Kimchi: Korean Sauerkraut

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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).

Ingredients

  • 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?

This post is part of Simple Lives Thursday and Pennywise Platter Thursday.

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Comments

  1. says

    Looks good. I don’t have any ginger, wonder if I could put in a little ginger seasoning? I’ve been to the store 2 times this week and that is probably 1 time to many!!
    Also Wardee I made your soaked pumpkin bread this morning and my house smells so good. I used a sweet potato that I had not cooked at Christmas. For my husband I’m doing the whole wheat slow. I used 1 cup unbleached flour and 1 cup white whole wheat. Maybe I’ll post a picture next tuesday
    Blessings Erin

  2. says

    I love kimchi, the kind I eat is a spicy blend, I’ve only tried this one. Fab Ferments, it is a local company in Cincinnati. My family can’t stand the smell. My husband is freaked out by the “fermentation”. I wish I could get them to jump on board with it. Mold and fuzz would make me nervous, I would have to throw it out. How do you know it is safe to consume? I’m very much looking forward to your dairy features, but then again my husband is freaked out about raw milk. Louis Pature comes up every time. Any advice?

  3. Trina says

    Ironically, I just finished my jar of fab ferments kimchi yesterday, which I’d picked up at the WAPF conference where they were a vendor. Good stuff, I love the bit of spice as it causes my to enjoy the jar slowly instead of wolfing it down. :)

    Find one of the books on raw milk and read about the history of pasteurization and share that with your husband. My husband is a confident raw milk drinker now after I read portions of The Story of Milk to him.

  4. says

    Thank you Trina!

    What is WAPF? Fab Ferments is local to me. Are you in Northern Kentucky, Greater Cincinnati?

    I’ll check out The Story of Milk. Thank you!

  5. says

    Ok, I am going to make this. I’ve never had it before, but I love both sour AND spicy, so I should enjoy this.

    Could you explain what you mean by “repack carefully each time you serve”?

    Thanks Wardee!

    • says

      Shyla — Great question! Just press all the mixture down into the jar as tightly as you can, so the brine will cover it all and protect the fermenting mixture from spoiling.

  6. says

    I have tried fermentation before, and I had a HUGE mold problem. I even bought the supplies and a culture starter from Cultures for Health because I thought that would help. I live in CA’s Central Valley, where mold grows very easily. Do you often have mold at the top like that? How do you know you are not exposing yourself to mycotoxins?

    • says

      Brandy — I get mold in the summer when it is very hot. Any room temp over 80 degrees for me. I just skim off the top daily and pack everything down tightly — so everything is under the protection of the brine, which is rich with beneficial organisms and lactic acid to suppress harmful organisms. This fermentation, a facet of God’s design for our world, has been done for centuries, supporting the health of countless people. Sure there is a risk — but I think the risk is greater in pasteurized, denatured foods where beneficial organisms are not present to keep the bad ones in check.

    • says

      Hi Brandy,
      You might try using a pickl-it jar – that really keeps the whole ferment airtight and has an airlock to let the CO2 out – but nothing can get in and spoil your ferment once you seal it. It also has a great little glass disk called a dunk-it to keep your veggies submerged….very affordable.

      I have replaced my mason jars with this – and it is so much easier to deal with – no exploding kraut anymore and the smell is also contained. I’ve been offering it to my workshop participants and they have been thrilled with it – most have come back to order more – way more affordable and reliable that a harsch crock.
      Lisa

  7. Katherine says

    I made kimchi using Sandor Katz’s recipe in Wild Fermentation. My family and I tried it and thought, “Well, that’s ok, but what on earth would we eat it with?” Then we tried it again, then before we knew it we were saying things like, “I think our scrambled eggs would be wonderful with kimchi” or “Wow, we’re eating toast, let’s have some kimchi with that!” and before we knew it our batch of kimchi was all gone, and we were longing for more. It’s strangely addictive.

    Katz also helped me solve my mold on the top problem. I put the veggies and liquid in a wide mouth mason jar and then put a small 8oz. jar with water, which pushes the veggies under the brine. I hope that helps!

  8. says

    Funny, I keep hearing about kimchi from my family lately! They recently moved to Korea, and tell me that the Koreans have kimchi with literally every meal — just as Nourishing Traditions recommends. My younger siblings love to try it, even though they don’t all like the spice.

    Gotta try making it sometime. I just finished my first jar of regular sauerkraut and it was delicious!

  9. Teresa in Maine says

    I was thinking of buying a case of kimchee through my co-op, but I’ll try your recipe instead! Thanks Wardee :)

  10. Susan says

    I’ve wanted to try making it, but I fear we are greatly spoiled by the real thing! We have some friends in So. Korea who actually send us homemade kimchi..pretty authentic! It is very spicy, but delicious. They leave the napa cabbage in large pieces, and the last batch had daikon radish in it, which was very nice! We love kimchi, and eat it with rice for breakfast (don’t tell our friends). :) We have Korean supermarkets in our city so we go there for good kimchi as well. But I still would love to try to make it at home. It’s pretty smelly stuff, tho!

  11. tonya says

    we love kimchi! the last time i made it i was feel’in crazy(as i usually do when fermenting food) and i added diced apples. it was still great. i used regular cabbage and no hot pepper.to the lady whos husband is suspicious, the untold story of raw milk is a great book! we loved it and its not at all boring(if you like relevant history)the mold thing isn’t a problem for me but if anything look funky, i simply remove the top layer and add more saltwater to cover it better and keep it in the fridge. thank you for the great info on this site! i love it! i made the choc sourdough cake the other day and it was amazing!

  12. says

    I have tried lacto fermentation a couple of times, but the veggies seem to get soggy. Is there such a thing as crisp lacto fermented food?

  13. tonya says

    try putting an grape leaf in with your fermented veggies. i’ve also heard oak leaves but i have not tried this. with kraut and kimchi if you make the pieces bigger they are less soggy:)

  14. Pam Groom says

    I started a batch today. My daughter and I loved the smell of the fresh grated ginger so much that we put extra in. It has some serious heat to it! Oops, I may have gone overboard. Is this used like a condiment or a side dish? What do you serve it with? Mine smells like Chinese food so I’m thinking stir fry or egg rolls.
    Pam

  15. Pam Groom says

    I just looked up something on the internet that looks good. It’s kimchi fied rice. Will stir frying the kimchi with rice and eggs kill the probiotic benefits Wardee?

  16. Amanda says

    Kimchi is one of the few ferments I have had good luck with and my family liked! I might need to make some when I get more jars.

  17. says

    Yeah for kimchi! I was so happy when I read this! My husband and I are Americans living in S. Korea right now, so we eat kimchi 5 times a week and sometimes more. My husband really likes the cucumber kimchi and radish kimchi (I think Korean radish is different than American radish). I am really hoping that we can find authentic kimchi once we move back (or maybe I will have to try this recipe and see if I can make my own.)

  18. says

    Wow…I have been trying to find more recipes for sauerkraut as I just love it. This looks so easy to make and very healthy to eat to. I’m definitely going to give this a try…!! Now, I wonder how chicken and sauerkraut mix together….every try that? Thanks…

  19. Donna says

    If I don’t have any whey or starter culture, how much sea salt would I need to use instead? Would I need to add any purified water? Looking forward to trying this!

    • says

      Donna — Double the salt if you don’t have the whey or starter culture. If the mixture isn’t juicy enough, top off the jar with a little water (unchlorinated and unfluoridated is best — so if that’s filtered for you, then yes).

  20. Melisa says

    My husband lived with a couple of Koreans his college years. He loved all the food they brought back with them from their spring breaks, and kimchi was one of them. My daughters wanted me to make kimchi because of all the Korean dramas they like to watch. The first time I did, all of them loved it, and my husband said it tasted just like what his roommates had. With the basic ingredients of garlic, hot pepper and ginger, it’s hard to get it wrong. Now we eat it with everything and anything. It’s especially good with sharp cheddar and crackers or with a hard boiled egg. I often plan dinner around what will go with the kimchi. Cortido is the South American variation of sauerkraut. I like it better because it calls for more variety of vegetables and herbs. But that might just be the Spanish in me. ;-)

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