Fermentation is a hundreds of years old process of keeping highly perishable foods edible for a long time. In Korea people have used this technique for turning cabbage into so called Kimchi for centuries. Check out this article to find out more about the healthy fermented product and how to make it yourself!
Kraut is normally something you might connect to German Cuisine. But there is also a healthy Korean, Kimchi, equivalent which – despite offering all the health benefits of fermented foods – can spice up every savory meal.
But what’s the story behind this healthy fermented food?
In most parts of the world you cannot harvest fresh vegetables all year long. Ancient Koreans tried to find a way to keep the harvest of the warmer month even for the cold winters and found out that adding salt might be the solution. Kimchi was invented! Nowadays you find the healthy food it anywhere on the Korean Peninsula and in many different variations that can be linked to a specific place or even a family.
Kimchi contains the five flavours – sour, bitter, salty, sweet and spicy – and therefore represents the balance of the five elements theory of the philosophy of Yin and Yang. This ancient theory says that the five different elements wood, fire, earth, metal and water are linked to different aspects of the natural world and the body. Therefore to contain your health ancient Chinese medical philosophers stated that a balance of those elements in every thinkable way will lead to a healthy body and mind.
Scientific proved health benefits of fermented foods like Kimchi
Besides that Ancient believe in Kimchi there is also scientific prove of fermented foods being super healthy. Most of them are linked to the process of fermentation, during which yeasts and bacteria convert starches or sugars into lactic acids and which adds the typical sourness to Kimchi.
The fermentation process creates a friendly environment for other friendly bacteria to grow, like probiotics – which are essential to gut health and have until now vanished from the diet of western people. Probiotics are known to prevent different conditions like certain types of cancer, constipation and gastrointestinal health, skin and mental health.
Additionally one specific strain of lactobacillus found in Kimchi is said to boost your immune system. Furthermore Kimchi helps reduce inflammation within the body and may support heart health. Fermented foods like Kimchi are also packed with vital and healthy nutrients of veggies that are used, such as Vitamin A, B6, C and K, Folate, and Fiber, only to name a few.
This article offers a detailed explanation of all the health benefits of the superhero Kimchi.
Kimchi offers all of this while being super low in calories – but honestly, aren’t we over Calories Counting?
In the end despite being super healthy, Kimchi can pimp probably every savoury meal you can think of and adds that specific something to it.
So let’s get to the making:
How to ferment Kimchi
Traditionally even ‘the most simple’ Kimchi uses more than 15 ingredients, but we will stick to only 7, of which some are considered part of probably every kitchen:
– 1 Chinese cabbage
– 2 carrots
– green onions (additionally)
– 1 thumb sized piece of ginger
– 3 fresh cloves of garlic
– 1-3 red chillies
– salt (without any added substances like iodine, pure rock salt works best)
Consider: as the fermentation needs bacteria to get started don’t wash the veggies to much. If you get them from an organic shop it is even best to not wash them at all.
To prepare it you will need:
– 1 big preserving jar. Use a jar that prevents any air of going out and in. Also you might prefer glas jars as you will never get the taste of Kimchi off any plasticware.
– 1 cutting knife
– a biiiig bowl to mix it all
– food processor or hand blender
To begin cut the cabbage and carrots in bite-sized pieces. If you want you can also cut them very fine but if you like a bit of crunch to overdo it. Cut the green onions in fine stripes and add all of it to the bowl. Now use the scales to find out how much your veggies weigh because after this you need to add 2% of the weigh of the veggies of salt to it.
E.g. if your veggies in total weigh 800 g you calculate 800×0,02 which is 16 and you would add 16 grams of salt to your veggies. This is the most important rule of fermentation which can be applied every time you want to ferment something!
Mix it very well for a few minutes so that every bit is covered in salt and the cabbage starts to lose water – you will need the fluid for the fermentation. Leave it for at least 20 min.
During that time you can prepare the spice paste: Peel the ginger and roughly cut the chillies and the garlic, put it in your food processor or any container to blend it, together with soy sauce. Use at least as much as you need to get a smooth paste, but honestly you can’t really overdo it and if you want add a bit of fish sauce. Add the paste to the moist veggie mix and stir it under.
Traditionally now the ingredients are placed into an earthenware pot, weighed with heavy stones to ensure every bit is covered with the kimchi fluid and left to ferment under the ground so that during winter it will not freeze and during summer it will not get too warm. But as most of us have a functioning fridge and no specific Kimchi container just put it in your jar and press the veggies down very well so that all of it is covered with the fluid.
Now you can close it firmly and just leave it be for a few days – during this time store it by roomtemperature and out of direct sunlight. Remember to pop it like once or twice a day, if not your jar might break because of the extending fermentation gases. After about 3 days you can taste your Kimchi and see if you like the taste. You can also leave it a bit longer to ferment, this really is a question of personal preferences.
Once you like the state of your Kimchi, store it in your fridge and enjoy with whatever dish you can think of – or eat it purely!
Just remember if you are not used to fermendet foods don’t overdo it in the beginning – the probiotics could cause bloatings to unexperienced guts!
If this article made you courious of preserving foods and you want to find out, check out our article on Pickles and Pickle Making.