DIARY OF A CHEF AT HOME
a collection of holistic nutrition tips & tricks, plus many of Food on the Table's favourite recipes
Have I told you how much I love fermented foods? And I'm not talking about the Bick's Pickles or Sauerkraut that you'd find on the shelf of a supermarket that's been sitting there for who knows how long. I'm talking about real, traditional, lacto-fermented food and beverages that are teaming with bacteria (the good kind), lactic acids, vitamins, minerals and all the other good stuff.
The kind that has to be kept in a refrigerator or cold cellar because they're actually alive...like really alive, like if you put your ear to the jar (or crock) you'll hear the sweet bacterial symphony making music to heal your body and soul. Ok...maybe I'm getting a bit poetic but I really do LOVE fermented food and veggies AND, they are truly a category of foods that are super healing and supportive to the body.
Speaking of which, lacto-fermented foods are a food group that seems to be lacking in our modern day culture. Our not-so-distant ancestors were right on the money, even if they didn't realize it. They had to preserve their food out of necessity, whether it was to preserve the summer's harvest to get through the winter, preserve the meat of an animal and not waste one single bit, or to make the water safer to drink by turning it into an ale. Whatever the reason, people have been fermenting food (and drink) since the beginning of time. It was likely one of the first “technologies” adopted by humans and we still do it pretty much the same way today. Every culture throughout the world has their own special fermented foods unique to them.
Over the last century with the introduction of the industrialized food system in North America and throughout the world, the art (and science) of food preservation has become a dying practice. Because of modern inventions like the refrigerator, freezer, packaged / processed foods and the fear of bacteria, people have moved away from natural food preservation. Thankfully, as our awareness towards the importance of the foods we eat expands, we’re starting to remember how our fore mothers/fathers ate. We are reviving and reclaiming this ancient practice. Hooray!
Kimchi originates from Korea. You'll often find it brewing and bubbling on the counters of many households. Over 3 quarters of the population prepares their own. It is Traditionally used an a condiment or an accompaniment to other dishes. There are hundreds of versions of Kimchi. Traditionally it is a combination of cabbage, ginger, garlic, scallions, radishes, chili peppers and fish sauce. This recipe is vegan so I've omitted the fish sauce, but feel free to add it if you like. Instead I replaced the fish sauce with Miso Paste, which offers that delicious and satisfying Umami flavour...you know what I'm talkin' bout ;)
Napa cabbage it traditionally used but I used Savoy which works great also!
You really don't need anything fancy to make kimchi, or any other fermented foods for that matter. Just ask our ancestors! After years of fermenting I finally bought myself a crock pot because hey, I like my toys too! I love it and it works great but simple glass jars work just as well. You'll need something to weigh the veggies down and keep them submerged under water while they're fermenting. For this you can simply use a smaller jar that fits inside or even a large cabbage leaf. Wrap it over the food and immerse it in the brine.
The traditional way to make the chili paste is with a mortar and pestol. This takes more time but I find there's something to be said about being tactile and hands-on with your food...it just tastes better. But seriously, a blender or food processor works great too. Surely our ancestors might be a bit jealous!
If you like spice, add lots of chili flakes! The cabbage and veggies can absorb a lot of flavour. I tend to go easier on the chili because of my 4 year old. But if you like it, go for it! And remember, you can (and likely will) make this again so there's plenty of room for experimentation.
LACTO-FERMENTED VEGAN KIMCHI
Knife, food processor or mandolin
Ceramic crock, large bowl, glass jar, or food grade plastic bucket
Plate that fits inside the crock, jar or bucket.
A weight. You can use a jar/bottle filled with water or a scrubbed and boiled stone to weigh down the food
Cheese cloth, towel or lid
1 large head savoy or napa cabbage (2-5 pounds), cored and thinly sliced or in chunks
1 bunch scallions, white and green separated, diced
1/2 pound daikon or red radish, thinly sliced
2 carrots, grated or thinly sliced
1/2 cup thinly sliced seaweed (I used kombu)
5 cups filtered water
3 tablespoons unrefined sea salt
3 tablespoons grated ginger
1/2 small onion, chopped
1-2 cloves garlic (or more)
1 small apple, cored and chopped
2-3 tablespoons chili flakes
2 tablespoons miso paste (optional)
*PS....if the thought of fermenting food grosses you out or scares you, one word of advice is to trust your senses! If something goes wrong, YOU WILL KNOW. If the smell makes you want to vomit, or the texture seems off, then it likely is. Any strange textures like sliminess, off colours or horrid smells means you need to throw it out and start again! Kimchi does have a pungent, smelly sock kind of smell, but the edible kind. Trust your senses, trust your gut, trust what the jar is telling you!*
One of my great joys in life is cooking! As a Registered Holistic Nutritionist (RHN) & food lover I continue to explore the balance between healthy, traditional food preparation and tasty dishes.
Check out my new COOKBOOK! Planting Seeds of Nourishment with over 40 whole-foods based recipes and tons of nutrition info!