Kim chi

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You have probably heard about the many nutritional benefits of fermented foods but have you also heard that the beneficial bacteria in fermented foods are powerful detoxifiers, capable of drawing out a wide range of toxins and heavy metals? That’s only true though, if the fermentation process is traditional. Commercially prepared fermented vegetables such as Kim chi, pickles and sauerkrauts, are generally pasteurized, which kills the lactic acid producing bacteria. Many contain refined sugar too. Commercial  varieties of Kim chi contain both white sugar and shrimp or fish sauce, which means they are neither sugar free nor vegan. In this recipe for Kim chi I replaced fish products with Dulse flakes, a popular red alga that is suitable for vegans, and I replaced the sugar with fresh fruit. 

According to Dr. Ben Kim, whose recipe for Kim chi inspired my own,  Kim chi, made of various vegetables, contains a high concentration of dietary fibers and an abundance of vitamins while being low in calories. It also contains a higher lactic acid content from the active and bacterial cultures of Lactobacilli than you would typically find in store-bought yoghurt. Other sources claim that just a tablespoon of fermented food at each meal can contain up to 100 times more probiotics than a supplement! And, I have read that if you eat a wide variety of fermented and cultured foods, you’ll get a bigger variety of beneficial bacteria from food than you could ever get from a supplement. So, save your money and make your own – it’s really easy to do!

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Ingredients

  • 1 large Nappa cabbage
  • ¼ cup salt
  • 1 medium daikon
  • 3-4 green onions
  • 1 tbsp. Dulse flakes
  • 2 tbsp. Korean ground red pepper flakes (ko choo kah rhoo)
  • ½ apple or pear, coarsely chopped
  • ½ onion, coarsely chopped
  • 1 tbsp fresh garlic
  • 1 tbsp. fresh ginger

Directions

Step 1 – Brining the Cabbage and Daikon

Cut the end off the cabbage and discard or save for another use. Quarter the cabbage lengthwise and chop each quarter into bite size chunks. Place some of the cabbage in a large bowl, then add some of the salt and continue alternating cabbage and salt.

Peel the daikon and dice into bite-size chunks and add to the bowl of cabbage with any remaining salt. Using your hands, start tossing the daikon and cabbage in the bowl, massaging gently to massage the salt into the vegetables. And don’t skimp on the salt, as I did the first time I made Kim chi.  According to my talented and knowledgeable friend, Jessica, over at [Pre]Serve Food Skills, the salt is necessary to draw moisture out of the vegetables which will ultimately help the cabbage retain its crispness once the Kim chi is made. Most of the salt will be rinsed off anyway. 

Allow the cabbage and daikon to rest for a couple of hours – at least one hour at room temperature.  If you have time, you can allow the vegetables to sit in the salt for up to 8 hours. You can also weigh the vegetables down with a plate to help them release their moisture more quickly.

I like to massage the vegetables a couple of times during the resting period, squeezing the leaves between my fingers. This step lets me monitor the amount of a brine at the bottom of the bowl, which is an indication of how much longer the vegetables need to sit with the salt before proceeding with the recipe.  

While the cabbage and daikon are resting, prepare the rest of the ingredients.

Step 2 – Making the Kim chi

Mix the Korean ground red pepper with 2 tablespoons of warm water to make a paste. Set aside. (It’s worth finding a Korean supermarket for this product as the only substitute would be crushed red pepper flakes, and they just aren’t the same). 

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You may add more or less of the ground red pepper based on your tolerance for heat. 

Cut green onions slice into 1-inch pieces.

Mince garlic and ginger.

Coarsely chop the apple and onion and place in a food processor or blender. Pulse until pureed – it doesn’t have to be completely smooth.

When you’re ready to make the Kim chi, strain the brine into a measuring cup and reserve. Rinse the cabbage and daikon thoroughly – two or three times with cold running water. You want to rinse off as much of the salt as you can. After that, squeeze the water out of the cabbage and place it in a clean bowl. Add the remaining ingredients.

Wearing gloves, mix everything together with your hands until the ingredients are well blended. It is important to wear gloves because the red chili flakes can burn your hands.

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Fill wide mouth jars about ¾ full with handfuls of the Kim chi, pressing down to submerge the vegetables in their own brine as you do. (If you find that the Kim chi didn’t yield enough of its own juices, add a bit of the reserved brine – just enough to ensure that the vegetables are submerged).

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Cover jars with a lid. Leave some space at the top because the fermentation process will cause the contents will expand and produce gas.

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The Kim chi can be eaten in 24 hours but you can also leave the jars at room temperature for as long as a week before refrigerating. It will continue to ferment while refrigerated, and will keep for at least a month. That’s all there is to it.

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(See my recipe for traditionally prepared sauerkraut here).

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