by Lindianne Sarno
Special to the Tribune
You are probably already familiar with kimchi, a delicious fermented condiment that goes especially well with fish and meat. As my family struggles with the effects of genetically modified food, we have discovered that kimchi has a wonderful effect on the human digestive tract. What wonderful effect? The words regular and easy come to mind.
As kimchi ferments, it becomes saturated with microorganisms beneficial to the human gut. Eating it adds trillions of beneficial organisms who are happy to colonize your gut and drive out the predatory bacteria that invade your digestive tracts when you eat GM foods.
Kimchi is easy to make. While traditionally made in the fall, at cabbage harvest time, it can be made any time of year.
The kimchi recipe below is for a quart. I like to make kimchi by the gallon, multiplying the amounts in this recipe by a factor of four. A five-gallon bucket of kimchi can keep a family healthy all winter.
Another variation on kimchi is to use sliced root vegetables instead of cabbage as the base. Kachemak Bay grows root vegetables very well. Radish, turnip, rutabaga, burdock, carrot, even beet, make a fine kimchi.
Slice the root vegetables thin, so the flavors will penetrate. Sandor Katz says, “You can make kimchi by fermenting any vegetables you like with the classic kimchi quartet of ginger, hot pepper, garlic, and onion (in any of its forms).”
(adapted freely from “Wild Fermentation” by Sandor Katz)
Timeframe to make this kimchi is one week or longer.
Ingredients for one quart:
1-pound Chinese cabbage (or other cabbage)
1 daikon radish or a few red radishes
1 to 2 carrots
1 to 2 onions and/or leeks, and/or a few scallions and/or shallots
3 to 4 cloves of garlic, or more
3 to 4 hot red chili peppers, depending on how hot peppery you like food, or any form of hot pepper, fresh, dried, or in a sauce (make sure sauce has no chemical preservatives)
3 tablespoons (or more) fresh grated ginger root
1. Mix a brine of about 4 cups water and 4 tablespoons sea salt. Stir well to thoroughly dissolve salt. The brine should taste good and salty.
2. Coarsely chop cabbage, slice the radish and carrots, and let the vegetables soak in the brine — covered by a plate or other weight to keep the vegetables submerged — until soft; a few hours or overnight. Add other vegetables to the brine, such as snow peas, seaweeds, Jerusalem artichoke, or anything you like.
3. Prepare spices: Grate ginger; chop garlic and onion, remove seeds from chiles and chop, crush, or throw them in whole. Kimchi can absorb a lot of spice. Experiment with quantities and don’t worry about them.
Mix spices into a paste. You can add fish sauce to the paste, but make sure it has no chemical preservatives, which function to inhibit microorganisms.
4. Drain brine off the vegetables, but keep the brine. Taste vegetables for saltiness. You want the vegetables to taste decidedly salty, but not unpleasantly so. If they are too salty, rinse them. If you cannot taste salt, sprinkle with a couple of teaspoons of salt and mix.
5. Mix vegetables with ginger, chile, onion and garlic paste. Mix everything together thoroughly and stuff into a clean, quart-size jar. Pack it tightly into the jar, pressing down until the brine rises. If necessary, add a little reserved vegetable-soaking brine to submerge the vegetables. Weight the vegetables down with a smaller jar, or with a zip-lock bag filled with some brine. Or, if you think you can remember to check the kimchi every day, just use your clean fingers to push the vegetables back under the brine. Cover the jar to keep out dust and flies.
6. Ferment in your kitchen or other warm place. Taste the kimchi every day. After about a week of fermentation — when the kimchi tastes ripe — move it to the refrigerator. An alternative and more traditional method would be to ferment kimchi more slowly and with more salt in a cool spot, such as a hole in the ground, a cellar or other cool, but not frozen place.
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