Kimchi is a fermented vegetable condiment from Korea. There are many different kimchi recipes but most contain a combination of cabbage, asian greens such as bok choy, celery, carrot, ginger, chilli, spring onions, seaweeds and celtic sea salt. It is made in much the same way as traditional sauerkraut by pounding the vegetables and adding salt and then allowing nature to work its magic. Fermentation is a wonderful alchemical process that is fun to watch and participate in and is a great activity for kids to get involved in. Anyone can make their own kimchi at home, and it ends up being much more economical than many commercial products. It is a little bit labour intensive at the beginning, but most of the hard work is done by the invisible microbes!
I like to take my kimchi to the next level by adding a range of wild greens and herbs into each batch. This adds both a diversity of flavour as well as a wider exposure to health promoting phytochemicals, antioxidants and probiotics. While this is not necessarily traditional kimchi, in the world of fermenting there really aren’t any rules! To learn more about the benefits of weeds and wild greens in your diet, check out my previous post and YouTube video here.
You can get traditional fermenting crocks and kits to make sauerkraut and kimchi, but you can just as easily use items that are found in most kitchens. A simple wooden mallet or pestle, a large saucepan or plastic container can be used to make it in. Once finished it can then be fermented in a large glass storage jar or plastic bucket with a lid (you can get these at hardware stores). You will need to have some glass jars for storing your finished fermented kimchi, which can be recycled jars or store bought mason jars.
NB: A tip to ensure both a good batch and quick start to your kimchi ferment, is to include some juice of your previous batch or one of a store bought one. I always keep the leftover juices when one of my batches is finished as this is a great additive to my next new batch of kimchi.
So here’s my recipe below – I hope you have fun making it!
Wild Greens Kimchi Recipe
- 1 medium white cabbage
- 1/4-1/2 red cabbage
- 2 large carrots
- 1 bok choy or wombok
- small bunch of kale
- 1 tablespoon each of grated fresh ginger and crushed garlic
- 1 small bunch of spring onions
- Fresh green or red chilli or dried chilli – amount depends on taste and how hot you like it – I use around 1 teaspoon
- Small bunch of fresh herbs – such as coriander, parsley, dill, mint
- Small bunch of wild weeds or greens from the garden (eg. nodding tops, wood sorrel, cobbler’s pegs, dandelion)
- 1-2 tablespoons of dulse flakes, kelp or wakame seaweed (optional)
- 1 tablespoon of quality salt – such as himalayan, celtic or murray river flakes
Chop and shred cabbage by hand or process in a food processor, then mix together with chopped kale and wombok and half the salt in a large saucepan or food grade plastic bucket. Pound cabbage with a meat mallet or wooden pounder or pestle of some kind until you get lots of juice. This process is important at bruising the cabbage and breaking down the fibrous components to enable quicker fermentation. It also gives you a bit of a workout, but feel free to take turns with other family members if you need a break!
Grate the carrot and roughly chop the spring onions and all the herbs and add to cabbage mixture. Stir together with the rest of the salt and seaweed and pound again gently until moist and mixed well. Add any juices from any other batch of kimchi if you have them.
Place the mixture into a large glass storage jar or plastic bucket with lid. Press down and pack the mixture in firmly until the juice rises to the top and covers the mixture, which it will do when it is pounded enough. Leave at least one inch or more of space at the top of the jar to allow for expansion and to prevent exposure of the vegetables to the air which can spoil the fermentation. Place a plate or saucer on top of the kimchi to create a weight to ensure the vegetable mixture always remains below the top of the juice.
Cover the kimchi and store the jar on the kitchen bench or in a cupboard for 3-5 days (depending on the ambient temperature of the kitchen). Check on it each day and see if you can see the telltale signs of fermentation: bubbles! It should have a nice spicy sulphurous smell, and tangy sour flavour. After a few days, when you are happy with the fermentation and flavour, transfer it into jars and store in the refrigerator. Be sure that the kimchi is pressed down and covered with a little juice in each jar to ensure that it will preserve well.
Kimchi may be consumed straight away, but is better after a couple of weeks or longer as the flavour tends to develop more over time. It will keep indefinitely in the fridge.
It is great served with eggs, meats, rice and as a general condiment. Enjoy!