Making Kimchi

We love the taste of kimchi because it's so rich and the flavor is different from the other ferments we regularly eat. Plus, there's a lot of nutritious components to our kimchi recipe like radishes, ginger and kelp! The wonderful part is that you can change up the recipe however you'd like to make it hotter, more garlicky or more umami.

Kimchi is a traditional Korean food that goes WAY back. Thousands of years back. There are SO many variations, all unique. Most of the variations share the common elements of cabbage, ginger, and gochugaru pepper. Essentially, kimchi is like a spicy and more flavorful version of sauerkraut. A lot of traditional kimchi usually contains some sort of salted fish product, but we chose to leave that out. Instead we included kelp in our recipe to lend the briny flavor without the fishiness (also yay for keeping it vegan!) We hope you enjoy our original variation of kimchi! 

Homemade Kimchi

Ingredients

  • One or two heads of cabbage (Savoy cabbage is what we used for this recipe)
  • Cultured Guru Fermentation Salt
  • 6 green onions chopped
  • 1 cup of shredded carrots
  • 2 cups of shredded radishes
  • 1/4 cup of Gochugaru pepper
  • 2 Tablespoons of minced Ginger
  • 2 Tablespoons of black sesame seeds
  • 1 Tablespoons of kelp granules
  • Fermentation weights

Takes

Brine Method: The brine method we use to make kimchi is to weigh your vegetables and add 2.5% of that weight in salt. Read the science behind getting your brine started here.

We highly recommend just investing in a kitchen scale for about $10 from Target or Amazon. If you're going to master fermentation and select for the best bacteria in your ferments, you'll need one to weigh salt in grams. The scale we use in our home kitchen is this one.

Instructions

  1. Remove the outermost leaves from the cabbage and lightly rinse it off. Don't remove too many leaves, just about the four outermost leaves. Be sure to wash and save one large outer leaf for later. Next, chop the cabbage in to small pieces.
  2. Once the cabbage is all chopped up, place a large mixing bowl on your kitchen scale, set it to weigh in grams and tare off the weight of the bowl. Add the chopped cabbage, green onions, shredded carrots, shredded radishes, ginger, garlic, gochugaru, sesame seeds, and kelp granules to the bowl on the scale and record the weight. Note: We are about to do some math... but do not fear we have a step by step method to walk you through it. Doing this math will yield better kimchi results, because it will allow you to add the exact amount of salt that will make the good bacteria happiest
  3. Multiply the weight of your kimchi mixture in grams by 2.5% (example: if my cabbage and carrots weigh 2,270 grams.... 2,270 grams x 0.025 = 56.75 grams). This is the amount, in grams, of salt you will add to the chopped  produce mixture!
  4. Place a small separate bowl on your scale and tare it. weigh out your Fermentation Salt in grams. 
  5. Add the salt to your mixing bowl of kimchi and thoroughly mix in with your gloved hands. (hint: gochugaru will stain your hands orange) 
  6. You should be able to feel water being drawn out of the cabbage as you mix in the salt. This is the brine beginning to form! The longer you mix it in the bowl the better.  
  7. Once you have mixed in the salt throughly, it is time to add the mixture into the jar. We use a one gallon glass jar, which is great for larger fermentation batches. Before you add in vegetable pieces, you need to dump all the liquid from the bowl into the jar. Then tightly pack in the vegetable pieces, removing air pockets and leaving room for a fermentation weight. place the fermentation weight on top of the cabbage mixture. You want the liquid brine to fully submerge the vegetable matter and fermentation weight when it's packed in the jar. Put the lid on your jar, and place the jar at a moderate temperature away form direct sunlight.
  8.  
  9. If there is not enough brine after tampering everything, you may add a small amount of 2.5% salt water solution to cover the cabbage (it MUST be a 2.5% solution). A 2.5% salt water solution is made by weighing one quart of water in grams, then multiplying the weight of the water by 0.025. The number you get is the amount of salt in grams you add to the water. This water can be saved in the refrigerator for multiple uses. 
  10. During the first few days of fermentation carbon dioxide and  bubbles will be produced. You must make sure that your fermentation weight and cabbage pieces are staying submerged BELOW the brine. You may have to press everything down with a spoon/tamper a few times. 
  11. If you lose brine during the first few days (which is common in very full jars when bubbles are produced) see step #9 to make some salt solution to replace the lost brine.  
  12. The kimchi needs to ferment at least 3 1/2 weeks, so that all the stages of bacterial succession can occur. 3 1/2 weeks also allows enough time for the final stage Lactobacillus bacteria to produce enough lactic acid. Visit our Science of Fermentation blog to read more about the stages of fermentation!

We tracked our kimchi throughout the fermentation process. By checking the progress of microbial stages under the microscope we have provided you with this handy timeline! If you follow our recipe and directions, your timeline of kimchi fermentation should approximately match ours!

24 - 48 hours: The brine should form, and all contents in the jar should be submerged beneath the brine. At this time there are still Gram negative bacteria and possible pathogens present.

48 - 72 hours: After 48 hours you should start to see lots of bubbles being produced. This is when the ferment enters stage two of vegetable fermentation. Leuconostoc bacteria begin to thrive and Gram negative organisms die off.

3 - 10 days: The bubbles in the brine will decrease, as the ferment leaves stage two and enters stage three. The ferment will become cloudy and start to develop a pleasant sour smell. Lactobacillus species are most abundant during this time period.

10 - 21 days: Lactobacillus make up majority or all of the microbial population. They produce copious amounts of lactic acid, and make the ferment smell even more pleasantly sour. This is the time in which the vegetable mixture becomes Kimchi and is preserved. This is when you want to smell and taste test.

21 - 28 days: Wait for the kimchi to smell and taste as you like, and refrigerate when you find the smell and taste most pleasant! We like ours best when we refrigerate at about 25 days.

Peace, Love and Microbes,

Kaitlynn Fenley