This method for making kim chi starts with soaking the napa cabbage in a salt water brine, then massaging the vegetables, mixing with a chili garlic paste, and packing the vegetables into jars to ferment. I was inspired by the book Fermented Vegetables by Kirsten and Christoper Schokey for this method, then put my own twist on it to taste. This essentially combines the dry salt method in making sauerkraut with the brine method used for making pickled vegetables, in that you do make and use a brine, but most of it is drained off before massaging the cabbage and packing it into jars. This is certainly not the most authentic kim chi recipe out there, but it is super delicious, still full of probiotics, and is easy to both obtain ingredients for and to put together, especially for beginners to fermentation or specifically to kim chi.
The bright red color for kim chi is known comes from a special type of Korean chili flake called gochugaru. You can find these in specialty stores, Korean markets, health food stores or online, but do try to use this if you can both for color and flavor. They aren't as hot as crushed red pepper flakes, and they add a bright, fruity flavor as well. You can increase the heat here to taste by adding fresh or dried hot peppers if you like. Be sure to massage and pack using food safe gloves to prevent burning your hands if you can find some.
I use fish sauce, usually Red Boat brand, in my recipe, but feel free to omit it or substitute shrimp paste instead.
Adjust the fermentation time to your taste preference. I suggest 2 weeks here, but if you like a milder flavor, let it sit for less time. Once fermented to your liking, transfer to the fridge, where it will keep for up to a year.
Kim Chi with Napa Cabbage
Makes 2 1/2 quarts
1 large head napa cabbage, cleaned and halved
Brine: 1 cup salt to 1 gallon filtered water; will need about ½ gallon here
2 medium daikon, thinly-sliced
4 medium carrots, thinly-sliced
1 bunch scallions, sliced
4" ginger, coarsely chopped
6-8 cloves garlic, chopped
1 hot pepper, sliced
1 Tbs Korean chili powder (gochugaru) or 1 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
2 tsp fish sauce
Dissolve salt in warm water to make brine. Place cabbage in a large mixing bowl. Completely cover with the prepared brine and place a plate on top to keep the cabbage fully submerged. Let this sit at least 4 hours or up to overnight in the brine at room temperature. The cabbage will begin soaking up the brine during this time, which is why no more salt is added to the recipe for fermenting.
Remove cabbage from the brine, draining in a colander. Save the brine aside for later.
Chop cabbage as coarsely or finely as you like (I prefer bigger chunks, but either way is fine) and add to a large mixing bowl. Mix in sliced daikon, carrots and scallions. Massage well to begin softening the vegetables, about 5 minutes.
In a blender, combine the garlic, ginger, hot peppers, chili flakes/powder and 1 cup reserved brine. Puree until well-mixed, creating a thick paste. Mix into vegetables with gloved hands.
Pack the vegetable mixture into jars or a ceramic crock, pressing vegetables down until all air is remove and the brine rises above them in a solid layer.
Place a weight on top of the vegetables to keep submerged during fermentation. Cover with a lid, screwed on not too tightly if using jars, and let sit at room temperature for 5 days, up to 2 weeks.
Transfer to the fridge when fermentation is complete, where this will keep for up to 1 year.
Curtido is a fermented cabbage slaw in the style of sauerkraut, but hailing from El Salvador rather than Europe. I love that so many traditional foodways included different forms of fermented cabbage...not only does it unite us, but they are all so tasty and easy to make! Besides the typical shredded cabbage, this ferment also contains lime, jalapeno, carrots, onion, garlic, cilantro, and oregano. This delicious blend of herbs and veggies add acidity, heat, and texture to the usual cabbage-based kraut, while still providing lots of probiotics and prebiotics to help improve the microbiome.
Traditionally, curtido is served on pupusas, thick masa tortillas stuffed with meat and/or cheese. It is also wonderful on tacos or other Central American-inspired dishes, scrambled eggs, mixed in with salsa or sour cream for a chip dip, grilled meats, or salads. As always, this ferment is also perfect eaten straight out of the jar. Feel free to decrease or increase the amount of hot pepper or use a different pepper besides the jalapeno, depending on how much heat you like or what peppers you have on hand. I always use red cabbage for my curtido, but green cabbage will work just as well here. Once fermented, curtido will keep for about one year in the fridge, so you can make a big batch and eat it over several months.
Curtido (Salvadoran-Style Sauerkraut)
Makes about 3 quarts
1 large head red or green cabbage, shredded (about 3 lbs) *Save outer leaf aside, keeping whole to act as a carrier
1 large red onion, small diced
3 large or 6 small carrots, grated (about 1 lb)
6-8 cloves garlic, minced
1-3 jalapeno pepper, sliced (seeds removed to reduce heat if preferred)
1 bunch cilantro, stems included, minced
Zest and juice of 1 lime
1 1/2 Tbs dried oregano
3-6 tsp fine sea salt, based on weight of vegetables
3 quart-sized glass jars with plastic/non-reactive lids or 1 gallon ceramic crock
Fermentation weights for each vessel, optional
Cutting board and knife
Wooden spoon or "kraut pounder" for packing jars
Kitchen scale and measuring spoons
1. Place a large mixing bowl on a kitchen scale and tare to zero.
2. Place the shredded cabbage, onion, carrots, garlic, peppers, cilantro, lime, and oregano in the bowl. Stir to combine.
3. Add the sea salt, the amount depending on the weight of the vegetable mixture. Use 1 tsp sea salt per pound of vegetables; this should use about 2 Tbs of salt, but adjust to the exact amount you have.
4. Massage the salt into the vegetables, squeezing them to break the cell walls and release their stored water. I recommend wearing food-safe kitchen gloves for this, due to the hot peppers. If these are unavailable, follow the next step omitting the pepper, then add it after massaging to protect your hands. This softens them and allows them to be packed more tightly into jars for fermentation. This step may take up to 10 minutes; alternately, you can let the salted cabbage sit on the counter for a few hours to start to soften. This will help to minimize the amount of time spent massaging the cabbage. The vegetables are ready to pack into jars if you can easily squeeze liquid from them and the volume has reduced by about half.
5. Now we pack the salted, massaged veggies into jars or a crock for fermentation. I use 3 quart-sized jars for this recipe, but a ceramic crock will also work. For either method, fill your vessel with vegetables to the top, then use a wooden spoon or "kraut pounder" to pack the mixture tightly into the jar. This removes air bubbles and allows the brine to rise above the vegetables, keeping the fermentation anaerobic. Continue this process until your jar is filled to its "shoulders," where it begins to curve toward the mouth of the jar. Do not fill all the way to the top, or it will overflow as it expands during fermentation.
6. Press the vegetables down until a layer of brine rises to the top. Place the saved whole cabbage leaf over the top to keep smaller pieces of vegetables from floating and possibly molding. Put a fermentation weight, if using, on top of this, which helps to keep the vegetables submerged in the brine throughout the fermentation process, also preventing molding and promoting anaerobic fermentation. Cover with a non-reactive (such as plastic) lid, not screwed on too tightly. Repeat with two more jars, or until all of the vegetables are packed and ready to ferment.
7. Let sit at room temperature for 5-14 days to ferment. It is "ready" when it has fermented to your liking. It will become more sour and "fermented" tasting the longer you let it sit, so adjust the time to your taste preferences. I find the sweet spot to be 14 days for taste and probiotic content, with an ambient temperature of about 68 degrees. It will ferment more quickly the warmer your kitchen, so keep this in mind when fermenting. There is no right number of days for fermentation, it is ready when you are; taste it after a week or so and see if you like it as is or want to ferment longer. Some people let it go up to 21 days, but 14 days is about where I usually stop the fermentation process.
8. Remove the weight and transfer to the fridge, where it will keep for about one year.
Soup season is in full swing here in Southwest Wisconsin. While I typically prefer a hearty, meaty stew, sometimes you want a smooth and creamy soup instead. This pureed soup combines collagen-rich bone broth with sweet winter squash, lentils, and the tangy, creamy flavors of goat cheese and sour cream. Packed with vitamins, minerals collagen, fiber, and amino acids, this is extremely nutrient-dense as well. This soup can become a main dish paired with some crusty sourdough bread and butter, or serve as a side to a grilled cheese sandwich or big salad.
If you already have lentils soaked and some prepared bone broth on hand, this makes a great weeknight dinner. If not, this is an easy meal to prep for a day ahead of time. Simply soak the lentils and cook the bone broth the day before you want to make this, and it will come together easily when you're ready to cook. The result is a pureed soup that is creamy, filling and comforting that the whole family will love.
I puree my soup using an immersion blender, but you could serve this as a chunky soup if you prefer something with a bit more texture or don't have an immersion blender.
Winter Squash Soup with Lentils and Chevre
2 Tbs butter or other cooking fat such as duck or beef fat
1 medium yellow onion, diced
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
3 lbs winter squash such as delicata, butternut or buttercup; peeled, seeded and diced
2 quarts bone broth (chicken or beef would work great)
1 sprig fresh rosemary
2 cups lentils, soaked 12-24 hours before cooking
1 tsp sea salt
Black pepper, to taste
8 ounces chevre goat cheese
1/2 cup sour cream or full-fat Greek yogurt
In a medium stock pot, heat the butter or cooking fat. Once melted and hot, add the onion to the pan and saute for 5-10 minutes until cooked down and becoming golden brown. Add the garlic and winter squash, cooking for another 5 minutes to begin to soften the squash.
Add the bone broth, rosemary, lentils, salt and a bit of pepper to the pot. Bring to a boil, then cover and reduce to low. Let simmer for about 30 minutes, until the squash and lentils are cooked thoroughly and are very soft. Stir regularly to prevent sticking during the cook time, adding extra water or broth if needed.
Stir in the chevre and sour cream until melted in, about 2-3 minutes. Carefully blend using an immersion blender* until smooth and creamy. Season with salt and pepper to taste before serving.
*If you don't have an immersion blender, I don't recommend trying to blend hot soup with a regular blender, as this can cause burns. In this case, either serve as a chunky soup or let the soup cool and puree using a standard blender, perhaps making this a day ahead of time. Then, reheat the pureed soup before serving and dinner is ready to go.
Transfer any leftovers to the fridge, where they will keep for approximately 5 days.
This is a dish I made on New Year's Day yesterday, as black-eyed peas are traditionally eaten on New Year's to bring good luck and prosperity for the year. Who couldn't use a bit more of that? This was one of the food traditions I remember from growing up and have held on to myself. Not only is this a fun tradition, but it is so delicious and comforting on a cold January day. This dish is also packed with nutrients, which is really what brings prosperity, right? Black-eyed peas are a good source of folate and fiber, the greens are rich in vitamin K, folate, calcium, and magnesium, and the bone broth is full of glutamine, glycine, collagen and plenty of minerals. Pair this with a fermented vegetable or hot sauce to balance out the rich flavors and add some probiotics, and you have started your year in the best way possible. Here's to 2020!
Black-Eyed Peas and Greens in Pork Broth
1 lb dried black-eyed peas
Pinch of salt and dash of apple cider vinegar
1 Tbs bacon fat or lard
1 medium yellow onion, diced
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
4cups pork bone broth (see below for instructions)
2 cups water
1 tsp sea salt
Black pepper to taste
Meat removed from pork bones
1/2 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp cayenne, or to taste
2 Tbs apple cider vinegar
A few dashes of hot sauce, to taste
The day before making this dish, prepare the peas and broth:
To start the peas, begin by soaking 24 hours before you want to begin cooking them. Rinse the dried black-eyed peas and put in a medium bowl. Cover with warm water and add a pinch of salt and splash of apple cider vinegar to begin the fermentation process. Set aside until the next day.
To make the broth, place about 3 lbs of pork neck bones, pork soup bones, pig tails, or smoked pork hocks in a slow cooker and cover with water, about 4 quarts. Add a tsp of salt and 1 Tbs of apple cider vinegar. You can also add other ingredients like herbs, spices, onions, etc. to your preference. Turn to low and let cook 18-24 hours, then strain out the bones before using in this recipe. Remove the meat from the bones and set aside to add to the beans.
To prepare the dish:
Heat the bacon fat or lard in a medium stock pot. Once melted and hot, add the onions. Saute for 5-8 minutes until softened and beginning to brown, then add the onions and saute for 1-2 more minutes. Add the bone broth, water, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil then cover and turn the heat to medium. Let cook about 45 minutes.
Once the beans are cooked most of the way, add the greens, paprika, cayenne and meat. Cover and let cook another 30 or so minutes, until the black-eyed peas are fully cooked through and soft. Add the apple cider vinegar and hot sauce, if using, and let cook on low another 5 minutes.
Serve hot with cornbread and plenty of butter.
Brine & Broth
I am a gut health-focused nutritionist and online health coach based in Southwest Wisconsin. My recipes and philosophies center around traditional, nutrient-dense foods that support robust gut health.