it in perspective:
- Those that have an increased risk for cancer are eating mostly “pickled vegetables” and very few fresh vegetables.
- Lumping all kimchi into one group doesn’t give the whole picture. For example, cabbage kimchi actually reduces the risk of stomach cancer.
- There’s lots of other evidence showing kimchi and other fermented vegetables can reduce cancer risk.
Bottom line: Eating fermented vegetables (like kimchi) in moderation is fine and has many benefits. Fermented foods shouldn’t replace fresh vegetables. They should be treated like condiments and eaten alongside fresh vegetables.
How Do You Make Good Kimchi?
Though this simple kimchi recipe is easy to make, there is some science to it. Here are some tips for making amazing kimchi:
- Use what’s fresh and in-season – Like with any recipe, the fresher the food is, the better.
- Ferment in a room that is as close to 68 degrees as possible. Anything between 64 and 78 degrees should be fine though.
- Check the kimchi often – The temperature of the room affects how long it takes to ferment. To get the perfect taste, wait one week and then test every day or every other day.
- Be sure to keep the cabbage fully submerged in the brine to avoid mold growth.
If you follow these tips, you’ll have a tasty and healthy side dish to share with family and friends!
Simple Kimchi Recipe
- Rinse cabbage and shake off excess water.
- Remove one outer leaf of the cabbage and set aside.
- Remove the core the cabbage and discard.
- Cut the cabbage into approximately 2-inch square pieces.
- Place cabbage pieces in a large bowl, sprinkle with the 2 tablespoons of salt, and toss.
- Set aside and allow to rest 30 minutes.
- While the cabbage is resting, chop the green onions into ½ inch pieces, peel and grate the carrots and daikon radish, and peel and grate the garlic and ginger.
- After the 30 minutes are up, use a wooden pounder or clean hands to gently mash the cabbage leaves to further release juices.
- Add the remaining vegetables, the fish sauce, and the red pepper flakes to the bowl of cabbage and mix.
- Pack the kimchi mixture tightly into a sterilized quart-sized wide-mouth jar, filling to 1 inch below the top.
- Fold the reserved outer leaf of the cabbage to fit on top of the kimchi mixture and press it down so that the brine covers the leaf.
- Top with a glass fermenting weight to keep the mixture below the brine.
- If you need more liquid to cover the cabbage, simply add a little filtered water to the top.
- Seal the jar, place it out of direct light, and allow it to ferment for 3 to 21 days, occasionally opening the lid to release pressure. Add or remove brine as needed throughout fermentation if the level is not maintained at 1-inch below the lip of the jar. You should see occasional tiny bubbles rising along the inner sides of the jar as the veggies begin to ferment.
- Refrigerate the finished kimchi after fermenting.
- Serve with beef, chicken, pork, seafood or alongside rice or other vegetables.
Have you ever fermented food? What’s your favorite fermentation recipe?