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UPDATE 7/26/12: I no longer use whey as a starter for my ferments (learn why here). I also no longer use Mason jars for my ferments (learn why here). I use anaerobic fermenting jars exclusively and the improvement in the taste and texture of my ferments is unbelievable! I encourage everyone to take a look at the information regarding Mason jar ferments and come to a decision that best fits their family. I will be releasing updated versions of these recipes soon, as it applies to these jars. I recommend the anaerobic fermenting systems from The Probiotic Jar.

Kimchi is something I have been wanting to make for quite some time. This was the first time that I’ve made it and I am so happy with how it turned out. The awesome thing about kimchi is that you can flavor it however you want, and you can add whatever veggies you want to, so you can make it suit your own tastes.

What is Kimchi?

Kimchi is a fermented vegetable dish, traditionally eaten in Korea. There is no standard recipe, and even in Korea, the recipes vary widely, depending on the vegetables and spices used. The main ingredients tend to always be cabbage, radish, and onion, but the rest of the ingredients are up to whoever is making it. It’s typically served as a side dish and most Koreans eat it with every meal. The oldest reference to kimchi was found in some text from nearly 3,000 years ago. It doesn’t get much more traditional than this dish!

There are many different varieties of this fermented vegetable mixture, depending on the region of Korea that you’re in. Because of the big differences in temperature between North Korea and South Korea, you end up with very different products. Kimchi from Korea’s northern areas tends to have less salt and less red chili. They also don’t typically use fish sauce as a seasoning and it will have a more watery consistency. Kimchi made in the southern region of Korea will usually use a lot of salt, chili peppers and some sort of fermented fish sauce for flavoring.

Like other fermented vegetable mixtures, kimchi is highly nutritious. Not only are you getting probiotic benefits from the lactic acid bacteria, you’re also getting large doses of vitamins A, B1, B2, C, calcium, carotene, and iron. It has even been dubbed one of the “World’s Healthiest Foods” by Health.com.

Baechu (Cabbage) Kimchi – Inspired by Sandor Katz’s Wild Fermentation

The thing I love about Sandor’s recipe is that he has you soak the vegetables in brine overnight, which helps reduce some of the salt in the finished product and makes it a little more edible. Sally Fallon’s recipes all call for a minimum of 2 tbsps. of salt added to the whole mixture and that makes it inedible for some people. I personally don’t like super salty foods, so when I make one of her recipes, I decrease the salt. Careful when adding finely ground salt to ferments – you can very easily end up with WAY too much. I use coarse or medium grind for my ferments and it has seemed to help.

So, Have you made kimchi? What other veggies or spices have you added? I am definitely going to make this again and experiment with more veggies, especially as we head into spring and summer when I’ll have more to choose from. I think I’d like to try using a red chili paste for more flavor. I love the rich red color of the kimchi pics in the Wikipedia article I read. I am assuming that color comes from red chili paste or sauce? Whatever it is, it makes it look yummy!

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