My family surprised me by liking traditional, lacto-fermented sauerkraut — the straight-up kind as taught in our class on traditional cooking. They’re surprising me more with their love for the two variations: kimchi (or kimchee), the Korean sauerkraut; and tsukemono, the Japanese sauerkraut.
Growing up, I didn’t like kimchi too much. Probably because of the red chili in it. I much prefer sour over spicy, any day! But I like my homemade kimchi. It is not too spicy and I love how good it is for us, if made traditionally using lacto-fermentation. (I’ve never had tsukemono before and I like it the best of any sauerkraut; you can see my adaptation of it in this week’s menu plan.)
I like bigger pieces of hand-choppped cabbage in my sauerkrauts, but I also like the quicker fermentation and more even texture that comes from using a food processor. You decide which you want to do — both are good.
This is an adaptation of the recipe in Nourishing Traditions on page 94. Makes 1 quart (or a bit more).
- 1 head Napa or savoy cabbage, cored and shredded
- 1 bunch green onions, chopped
- 1 cup of shredded carrots
- 1 tablespoon fresh, grated ginger
- 3 cloves garlic, crushed
- 1/2 teaspoon dried chili flakes
- 1-1/2 teaspoons sea salt
- 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon whey (or omit and increase salt by 1/2 tablespoon)
Chop/shred cabbage, carrots, green onions, ginger and garlic by hand or with a food processor. Combine all ingredients in a medium size mixing bowl. Cover with a tea towel and leave to sit at room temperature for 1/2 hour while the salt helps pull the juices out of the veggies.
Pound a few times with a potato masher or meat hammer (or kraut pounder) to make sure it is getting juicy. Leave for another 1/2 hour if desired, or proceed.
Transfer ingredients to a clean quart-size, wide mouth jar. Press down firmly so that liquid comes to the top of the mixture. Leave 1” space at the top of the jar. Put on lid and band and screw tightly.
Allow to ferment at room temperature for three to seven days. In the first 24 hours, open the jar and press down firmly on the ingredients a few times to make sure the brine is fully covering the mixture (it will continue to be released over time).
Fermentation may proceed faster at very warm temperatures. Burp jar daily, even keeping the jar on a towel to catch seeping liquids. Skim off any mold or fuzz that develops on top (everything beneath the brine should be fine).
The mixture will be bubbly, and the vegetables will soften. Stop the fermentation when you like the flavor and texture. (We like ours best at 5 to 7 days.) Transfer to the refrigerator or cool storage. Repack carefully each time you serve. Will keep several weeks in the refrigerator.
Serve alongside main dish chicken, turkey, beef, or ham. Serve with eggs for breakfast. Enjoy!
Have you had kimchi before? Do you like it? What’s your favorite variation of sauerkraut?
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