Kimchi is made by lacto-fermentation, the same process that creates sauerkraut and traditional cucumber pickles. In the fermentation process the Lactobacillus bacteria convert sugars into lactic acid, which preserves the vegetables and gives them that wonderful, tangy flavor.
There is 1000 variations of Kimchi and each Korean cook has his/her own version and twist. There are people who include carrots and there are people who wrinkle their noses at the idea, some add fish sauce others don't. Making kimchi at home gives you the chance to add your own twist on it, while relying on your own taste buds and personal preference.
The below recipe gives you a starting point, but please adjust it to your liking, leave things out that you do not have access to or add things that you think could work well in the mix.
o Knife, grater or food processor to chop vegetables
o Pounding Tool
o Container: glass jars are great for small batches and ceramic crocks for larger batches of 5-10 litres
o Tight lid (needs burping) or airlocks (less work, popular choice, no oxygen gets in)
o Weights: any object that is clean and free of glues or other chemical coatings, glass jars that fit inside the fermentation vessel, plastic zip log bags filled with water, glass or ceramic fermentation weights, a clean plate with a rock on top (sterilized of course)
1-2 cabbages (napa or standard), depending on the size, you want about 2 kg, cored and chopped
1 bunch green onions, chopped
1 cup carrots, grated
½ cup daikon, grated
1 Tbsp grated ginger
3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
hot pepper flakes or chilli to taste (1-2 tsp.)
1-2 Tbsp sea salt
4 Tbsp whey (if unavailable use one additional Tbsp salt)
In a large bowl combine all the ingredients. I prefer to do that in a stainless steel saucepan so that I can pound them better later on. Let stand for 10 minutes to release juices. In the meantime sterilise jar/fermentation vessel with boiling water and dry in the oven at 100 °C for 20 minutes.
Pound vegetables with a wooden pounder for 10 minutes to release juices.
Divide into widemouthed jars or a crock. Make sure the juices are divided evenly amongst the jars if more than one is used. Press down firmly with the pounder using the end that fits until juices come up to the top. Make sure to leave 3-5 cm at the top to prevent spillage. If there is not enough natural vegetable juice top up jar with a brine (see below).
Add your weight/s and airlock and cover tightly.
Keep at room temperature for 3-7 days. Check and taste the ferment after a few days. Remove any scum and mold if present and wash the weights before replacing. Top up with brine if necessary. As time passes, the flavour will get stronger. In warm weather the ferment might be ready in just a few days, in cold weather it can take 4-6 weeks. Once it tastes to your liking, remove weight and airlock and fasten regular lid onto the jar and store in the fridge. Enjoy its health benefits daily.
A note on salt
o The amount of salt added to vegetables can vary depending on personal taste preference, the vegetables and other ingredients called for. Even the size of the vegetables plays a role here.
o Brine for topping up a jar: 20-30g sea salt per litre.
o For 2kg vegetables you need roughly 2-3 Tbsp (35-50g) sea salt.
o It may take some experimentation to achieve just the right flavor, and the amount of salt preferred may vary with different vegetables. A salty sauerkraut may be tasty, but the same amount of salt may not work in a batch of shredded carrots.
o In any recipe for fermented vegetables, it is acceptable to reduce or increase the amount of salt to fit your taste. However, there are limits on both ends. Too little salt may allow mold and other unwanted bacteria into the batch; it may not keep the vegetables crisp. Too much salt can slow the fermentation process down to the point of halting it altogether.
o Stay within the range of 17-25g salt per kg of vegetable, and with minor adjustments, you will produce delicious, nutritious fermented vegetables!