A Kimchi Recipe from a Kimchi-Contest Judge
Homemade kimchi is a refreshing snack when eaten on its own, and its bright flavors stand out beautifully when it’s paired with meat, simmered in soup, or griddled into savory pancakes at a Korean restaurant. But there’s more to like about kimchi than just its taste.
“The health benefits of fermented foods are incredible,” said Andrea Mattson-McGaffey, one of the locavores behind Chicago’s food cooperative Edible Alchemy. “Cultures that eat them have longer lives, healthier lives.”
Given how healthy is it for you, it’s no wonder more and more home cooks are looking to make kimchi at home. Luckily, Andrea has plenty of experience teaching others how to make it. Below, she shared an easy kimchi recipe and explained why you should learn to love the fermented superfood (assuming you don’t already).
“I got into fermenting and lacto-fermenting when I was doing an internship with a friend in Indiana, back in 2008,” Andrea said. That friend introduced her to DIY ways of making wine, beer, and kimchi—a traditional Korean dish made by fermenting chopped cabbage and spices in tightly sealed jars for weeks or months at a time. The two were motivated not only by a taste for those provisions but also by a desire to reduce waste. “We would pick up bags of preshredded iceberg lettuce, cabbage, and onions that would have been thrown out by local restaurants and ferment them to save them.”
These days, at Edible Alchemy, Andrea teaches others how to make kimchi from seasonal ingredients that grow in the Midwest—ingredients that aren’t always found in traditional Korean recipes. “I’ve made one with garlic and onions as its main ingredients and one with apples,” she said. When she can, she also incorporates herbs and edible flowers, which she forages from the city’s green spaces.
“The process of fermentation utilizes microorganisms that exist in your gut. And when you eat them, you’re repopulating with good bacteria that helps you to digest,” said Andrea. Fermentation also helps extract nutrition from the tough structures of cabbage and root vegetables. “They’re microdigested beforehand, so our bodies can get into those cells and extract nutrients, B vitamins, and minerals.”
It’s Easy to Make
Andrea is such an expert on kimchi that in March 2013, the organizers of Chicago’s Good Food Festival & Conference asked her to help judge a new culinary competition: the Kimchi Challenge. And while all the kimchis were tasty, there was one thing that made the winner stand out. “It was massaged,” Andrea said.
It may sound strange to a novice, but massaging chopped vegetables between two hands is one way that kimchi makers extract moisture, a necessary step in the fermentation process. Alternatively, they may pound or press the veggies. Andrea believes that this hands-on approach also leads to a deeper appreciation for food. “When you take the time to connect to your food, by fermenting it, squeezing it, pounding it, you become more attached to it,” she said.
Massaging techniques aside, homemade kimchi is surprisingly simple to make. Below, Andrea shared this easy kimchi recipe that will have you devouring pickled cabbage in no time.
What You Need:
1 head of cabbage
1 head of garlic
Ground ginger, crushed red pepper, and salt to taste
What You Do:
- Chop the ingredients and mix them together.
- Massage or pound the veggie medley and place it in a tightly sealed glass or ceramic jar (a mason jar works perfectly).
- Leave the jar on your countertop or hidden beneath your boss’s desk for a week.
4. Check periodically to make sure that the vegetables are exuding water, and push the vegetables beneath the watery brine so they’ll ferment properly.