I am OBSESSED with this kimchi recipe. It’s literally the tastiest kimchi I’ve ever eaten! This is the perfect time of year to make it because our markets are full of Fall veggies, like cabbage and radish and carrot, but also because this is the ideal time of year to make sure our immune systems are strong as cold and flu season hits. We often hear about the importance of taking a probiotic supplement to keep our immune (and digestive) system in good shape, but I prefer to make my own probiotics by fermenting foods. Is this as good as taking a supplement? Can eating kimchi replace buying a probiotic?
Read on to find out and as soon as you can - Make. This. Kimchi.
Probiotic Benefits of Kimchi
One thing I think is important to note is that humans have been consuming fermented foods for thousands of years. Every traditional culture used fermentation as a tool to preserve foods, enhance nutrition and, of course, make alcohol. It’s only been a relatively short period of time where the modern Western diet stopped consuming as many fermented foods. And often, foods that traditionally would have been fermented, are being pickled instead by big food companies (think dill pickles or sauerkraut that’s pickled using vinegar). Now that the health industry has caught on to the importance of the microbiome, we’re often encouraged to consume probiotics but are told to buy supplements as something that’s standardized and ‘therapeutic’. Current market predictions estimate the ‘probiotic industry’ will be worth $67 billion by 2024. That’s astonishing, especially considering they’re making what all of our ancestors have been doing in their kitchens for centuries. But how do fermented foods measure up?
Without getting too nerdy, I’ll highlight a few findings from recent years on the impact of fermented foods on human health:
A study that compared yogurt, cheese and capsules for the ability of the probiotic species contained in them to survive the digestive tract (meaning they didn’t die from the acidity in the stomach or the bile salts in the intestine and actually made it to the colon where the gut microbiome lives) found that yogurt had the best results
Another study found that probiotic species in kimchi did survive the stomach and colonized in the colon ( Lactobacillus and Leuconostoc species)
A study of over 9,700 people found that regular consumption of kimchi (over 92 servings per month) was correlated to a 44% reduction in risk of developing eczema
A study looking at the antimicrobial impact of the probiotics found in kimchi showed that they had a significant impact in reducing a wide range of harmful bacteria (like Salmonella and Staphylococcus)
A study that had women eat kimchi daily for 8 weeks found fermented kimchi significantly altered the gut microbial population and boosted metabolic pathways and immune function
A scientific reference book analyzing the health impacts of fermented foods writes that kimchi has has antioxidant, antiaging, antimutagenic, anticancer, antiobesity, and immune-stimulating effects
Pretty impressive, don’t you think? If you’re inspired to make your own kimchi, it’s easy and you’ll love the flavour of this one.
My Favourite Kimchi
2 napa cabbages
1 daikon radish, peeled and sliced
4 carrots, peeled and sliced
1 apple (I used honey crisp), chopped
5 green onions, chopped
Slurry (optional but highly recommended):
1/4 cup brown rice flour
1 cup water
5-ish cloves garlic, crushed or minced
4 Tbsp ginger, grated
1 tsp korean red pepper powder
4 Thai chili peppers, chopped
3 tsp miso
4 tsp tamari
1/4 cup ground dried shiitake powder
1 Tbsp ground kombu powder
Quarter Napa cabbages, length-wise, then chop. Placed chopped cabbage in a large bowl and cover with a salt brine (1/2 cup sea salt to 4 cups water) and let sit for 3 hours.
Rinse and drain cabbage and add sliced carrots and diakon, chopped apple and green onion.
Powder shiitake mushrooms and comb seaweed into a fine powder using a spice grinder, dry attachment on a blender or mortar and pestle. Add ground powders with remaining paste ingredients to a food processor or blender and pulse to combine.
In a small saucepan, heat water to a low simmer, then slowly sprinkle in rice flour while whisking continuously to make slurry. No lumps! Add slurry to paste and pulse/blend again to turn into a thick paste.
Add paste to kimchi and use hands (I recommend wearing gloves) to combine. Taste and see if it needs a bit more sea salt.
Pack into a fermenting vessel or large glass jar (you can use a few mason jars), pressing down to remove any air pockets and to press liquid up to cover kimchi.
Top with a lid, but don’t tighten it (as it ferments it will create carbon dioxide). Place jars in a bowl or shallow baking dish to catch any liquid that might bubble over and set in a cool spot of your kitchen (away from direct light) to ferment for a few days.
I recommend tasting to see when you want to stop the ferment. As it ferments it will become more acidic in flavour, the vegetables will soften and it will become quite bubbly. I fermented my last batch for only 3 days. Once you like the flavour, seal tightly and transfer to the fridge where it will keep for 12 months or longer.
I hope you love this kimchi! Let me know if you have any questions and how yours turns out.