Traditionally kimchi is made with Napa cabbage, also known as Chinese cabbage, pe-tsai, celery cabbage, won bok, hakusai (Japanese), or patio. Napa cabbage belongs to the family Brassicaceae, commonly called the mustard or cabbage family, a large class of leafy/flower-head vegetables that also includes Brussel sprouts, kale, cabbage, and broccoli.
Napa cabbage is very rich in copper, iron, sodium, and manganese. An excellent source of Vitamin K, riboflavin (B-2) & B9, also called folate or folic acid. It also has smaller amounts of B-complex vitamins, such as pyridoxine (B-6), pantothenic acid (B-5), and niacin (B-3). A good source of Beta-carotene is converted to vitamin A in the body. Also a good source of fibers and other minerals such as potassium, magnesium, calcium, phosphorus, zinc, and selenium. Nonetheless, Napa cabbage has a low glycemic index (GI).
High levels of vitamin K play an essential role in cardiovascular health and bone health. Vitamin K helps to make various proteins that are needed for blood clotting, preventing excessive bleeding, and for the production of healthy bone tissues, preventing bone ailments, such as osteoporosis or osteopenia. Moreover, vitamin K is lessening the damage to neurons cell in our brain.
As a rich source of riboflavin, napa cabbage promotes the proper development of the skin, lining of the digestive tract, blood cells, and brain function. Riboflavin helps the body break down macronutrients to produce energy and absorb essential nutrients while maintaining healthy tissues.
The presence of folate (Folic acid) found in napa cabbage is essential for the formation of red and white blood cells in the bone marrow and DNA & RNA production. High folic acid helps prevent any neural tube birth defects in an unborn baby’s brain or spine. It also promotes immunity and transforms carbohydrates into energy.
Kimchi is a Lacto-fermented food, packed with tons of multiple types of Lactobacillus bacteria, digestive enzymes, probiotics, and postbiotics. It is super packed with flavor, umami, and quite a bit of spiciness.
The intelligence of the combination of vegetables and seasonings, along with the fermentation process benefits the human body, increasing healthy gut flora, aiding digestion, harmonizing the stomach, boosting immunity, and providing efficient energy.
Its affinities for the digestive system include increased healthy gut flora, digestibility, and balanced stomach acidity levels.
If you are new to fermentation, kimchi will push you to begin a love affair with fermented foods!
Kitchen Tools, Utensils & Equipment:
- Measuring Cups
- Measuring Spoons
- Kitchen Scale
- Kitchen Towels
- Ceramic crock or Wide Mouth Mason Jars with Mason Jar Airlocks + Fermentation Weights
- Mandoline Slicer or Sharp Knife
- Cutting Board
- Mixing Bowls
- Metal Tong
- Salting the cabbage
- 5.5 Lbs. (2.5 Kg) Chinese Cabbage
- 6 oz. (170g ~ 1/2 cup) Unrefined Sea Salt
- For the seaweed broth & the porridge
- 500ml (2 cups) Spring or Filtered Water
- 2 pieces of Seaweed (Kombu & Alaria)
- 2 Tbsps. Rice Flour
- 6 Carrots
- 8-10 Radishes (Any Species)
- 5-6 Scallions
- 3-4 Celery Sticks
- 1 Fresh Cayenne Pepper
- 15 Garlic Cloves
- 1 Thumb of Ginger Root
- 1 Cup Sweet Paprika
- 2 Tbsps. Smoked Paprika
- 2 Tbsps. Nama Shoyu Sauce (Raw / Unpasteurized Soy Sauce)
- Salting the cabbage
- Clean the cabbage thoroughly, removing any dirt or any damaged leaves.
- Slice each of the Nappa cabbage in half lengthwise, without shredding the densely packed leaves inside. Very simply, cut about 1/3 of the bottom half (from the root end), and then gently pull the halves apart by hand.
- Place into a large bowl and heavily season them with salt. Be generous with the salt.
- Let it sit for about two hours, making sure you are tossing them every 30 minutes.
- After your cabbage has been sitting for two hours, rinse each of the halves thoroughly with water to wash off the majority of the salt.
- Squeeze and toss your cabbage hard, bruising it, to remove the excess water, and let it drain well.
- Preparing the seaweed broth & the porridge
- For the seaweed broth, add two cups of water (@room temperature) and 2 pieces of seaweed (I use Kombu & Alaria) in a medium saucepan, and warm it up over medium heat.
- Before the water comes to a full rolling boil, turn the heat off and let the seaweed steep for an additional 10 minutes or so.
- Remove the seaweed from the water.
- To make the paste, turn the broth back on low heat, add the rice flour into the saucepan and start mixing using a whisk till the mixture has a thick consistency.
- Remove the saucepan from the heat and let it cool down completely.
- Cutting the vegetables
- While the cabbage is sitting and your porridge is done, start preparing the vegetables.
- Cut the carrots into julienne strips. To do that, peel the carrots, and cut them crosswise into 2-1/2- to 3-inch lengths. Then slice lengthwise with a mandoline slicer or a chef’s knife into uniform 1/16- to 1/8-inch-thick slabs, reserving any rounded side pieces for another use. Stack a few slabs at a time and cut lengthwise with the chef’s knife into 1/16- to 1/8-inch-thick strips (the same width as the slabs). Repeat the same process for the bigger radishes.
- Slice the smaller radishes.
- Line up the green onions and thinly slice them diagonally, placing your knife at an angle and using the slicing motion. Repeat the same process with the celery.
- Crush the garlic cloves and peel away the skin. Cut the fresh garlic into thin slices, then use a fan chop technique to mince.
- For the cayenne pepper, first cut off the green stalk, slice it in half, and cut away the seeds. Finely chop as you wish.
- Preparing the paste
- Finely grate the ginger root and add it to the thick porridge. Add in the sweet and the smoked paprika plus the nama shoyu. Mix well.
- Rubbing the paste & mixing
- Spread the paste on each of the cabbage leaves patiently, to thoroughly coat all the leaves.
- Once you finish, mix in all the sliced vegetables, making sure all the ingredients are evenly coated and mixed well.
- Transfer to a fermentation vessel & Ferment
- Transfer the mixture into a fermentation crock or vessel and pack as tight as possible, pressing it down to remove any air bubbles in there.
- Seal accordingly, depending on the fermentation vessel you are using, and let it ferment for 2-5 days.
- Once your kimchi has reached the desired flavor point, store it in the refrigerator and enjoy it!
- Add extra layers of flavor or substitute ingredients. Different vegetables instead of napa cabbage, such as bok choy, Brussel sprouts, or cauliflower. Different additions, such as other types of radishes, kale, mustard greens, and other spices & herbs, such as horseradish, mulberry tree roots, elm tree bark, and Siberian ginseng.
- Make it as spicy as you desire, adding more or less chilly powder or other spicy peppers.
- Fermentation time. Some people ferment it only for a day or two at room temperature and then store it in the refrigerator to ferment in a cold environment. Remember that at room temperature, fermentation runs faster and results in sourer flavor, whereas in the fridge it ferments slower and gives a less sour flavor. It is totally up to your preference! I prefer a longer initial fermentation before transferring it to the fridge. I like to see some active fermentation activity (bubbles) before I eat or store it because that provides full gut benefits.
- Fermented kimchi can last up to six months or even longer if kept refrigerated. It continues to ferment and the flavor turns sourer.
- Adjusting the recipe for different batches: To make larger or smaller batches of kimchi, adjust the recipe and select the appropriate fermentation vessel. Note that the smaller batches will ferment faster and the larger batches will need a longer time.
- Fermentation temperature: Keeping it between 65-75°F / 18-24°C is safer and more efficient for you. The higher the temperature the faster the fermentation occurs, the lower temperature slows the fermentation process down significantly. That said, you need more time in the winter and less time during the summer.