Sep 15, 2010

A Gallon of Kimchi

Fermentation preserves food using lactic acid producing bacteria (good bugs) and generally a good dose of salt. The good bacteria "predigests" food, breaking it into simpler components making the nutrients more easily assimilated. The salt inhibits the putrifying bacteria, allowing the good bacteria time to produce the lactic-acid needed for preservation. Not only does this traditional preservation process maintain the vitamins and enzymes of the raw food, additional nutrients are generated by the good bacteria. Lacto-fermented foods promote healthy gut flora (the good bugs in your gut).
It is best to eat lacto-fermented foods as a condiment (they are not intended as a main course) and to rotate between various types of fermented vegetables.

Eating a small amount of fermented veggies alongside your main course is a tasty way to improve both digestion and nutrition. Since they are so salty, I often reach for a spoonful of fermented veggies to add flavor instead of the salt shaker. It is best to add lacto-fermented vegetables to warm foods like soup after they have cooled enough to eat. This will prevent "cooking" your ferment.

Kimchi is a spicy fermented Korean sauerkraut that my husband and I both enjoy. There is an interesting article about kimchi here.  Health magazine named kimchi as one of the World's Healthiest Foods.

There are numerous recipes for kimchi. Below is the recipe I used recently to make a one gallon jar. You would need to quarter this for a 1 quart jar (4 quarts = 1 gallon).


2 medium heads of cabbage quartered, cored and shredded
2 yellow onions chopped
6 large carrots shredded (Shred in the food processor. I do not peel my organic carrots.)
1 bunch of red radishes (Cut off the stems and shred in food processor)
3 Tbsps grated ginger root (I peel the root and grate with a fine cheese grater. I don't pack it into the Tbsp. because I don't like too much ginger.)
1 head of garlic peeled and crushed
2 tsp. dried chilli flakes
4 Tbsp. Real Salt
1 C whey

Here are some pictures of how to prepare the ingredients:

You might notice the green shoots on the ginger above. This was fresh ginger that Julie gave me from a farmer at the River Market. It didn't require any peeling.

I drained my whey from some Stonyfield plain yogurt with the cream on top (whole fat).

You do this by putting the yogurt in a finely woven cotton cloth and allowing it to drain into a jar until it stops dripping. This takes awhile. The cloth probably should be tied together at the top, attached to a wooden dowel (or a spoon handle) and hung over the jar to prevent flies or anything nasty from contaminating it. (Do as I say, not as I do.) The leftover "yogurt cheese" in the cloth can be flavored with fruit or herbs and used as a spread. (I just threw it in a smoothie.)

I have 2 matching slowcooker crocks (because my heating base died and Hamilton Beach sent a replacement complete with new bowls). You will want the largest bowl possible when you start pounding the kraut. It tends to fly out. (Especially if teenagers are doing the pounding, which is the absolute best way to get it done.)

I mixed all the vegetables in one bowl, except for the cabbage, then took half of the veggies out and put them in the second bowl.

Then I cut up the cabbage and added half of it to each bowl. Add the cabbage in layers and sprinkle some of the salt between each layer (half for each bowl). Besides helping protect your ferment from bad bacteria the salt will also help draw the water out of the cabbage.

Pour half of the whey over each bowl.

I use a kraut pounder to pound the cabbage. I pound it for a bit then let it rest for awhile so the salt can do its work. Then pound it some more. When you are done the vegetable mixture should be juicey. (Actually, I only pound the kraut if there is no teenager nearby to draft for the job.)

Pack the kimchi into the gallon jar using the pounder to push it down tightly. The juice should rise to the top when you push down the kimchi. It will get juicier as it ferments.

Leave about 2 inches of space at the top of a one gallon jar for expansion (less for a quart). Then put a snug lid on the top.

Occaionally I open the jar again during the fermentation time and press the veggies down to keep them wet. Exposure to the air can make them mold. If you get any scum-like mold on top, skim it off the best you can. Your ferment is still good.

I have had mold start a few times on ferments, but I have never had one "go bad." I'm told that a bad ferment will smell so foul that you will not be tempted to eat it.

The jar I'm using in the picture above has an airlock in the lid. The airlock allow the bubbles created by the ferment to escape without letting air back into the jar. This helps to prevent mold.

After 3 days, refrigerate the kimchi. You can eat it right away, but I think you will like it better if you give it a week or two in the refrigerator to develop its flavor. It should keep for several months in the refrigerator. 

Next time I make Kimchi I'm going to try adding some fermented fish sauce or sea vegetables like kelp, since I have been reading that it is good to have additional iodine when eating goitrogens like cabbage.


This is also posted at Real Food Wednesday and Works for Me Wednesday.

share facebook tweet


  1. This looks great. I don't make these huge batches because for some reason, even refrigerated, after a few months, I'll get mold or it'll turn a funky color or something else will happen to cause it to be inedible.

  2. Hello!

    I'm from Little Rock, and I currently live in South Korea (Gwangju City). I make a lot of kimchi, and feel very passionate as to how it is represented. What you are making is more of a fermented cole-slaw than anything that would taste remotely like true kimchi. You should use a NAPA cabbage instead of round cabbage.

    I recommend that anyone who is interested in making kimchi follow Maangchi's recipe here:

    Also, if you have a sensitive tongue, or don't like fishy flavors (like me), replace the fish with vinegar/lemon juice and soy sauce. Most foreigners don't like using fish. Also, try her Kaktugi recipe which uses radish instead of cabbage.

    Kimchi is too holy to misrepresent. Seriously.

    There are Korean/Asian food stores in Little Rock where you can find gochu-garo (red pepper powder). Don't use mexican chili powder because its not the same (really).


  3. Thank you SO much for this recipe. I was able to go to a market today that carries organic veggies and so I bought the ingredients and will make it today.



Related Posts with Thumbnails