I have a love for all things strong and spicy-I’ll ask for extra ginger going out to sushi, and sriracha chili sauce accompanies most of my savory meals. When I saw Sarah Britton’s (of My New Roots) recipe for kimchi I was inspired to take a shot at some fermentation experimentation. I’ve heard of all the benefits to one’s health of consuming more fermented foods but have often assumed the process would be too time consuming or finicky. Here though, is a one bowl, few step process to creating something awesome that seems to turn out beautifully no matter what you add to it.
Food is fuel, food is medicine. Therefore home creation of fermented foods is a great place to start in getting on the good bacteria train. Fermented foods include things such as kefir, pickles, sauerkraut, miso, kimchi and kombucha. DIY is also a great place to start because you have the benefit of keeping everything raw and therefore the delicate benefits of bacteria remain intact. Often times buying fermented products in store will result in pasteurization, food dyes and other preservatives being added therefore diminishing the benefits of fermentation ( was extremely disheartened when I came across the truth that is Yellow 5 and whatever other chemical bits in my beloved store bought pickles).
It seems as though most cultures reap the benefits of fermented foods and recognize the importance to overall health consuming fermented foods is, something that I don’t feel like I’ve been educated on the benefits of in this day in age where all of our food is pasteurized and heated within an inch of its life. The Standard American Diet lacks any inclusion of fermented food. Granted, the way our food system and agriculture is right now it makes sense that this would be the common procedure in order to prevent the incidence of contamination in our food products. I think that most individuals have been unintentionally unaware of the greatness lies within the microorganisms of bacteria. The concept of consuming bacteria can seem intimidating or unsettling. Little do we realize that many of our favorite foods, i.e. alcohol, yogurt, cheese, just to name a few, all rely on some process of bacteria formation to manifest the acidic bite and texture that we love. Aside from these foods, people have been consuming bacteria for thousands of years. In most post agriculturized peoples, fermented foods were a staple of the diet. Asia, the middle east, and Europe all boast fermented foods within their cultures that the standard American diet is severely lacking, and as I mentioned earlier, the foods that we do consume that would be considered fermented are destroyed by pasteurization.
Fermentation can render typically difficult to digest foods edible and even more so delectable. In grains for example, fermentation (like that which occurs in sourdough bread) can greatly reduce the gluten in bread that many are intolerant to. Fermentation also breaks down the lactose in dairy products which makes problematic sugars and carbohydrate content less of an issue. These benefits aside, consuming fermented foods add helpful probiotics to the gut, improving digestion and therefore the body’s absorption of the nutrients, vitamins, and minerals you are consuming from your daily diet. I was drawn to this recipe in particular due to its exclusion of any sugars or soy products. With my take on this recipe, I enjoyed the added sweetness and depth of flavor from an extra apple and a little more ginger.
(recipe adapted from mynewroots.org)
4 lbs napa cabbage (mine was just one particularly large one)
5 large carrots
7 green onions
1 daikon radish
2 apples of your choice
6 cloves garlic
1/3 cup chili flakes
2 inch wedge ginger root
¼ cup course salt
1/ wash and prep all your vegetables. For me this meant chopping the cabbage in half, then quarters, and finally into bite size pieces. I julienned my carrots, chopped the green onions, peeled and grated the daikon radish, and grated my apples with the skin on.
2/ Combine all your raw ingredients into the largest pot you can find (I was surprised by how much volume was created by all the ingredients put together and the amount of space I needed to mix and coat all the vegetables with the chili, ginger, garlic and salt).
3/ Blend or pulverize in any way you can your chili flake, ginger, and garlic. Coat all your ingredients with this paste, and then add the salt. Mix your vegetables together until the cabbage starts to lose some volume and release fluid.
4/ Let the mixture sit for a few hours out on the counter. I placed a lid over my pot because although the aroma of garlic and onion with ginger is a tantalizing one, it can be quite potent.
5/ Sterilize your jars and spoon kimchi mixture inside. Let the jars sit with lids on loosely for 2-4 days, allowing the flavor to develop as you like. The longer you leave the jars, the stronger the flavor. Make sure to release the carbon dioxide build up that the lactic acid fermentation from the cabbage creates or you will end up with bubbling and overflowing jars! I was foolish and tightened the jars as I left the house and I returned to try and open them and found myself wrangling with exploding kimchi liquid.
6/ When satisfied with the flavor, seal your jars. Your final product should last a few months.
This recipe was super easy and great for beginners getting into the DIY fermented foods world. Yay bacteria!
*My information regarding the heaps of benefits of fermented foods came from one of my go-to spots for highly intelligent and educational information on a clean, whole foods diet, Mark’s Daily Apple