Time: 1 hour, plus 4-7 days fermentation
Yield: approximately 5 pounds
- 2 nappa cabbages, cut 1” thick
- 1# carrots, diced into quarter-sized rounds
- 2 bunches scallions (green onions), 3/4” dice
- 3/4 c. minced ginger root (about 0.25 pound)
- 1/3 c. sea salt (or anything non-iodized)
- 3 T. garlic powder (or 12 garlic cloves, minced)
- 2 T. cayenne pepper
- 1/2 c. already fermented kimchi (optional)
Prep all veggies as instructed. Mix all spices in a separate bowl for sprinkling as you go. Add 1/4 of the veggies, or a couple of handfuls at a time. Add 1/4 the spice mix and stir with your hand, mashing the cabbage slightly as you go. Repeat with another 1/4 veggies and spices, and stir/bruise with hand until everything is coated. Repeat until all the spices and veggies are added. If using, add the already-fermented kimchi, this will give a lactobacillus boost to the fermentation process.
Mash everything down real well, to allow the salt to have maximum contact with the vegetables. Fill a gallon resealable bag with salt water (1/4 tsp. salt to 1 C. water), press the extra air out of it, and lay it across the top, making sure it covers as much of the veggies as possible. Cover the top tautly with a few pieces of cheesecloth, a clean cotton dish towel, or a t-shirt, and secure with a large elastic band. This is to prevent dust and flies from getting in.
Let the mix sit in a fairly warm and dark area for 24 hours. You are looking for the salt to have pulled enough water out of the veggies to submerge everything in brine. This is IMPORTANT. Lactic fermentation is an anaerobic process (which means it happens away from air), and for it to occur properly without spoilage, all the vegetables need to be below the water level. If there isn’t sufficient liquid after 24 hours, add your own brine, using the ratio of 1/4tsp. salt to 1 C. water. Only enough to cover. Replace the bag and let sit for another 3 days.
If you’ve added the extra kimchi to boost the fermentation, it could be done after 4 days total. Check at 4 days regardless. It’s going to smell pretty funky, but that’s good! If it’s not quite fermented enough, let it sit another day or two, up to a week or so total.
- If you smoke indoors or burn incense, put the ferment in a room away from it, since your cloth won’t protect it from all dust. That being said, sometimes some mold spores will make their way in through the cloth and form a “bloom” on top. Don’t worry, this is completely harmless, and won’t affect the veggies as long as they’re under the brine. Just scoop it off with a spoon, and throw it away.
- This doesn’t have to be a sterile process, but it should be a very clean one. Make sure your fermentation crock is cleaned out with hot soap (NOT anti-bacterial), and rinsed very well. Any leftover soap residue will kill the fermentation process.
- Your fermentation crock should be glass or food-grade ceramic, NOT plastic. The acidity of the ferment will leech chemicals out of the plastic into your food… not good. Those iced tea pitchers are great, or if you can find a bunch of glass cookie jars like I did, those are great also.
- Temperature will affect your ferment highly. For the best results, make sure it’s not too warm and not too cold. About 65-75°F is perfect for the timing listed above. If it’s colder, it might take a few extra days for the process to complete. And if it’s warmer, it will obviously accelerate the fermentation.
- This is going to stink, so find somewhere away from populated areas of your home (unless nobody minds).
- This is a lactic ferment, not producing any alcohol. Among the 200 bacteria isolated from kimchi, the important microorganisms in the fermentation are known to be Lactobacillus plantarum, L. Brevis, Streptococcus faecalis, Leuconostoc mesenteroides, and Pediococcus pentosaceus. Most kinds of bacteria belonging to the genus Lactobacillus have been found to be present in kimchi. A good chunk of these are similar to the probiotic bacteria found in yogurt, so don’t freak out about the word “bacteria.” These are GREAT for your digestion and overall health!