Tuesday, September 22, 2009


It's only been a million years or so since I last blogged. My friend Charli Gribble down in 'Bama has been quietly yelling at me to get with it and get blogging again, so Charli, here you go! I've been busy as hell all summer growing, foraging, fermenting, drying, canning, wine-making and otherwise preserving food for our family. In fact, I've felt an almost primitive need to preserve food. Wild foods, garden goodies, produce from the organic Amish farm, you name it. I snagged as much of it as I could and preserved it in some manner. It will ALL come in handy and probably be necessary. I'm sure many of you have felt the same way--this is not only sort of a hobby, but an absolutely necessary project.

So I've been primarily gardening, foraging and drying in the dehydrator. What a wonderful tool! I had misplaced mine last year so I sun-dried, but it is much easier in the dehydrator. And fun. My brother makes fun of me: "She can't see a veggie without wanting to suck all the water out of it!" Me, I love seeing how the apples, peaches, berries, tomatoes, onions, rutabegas etc. all shrink down into little bits, only to plump back up again with the addition of hot water. It's all MUCH easier to store for us as we live in a small space. The vacuumed bags of dehydrated veggies, fruit and meat (jerky) now all live in some big popcorn tins I got cheap at the local thrift store.

Anyway, on to our topic of today: Kimchi. A national dish/icon of Korea. I was reading in The Joy of Pickling by Linda Ziedrich about fermenting veggies, especially cabbages and came across this bit:

Kimchi as Medicine
While more and more Westerners are turning up their noses at sauerkraut, Koreans and other Asians are eating more kimchi. This is at least in part out of fear of SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome), the deadly pneumonia that left Korea virtually untouched while sickening people throughout most of Asia in 2003. Many inside and outside of the country believe that kimchi kept Koreans safe from the disease.

(As an aside, this is my current interest in food as medicine: keeping us safe from any damn flu virus the government/vaccine industry can throw at us. Thus the quarts of elderberry tincture, the goldenseal/echinacea tincture, etc. And Kimchi!)

As Korean scientists have proven, beneficial microbes in kimchi can overpower bacteria such as Helicobacter pylori, Shigella sonnei, and Listeria monocytogenes. Scientists are now cultivating kimchi microbes in hopes of using them for mass production of a new kind of antibiotic.

Besides killing bacteria, kimchi may fight viruses. A team at Seoul National University reported in 2005 that an extract of kimchi helped in treatment of chickens infected with avian flu. After further studies, the team hoped to distribute the remedy to poultry farms across Korea.

In guarding human health, kimchi battles more than microbes. Scientific studies show that high consumption of cruciferous vegetables reduces the risk of breast cancer. Korea has one of the world's lowest incidences of this disease.

Here's another interesting bit about kimchi (and why we should make and eat it):

Korean scientists have studied kimchi at least as thoroughly as their Western counterparts have studied sauerkraut. The scientists have found that fresh cabbage kimchi is actually more nutritious than unfermented Chinese cabbage. When kimchi tastes best--before it becomes overly sour--its levels of B1, B2, B12 and niacin are twice what they were initially, and its vitamin C levels equals that of fresh cabbage. Scientists have also found that undesirable bacteria and parasites are destroyed during fermentation.

So I made some, using sort of a combination methods/ingredients from Sally Fallon's Nourishing Traditions cookbook and The Joy of Pickling. First I went off to the store because there were some items I was going to be needing for various pickling/fermenting projects. On this day I couldn't find napa cabbage OR daikon raidsh, so I grabbed some savoy cabbage and some regular red radishes. It won't be the real thing, but then, I'm not a real Korean so it won't hurt. Here's the basic recipe:

Cabbage and Radish Kimchi

3 tablespoons pickling salt
5 cups water
1 pound Chinese cabbage (1/2 large head), cored and cut into two inch squares
1 pound daikon cut in half lengthwise and thinly sliced crosswise
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
1 tablespoon minced garlic
5 scallions cut into thin rounds
1 1/2 tablespoons Korean ground dried hot pepper (or other mildly hot ground red pepper)
1 teaspoon sugar

(I used the whole head of cabbage, a bunch of scallions, more ginger and garlic than called for; also, I used hot cayenne pepper flakes rather than the ground hot pepper--my kimchi doesn't look red for that reason.)

1. Dissolve 2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons of the salt in the water. Combine the cabbage and daikon in a large bowl or nonreactive pot and cover them with the brine. Weight the vegetables with a plate and let them stand at room temperature for 12 hours.

2. Drain the vegetables, reserving the brine. Combine them with the remaining ingredients, including the remaining 1 teaspoon salt. Pack the mixture into a 2 quart jar. Pour enough of the brine over the vegetables to cover them. Push a food grade plastic bag into the jar and pour some or all of the remaining brine into the bag. Seal the bag. Let the kimchi ferment in a cool place at a temperature no higher than 68 degrees F for 3 to 6 days, until the kimchi is as sour as you like.

3. Remove the brine bag, Cap the jar tightly and store the kimchi in the refrigerator, where it will keep for months.

Nourishing Traditions calls for pretty much the same ingredients, but no brine, just sea salt and whey added to the veggies. In this version, you'd pound the cabbage/radish mix with a meat hammer to free up their juices, then put them in a jar with their own juices covering them. Again, let it ferment.

(I didn't use the brine bag, just covered the veggies with the brine and left them to ferment. Both Michael and I tasted it and it was salty, spicy and good. I think it is going to be addicting!)

Kimchi is only one of the fermenting projects I've got going. There are lots of gallon jugs of wine, pickled beets, brined green beans, fermented tomatoes (then dried, rolled into balls, and stored in olive oil) fermented zucchini, fermented dill pickles, etc. The nice thing about fermenting is that the lactic acid formed by the fermentation process means that you don't have to water-bath can the jars. The veggies will keep, stored in a cool place, for months. I've used the Joy of Pickling, Nourishing Traditions, and Preserving Food without Freezing or Canning books for basic recipes.

Some good, basic info on kimchi can be found here, and here. The first link is a fun but bawdy romp about kimchi goodness. Enjoy!



Anonymous said...

welcome back!
can you make this without red peppers?

Patricia said...

Hey Charli, well, yes, I guess so. Might not pack all the medicinal properties, because some of that has got to be due to hot red peppers, but you'd still have the nice fermented cabbage, radish, garlic and ginger. In fact, Koreans make a zillion different kinds of kimchi from mild and sweet to hot as hell. Google kimchi recipes and see what comes up. Thanks for the note!

Anonymous said...

It's funny you just posted again, because I kid you not, I found your blog just a couple days ago and bookmarked it. I figured you had stopped writing, so the plan was to slowly go through your archives.

What a pleasant surprise! Welcome back!

On-topic: My girlfriend is Taiwanese but loves kimchi. I've started to enjoy it as well. Can't wait to show her this post! (I gotta give my dad some: he loves spicy food but has a terrible diet and is always coughing. He even got pneumonia -- TWICE! -- last winter.)

I love the practical angle you take here. For me, it's very important to know what is happening inside my body as a result of diet. I'll ask my gf if she has heard about kimchi's health benefits when she gets back home.

Great post! Thanks!

Enjoy your day,


Laurie N said...

So glad to see that you are blogging again! You've got so much great info in your posts - I have really enjoyed them.

Patricia said...

Hi, Nicoli (welcome!) and Laura--thanks for your kind comments. I had a nice break from all things computer and with enough time away, blogging is once again fun and interesting. I'm glad you like the information here--I write about the kinds of stuff I like to read about, and since I'm an omnivorous, continuous reader, I like to share. Stay tuned for more, and thanks!

Bot and me said...

Interesting post. Thanks for the share. It was very interesting and informative.