This year, I am exploring my love (and ability) for all things fermented. So far, Monkey Man and I have made a few different varieties of kombucha, and I have a few different varieties of gluten-free levains going in the fridge. Fermented beverage? Check. Fermented baked good? Check. I decided it was time to take the plunge and try making my own kimchi. Fermented condiment? Check 🙂
Traditional kimchi is a fantastic fermented cabbage condiment that originates from Korea (third century C.E.). Originally, it was made mostly from fermented radishes but over the years, as trade increased and new foods emerged, it incorporated modern day kimchi’s cabbage and red pepper. Supposedly there are over 200 varieties of kimchi – which either means this is version 201 or I’m repeating someone else’s kimchi recipe unknowingly.
You might ask, why carrot tops? Well, Monkey Man and I have been pretty keen on grilling carrots as one of our veggies with dinner. But I’ve always felt guilty about throwing away the carrot tops that inevitably come with the carrots. Of course I could compost them – if I had a compost (don’t judge me). Well, why not turn them into kimchi? And so this post was born 😉 In fact, I don’t use the typical kimchi veggies – napa cabbage and daikon. Instead, I used carrot tops, brussel sprouts, and bok choy. Hey, why not?
I’m pleased to say that it turned out well, and I’ve already enjoyed one of the three jars that this recipe made. Note, this recipe actually takes one week to make (it has to ferment of course!), and there’s an overnight brine – so plan accordingly.
For this recipe, you’ll need:
2 c. carrot tops, rinsed and roughly chopped
1 head of bok choy, matchstick cut bottoms and roughly chopped green tops
1 lb. brussel sprouts, roughly chopped
2 scallions, trimmed and cut into 1/2″ – 1″ pieces
1/4 c. sea salt
1 T. minced garlic
1 t. grated ginger
1 t. honey
2-3 T. fish sauce
2 T. red pepper flakes
1 T. hot paprika
1 T. chili powder
This recipe is also a great way to recycle washed glass pasta sauce jars or large jam jars. I used one canning jar and two pasta sauce jars. You can also use plastic jars, the material shouldn’t affect the fermentation process itself.
Prepare your vegetables.
Rinse and chop everything – carrot tops, bok choy, brussel sprouts and scallions.
It ends up being about 2 cups of chopped carrot tops and 2 cups of chopped bok choy.
I mandolined the brussel sprouts and then placed them in a large casserole dish with the other chopped veggies (bok choy and carrot tops). You could place them in a large bowl, either works. It needs to be large enough that you can cover the veggies in salt water to brine overnight without splashing all over the place 😉 Add cold water until the veggies are covered/submerged, then add the 1/4 c. salt and mix well.
Now, set aside the veggies in the fridge overnight.
The next day, drain the brine and allow the veggies to drain any excess water in a colander.
Go ahead and mix your kimchi paste by combining the garlic, ginger, honey, fish sauce, red pepper flakes, paprika, and chili powder, and mixing until well combined.
Here comes the messy part. I might recommend using gloves if you have them, otherwise your hands may stain a bit. Of course I like being messy, so I was all in with ungloved hands (yes, I liked making mud pies as a child).
In a large mixing bowl, combine the drained, brined veggies, the chopped scallions, and dollops of the kimchi paste.
Now, mix very well, ensuring that every bit is coated in the kimchi paste.
Finally, pack tightly your jars. The more tightly they are packed, the better the fermentation will be. Truthfully, two of my jars were not completely full and it still fermented just fine.
Now you just have to be patient. Set the jars in a dark, warm room. For me, that was the garage (we had highs in the 70s and 80s), but that could also be the laundry room (that’s where I keep my scoby), closet, you get the idea. It’s best if the room is at least 70 degrees and does not get direct sunlight.
After 24 hours, twist the lids and release the gas that has built up in the jars (you’ll hear a poof when you do this). Tighten the lids and leave the kimchi be for one week.
If you hold the jar up to your ears, you’ll hear little bubbles of gas being released inside the jar. Pretty cool – that means you’ve got a nice active culture!
After fermentation, store your kimchi in the refrigerator. If you don’t, the fermentation process will continue; that’s perfectly fine if you want a more sour kimchi, it’s totally up to your personal preference.
Personally, I eat some every morning to give my gut flora a boost of natural probiotics. And the spice is a great way to help me wake up 😉
A few notes:
I only brined my veggies for 2 hours originally. This wasn’t enough for the salty kimchi flavor I love, so I added brine at the end. You can also do this if you don’t feel like brining overnight.
If you want a really mild flavored kimchi, only ferment overnight with an initial brief brine. But then you’re missing out on some of the great probiotics that develop with a longer ferment.
Play around with different veggies combinations! Why not try adding french finger radishes or purple cabbage for a pop of color?
Want to make it vegan? Just omit the honey and use agave nectar or cane sugar.
Lastly, this is a SPICY kimchi. If you want less heat, just reduce the amount pepper added.