The Essentials Series — Kimchi
written by Caitlin Smit — Nutritionsprout
Culturing and Lacto-fermentation has always fascinated me, be it brewing kombucha which I was first exposed to in northern Thailand a few years ago, making my own fermented foods or pickling using my granny’s original recipe. I believe my intrigue lies in the fact that it reminds me of when I was young, watching my grandmothers both making essentials from scratch. There is something very comforting about that process, I have memories of my granny churning butter in the morning light on the farm and my other grandmother placing beetroot in carefully prepared jars for pickling. This is something I’ve come to understand as ‘inconvenient living’, when one has to physically work in order to produce that said essential. I also believe that these simple acts have a meditative way of slowing us down in a time when the world seems to only be speeding up, as we involve ourselves in the slow making of our food.
It is memories like these that sparked : The essentials series, where we will be focusing on different food basics - ‘essentials’, which you can easily replicate in your own home to make life that much sweeter, nutritious and considered. As well as provide you with the necessary staples in your kitchen to make a whole foods lifestyle more accessible for yourself and your family. We don’t always get everything right in life but we can surely be far happier and healthier humans if we just allow for a little slowing down and planning, by having options such as these stocked in our homes.
What is Lacto-fermentation ?
For many, lacto-fermentation seems to embody a sense of mystery ( at least it definitely did for me), in the last few years these foods have exploded onto the western health scene and this is largely due to the growing interest in their benefits toward supporting gut health,however lacto-fermentation is steeped in history and is far from a new culinary creation. It has in fact been around for centuries, It was and still is a safe and delicious method of preserving food from a time when there was no refrigeration.
Lacto-fermentation sounds rather daunting when you read it out loud ( but don’t let it be ), it is merely referring to one of the main bacteria involved in the process of fermentation. The word ‘Lacto’ refers to a type of bacteria, specifically Lactobacillus. This bacteria is found on many living things particularly on the surface of those roots and plants growing close to the ground, “It is also present in our gastrointestinal tract as well as our mouths”. This strain of bacteria got its name from the fact that it was originally studied in milk ferments, however lacto-fermentation does not always represent dairy products. Lactobacillus enables the conversion of starches and sugars from whole foods into lactic acid, which serves as a natural preservative and prevents the growth of bad bacteria.
Fermentation has long been used for food preservation and has even shown to benefit certain communities in times of food scarcity, such as severe winters or drought, by allowing them to store and preserve food. If one goes back in history you’d also see that the traditional diets of different societies have always included lacto-fermented foods, it is a universal practise. "Communities in Africa are known for their soured grains made from maize and sorghum, the Europeans have always made sauerkraut and fermented dairy products, the Americas pickled and made relishes and lastly the Orient who are famous for their pickled vegetables and kimchi specifically". This is just to name a few.
Kimchi originated in South Korea and is in fact their national dish, well known for its distinct sweet and sour flavour and typically made up of chinese cabbage, radish, spring onion, garlic, ginger,chilli and fermented seafood. However there have been many slight adaptations of this original type of recipe, one of which we will be sharing with you today ( personally i’d consider it to be more of a kimchi inspired sauerkraut ). If you have not yet tried your hand at lacto fermentation, then you are in for a treat...
My hope is that this essentials series will make you hungry for the reconnection to real food and that it will in turn inspire us all to get back into our kitchens a little more regularly. Watch this space for more Glow essentials in the future!
Without further ado...
Kimchi inspired Kraut
1 medium red cabbage chopped ( make sure it is fresh this is important )
2 cloves grated garlic
2 teaspoons chilli flakes
2 carrots peeled and grated
1 2x2 cm piece of ginger grated
1 Tablespoon sea salt
1 bunch spring onion finely chopped
½ apple grated ( optional - but a personal favourite )
1 - 2 Large glass jars ( I typically use a consol jar with a tight fitting lid & sterilise with boiling water before use )
Large mixing bowl
Place entire chopped cabbage into large mixing bowl and sprinkle with salt, starting with one tablespoon. The salt helps to start break down the cabbage, and release moisture. Begin to massage the cabbage in the bowl with clean hands ( knead as if you were kneading dough- vigorously for about 10minutes). You’ll begin to see the cabbage releases liquid, when there is a fair amount of liquid beginning to form around the cabbage you can stop and allow the cabbage to rest for about 15 minutes.
While you let the cabbage rest for 15 minutes - you can sterilise your jars if you have not yet done so, do this by pouring boiling water into the lids and the jars. Swirl the water around, then empty and set aside.
Add the rest of the ingredients into to the bowl with the cabbage and knead again until everything is mixed well. Then let it rest for 5 minutes.
Fill a jar a ¼ of the way with your mixture. Compress using your fist or anything that serves as a way of creating a little pressure on the cabbage mixture, this helps to pack it into your jar and release air bubbles.. Continue until your jar is ¾ full.
Repeat with second jar.
Leave the lids of jars loosely fitted in order to release the pressure generated by the fermentation process. Leave to culture at room temperature in your kitchen for 2 - 3 days ( out of direct sunlight ), taste on the third day. Note that fermentation time can vary, rather base it on the flavour and how it develops. Once you’ve tasted it on the third day, if you want the flavour to develop a little further, leave it for another day. Remember to leave the lid loosely fitted. Repeat tasting. Once you are satisfied with the flavour, close the lid tightly and place in the refrigerator.
Enjoy as a flavour addition to your meals - it’s great in salads, with scrambled egg, alongside avo on toast or simply straight out the jar.
Should there not be enough liquid produced by your kneading process to just cover your cabbage when it is in the jar, you can mix a brine solution — 1 t spoon salt to 1 cup of water ( make sure your water is filtered and not chlorinated ) and pour a little into your jar until your cabbage is just covered — this prevents drying out.
If you don’t have a fermentation weight you can also use a cabbage leaf folded or cut into size to fit into your jar — this also serves as a weight.
Caitlin is a qualified INHC health coach with the New York school of Integrative Nutrition and co-founder of Glow alongside Marize Albertyn. Her passion lies in women's wellness and helping women make positive and sustainable changes to their lives in order to 'come home to themselves and their cycle'.
Social Media — @nutritionsprout
1 — Selhub,E,Logan,A&Bested.(2014) Fermented foods, microbiota and mental health : ancient practise meets nutritional psychiatry,Journal of Physiological Anthropology (33.2) p1
2 — Fallon,S&Enig, ( 2000) Lacto-fermentation. [online] : Availible at : https://www.westonaprice.org/health-topics/food-features/lacto-fermentation/
3 — Swain,M,Anandharaj,M.Ray,R&Rani,R (2014) Fermented Fruits and Vegetables of Asia : A potential source of probiotics,Hindawi (vol2014)
4 — Rose, A. ( 2016 ) The Wholefoods Pantry, London, Kyle books