After being dissatisfied with some very gingery kimchi I made, I came up with this savory fermented vegetable recipe that blends my favorite aspects of kimchi—sweet, savory, spicy, and garlicky—with the sturdier texture of sauerkraut, which is typically made of green cabbage. I like the crunch of green cabbage in ferments rather than the softer napa variety traditionally used in kimchi. Since kimchi recipes normally use fish sauce for the umami flavor profile, I substituted raw coconut aminos to add flavor depth as well as additional cultures.
Including fermented foods with meals aids in digestion. Cultured foods promote healthy gut flora, which boosts the immune system. The nutrients in vegetables become much more bioavailable after fermentation. If you are new to cultured foods, start out with a spoonful or two with a meal to adjust to the probiotics.
This is a “wild” ferment, relying on natural cultures, namely lactobacillus, found on cabbage. There is less certainty of which mixture of flora you’re going to get with this type of method. Adding some Body Ecology brand culture starter or the contents of good-quality vegan probiotic capsules would stack the odds in favor of premium strains.
I learned from a video of Body Ecology creator Donna Gates that fermentation cultures thrive in a mineral-rich environment, so I added some liquid fulvic minerals like she did. I also added a small amount of dried agrimony, a practice that Dr. Robert Marshall of Premier Research Labs talked about at the 2014 Raw Living Expo for strengthening the biofield/energy of the fermented vegetables and also suppressing undesirable bacteria (a future blog post on this to come later).
As with any ferment, work with very clean non-metallic utensils, cutting board, bowls, jars, and other equipment to avoid contamination. Avoid metal, except the knife/cutting implements. Boiling water helps to sterilize the fermentation vessel. It can be poured in and swished if the vessel/jar is too large to fit in a pan of boiling water.
I’ve only ever done ferments in wide-mouth mason jars with air locks. It’s economical, and mason jars are easy to come by. I ordered these air locks on Amazon.com, which allow carbon dioxide from fermentation to escape while reducing contamination with airborne molds.
Initially, the vegetable mixture should be tightly packed into the vessel or jar to eliminate oxygen, creating an anaerobic environment. Each day, I check on the vegetables. Gas bubbles form and cause the vegetables to expand. I use a clean bamboo mixing spoon to push down the vegetables and expel the gas bubbles each day, sometimes more than once. You want the liquid to keep covering the vegetables and any air to be eliminated.
Makes approximately 3 1/2 cups (fits a one-quart wide-mouth mason jar; double the recipe for a half-gallon wide-mouth mason jar.)
- 1-3 pristine cabbage leaves, reserved
- 1 ¾ to 2 quarts shredded green cabbage (about one large green cabbage, outer leaves removed)
- 2-4 carrots, peeled and grated
- 1 bunch scallions, thinly sliced on the bias, some green portion included
- 4-6 cloves garlic (finely minced by hand or with a garlic press)
- ¼ c. raw coconut aminos (Coconut Secret brand)
- ½ to 1 tsp. Himalayan pink salt or other unbleached, mineral-rich salt
- 1 tsp. ground cayenne pepper (1 tsp. for medium spiciness)
- 1 tsp. raw coconut crystals (coconut sugar)
- 1 tsp. dried agrimony (AgriTonik by Premier Research Labs)—OPTIONAL
- 1 oz. fulvic minerals (e.g. Vital Earth Minerals Fulvic Minerals Complex)—OPTIONAL
1. In a large, clean, non-metallic bowl, place the shredded cabbage and salt, and then massage the cabbage with clean hands until it starts to soften and reduce in volume. Some liquid coming out is desirable.
2. Add the carrots, green onion, and garlic to the cabbage, and then mix until uniform.
3. Mix the coconut aminos, coconut crystals, cayenne, fulvic minerals, and dried agrimony together in a small bowl. If you want to use a culture starter or the contents of probiotic capsules, add them to this mixture.
4. Pour the coconut aminos mixture in, and stir the vegetables to coat evenly.
5. In a sterilized fermentation vessel or jar (one-quart size or larger), add the vegetable mixture a handful or two at a time, tightly packing down the mixture as you go. Liquid should rise up above the level of the vegetables.
6. Place the reserved cabbage leaves on top of the vegetables to hold down the vegetables, making sure the vegetables are submerged as much as possible by the liquid. There should be at least 2 inches of empty space above the vegetables to allow for expansion. You may have some leftover vegetable mixture, depending. It’s good to eat unfermented!
7. Place the lid or air lock on the vessel and store in a warm, dark place.
8. Check on the progress daily, venting the lid periodically to let gas escape if you are not using an air lock (it can ooze/explode if you don’t vent!) Press the vegetables down each day to expel gas and submerge the vegetables.
9. When the vegetables are to your liking, remove the cabbage leaves from the top and store the vegetables in the fridge, using the fermentation jar or transferring the vegetables from a different type of fermentation vessel into a sterilized jar with a lid. BPA-free wide-mouth mason jar lids are available on Amazon.com. If using a standard metal mason jar lid, line the lid with parchment paper or a piece of BPA- and phthalate-free plastic bag to avoid any metal reaction with the fermented vegetables.
Depending on the ambient temperature, the fermentation should take 1-5 days. They will have a pungent but pleasant smell, with some sulphur overtones. A sour taste means fermentation has properly converted the sugars to lactic acid. If the vegetables smell foul, there may have been contamination. Discard and start over with thoroughly cleaned and sterilized equipment.