Let’s talk about gut health for a moment! Gut health is intrinsically interwoven with our entire wellbeing and is a factor for a great number of issues such as immune issues, heart health, a good night’s rest and also mental health.
Speaking candidly, anyone who has experienced bowel irregularity for even a short period of time can attest to the fact that it can drag your disposition down faster than you can say cement shoes.
So what can we do to make our gut happy? Staying hydrated (that boring old adage about 8 glasses of water a day that can be so hard to stick to!) and eating high fiber foods like legumes and and berries is definitely beneficial. And then there are the true powerhouses of gut health: fermented foods! Kimchi, kefir, kombucha and sauerkraut are all great sources of probiotics that can really positively impact your gut health. Which brings me to this absolutely delicious Homemade Kimchi.
I felt like a healthy project recently and had a head of Napa cabbage in my fridge, so a quick online search brought me to @feastingathome’s website with a recipe for authentic Korean kimchi. I’ve always been a kimchi fan (the tang! the crunch! the flavor!), but making it myself pushed me over the edge to Stan status.
While it takes a few steps to make the Kimchi, the hands on time is very doable, about 30 minutes, and the rest is letting nature take its course. This is a super rewarding endeavour that makes about 8 cups of kimchi, which will last you a good long while and keeps in your fridge for up to six months. So worth your time.
Let's celebrate gut health together! 🥳
Makes about 8 cups
2 pounds Napa cabbage, cored and cut into 1-inch pieces (one large cabbage)
¼ cup sea salt
2 cups daikon radish, cut into matchstick strips (optional, or use carrots, g&b note: I shredded the carrots I used in a food processor)
1 bunch scallions, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, sliced (2-3 disks, peels ok)
6 cloves garlic, whole
1 shallot, quartered (optional)
2–6 tablespoons Korean-style red pepper flakes (Gochugaro, or substitute Gochujang paste, which is what I did)
2 tablespoons fish sauce (or use vegan fish sauce, miso paste or soy sauce), more to taste
2 teaspoons sugar (or an alternative like honey or brown rice syrup)
SALT THE CABBAGE (6-8 hours): Reserve 1-2 outer leaves of the Napa cabbage and refrigerate for later use (wrap in plastic). Cut the remaining cabbage and place it in a large bowl with the salt and toss. Add enough cool water to cover the cabbage and stir until salt is dissolved. Keep the cabbage submerged with a plate over the bowl and let stand at room temperature 6-8 hours (giving a stir midway through if possible) or overnight.
Drain the cabbage, saving the brine. Rinse the cabbage (not excessively, just a little quick rinse), drain, squeeze out any excess water, or blot with paper towels, and place it back in the bowl, adding the daikon radish and scallions.
Make the PASTE: Place the ginger, garlic, shallot, red pepper flakes, fish sauce (or alternatives) and sugar in your food processor. Add optional rice powder (see notes!) Process until well combined, pulsing, until it becomes a thick paste.
MASSAGE: Scoop the paste over the cabbage and using tongs or gloves, mix and massage the vegetables and the red pepper mixture together really well, until well coated.
PACK the cabbage into a large, two-quart jar (or two, quart jars) or a crock, leaving 1-2 inches room at the top for juices to release. Add a little of the reserved brine to just cover the vegetables, pressing them down a bit (so they are submerged). Place the whole cabbage leaf over top, pressing down- this should help keep the kimchi submerged under the brine. You can also use a fermentation weight placed over top of the whole leaf to keep it submerged, or a small zip lock filled with water.
FERMENT (3-4 days) Cover loosely with a lid (allowing air to escape) and place the jar in a baking dish (or big bowl) to collect any juices that may escape. (The idea though, is to keep as much of the flavorful juice in the jar, so don’t overfill.) Leave this somewhere dark and cool (55F-65F is ideal) for 3 days. A basement or lower cooler cabinet in the pantry or kitchen away from appliances works best.
EVENING OF DAY 3: Check for fermentation action or bubbles. Tap the jar and see if tiny bubbles rise to the top. Check for overflow (which also indicates fermentation). If you see bubbles, it is ready to store in the refrigerator where it will continue to ferment and develop more flavor slowly. For a softer tangier kimchi, you can continue to ferment for 3 more days or longer. If no action, give it another day or two. If you don’t see bubbles when tapping the jar, it just may need a couple more days- especially in cooler climates. Be patient.
REFRIGERATE: After you see bubbles (usually 3-5 days) the kimchi is ready, but it won’t achieve its full flavor and complexity until about 2 weeks (in the fridge), slowly fermenting. The longer you ferment, the more complex and tangy the taste. If you like a fizzy brine, tighten the lid, burping every week or so. If you don’t want to think about it, give the lid one loose twist, so it’s on there, but gases can escape.
Maintenance: This will keep for months on end in the fridge (as long as it is submerged in the brine) and will continue to ferment very slowly, getting more and more flavorful. Feel free to remove the cabbage leaf and just press kimchi down under the brine, after each use.
Check out the link below for tons of helpful notes, troubleshooting tips and a video to the recipe!
Recipe by Sylvia Fountaine via www.feastingathome.com