Wednesday, February 17, 2010

28 Day Real Food Challange: Day 16- Get Cultured (Veggies)

I usually buy kimchi at the supermarket but for the past three weeks I've been making my own and they are fantastic.I rarely visit the Korean store as they are out of route on the way home. Just imagine the traffic in Metro Manila that a 20-minute ride can sometimes become an hour. But my sister in law bought a pack (2 lbs) of Korean chili powder (but they're made in China??) and I shared it with my sister, then refrigerate the rest.

Here's Day 16 (Get Cultured - Veggies) from Nourished Kitchen and learn more about making your own fermented veggies.

Yesterday, we discussed symbiotic colonies of bacteria and yeasts--SCOBYs for short. If you recall these colonies of beneficial bacteria and yeasts help to ferment various foods and beverages, producing unique results: milk kefir, water kefir and kombucha are all the result of the unique action of SCOBYs. (Don't forget: if you missed a day, check the archives.)

Today we'll build upon our knowledge of naturally probiotic foods and move into fermentation created by wild bacteria and yeasts - focusing strongly on naturally fermented vegetables which can be prepared easily and affordably in any kitchen, all you really need is a vegetable, some unrefined sea salt and a crock, mason jar or fermentation master (see sources). In preparing fermented vegetables, you can also use a starter culture, such as whey, to innoculate the dish and speed up fermentation.

Producing fermented vegetable dishes at home is my favorite aspect of traditional foods, you can see a few of my recipes posted at Nourished Kitchen or check out my guide Get Cultured which details 13 recipes for naturally fermented vegetables. You can view Get Cultured online or pick up a copy of the booklet for $9.95.

While probiotic foods like sauerkraut and kimchi were born of necessity and practicality (afterall, prior to refridgeration, folks needed a way to keep the harvest fresh), they serve a dual purpose. Indeed, the process of lactic acid fermentation increases the nutrient content of our foods: B-vitamins are increased through fermentation and naturally fermented foods are teeming with beneficial bacteria which are critical to overall health (read more about lactic acid fermentation).

There are two primary methods for culturing vegetables to produce naturally probiotic dishes. The simplest method incorporates nothing but vegetable and unrefined sea salt, a second method makes use of a starter culture such as whey or a powdered starter. Both produce excellent results.

Wild Method:
Combine vegetables, hand-shredded is best, with a small amount of unrefined sea salt and pound them together until the vegetables release their juice and combine with the salt to create a brine. Make sure that the brine covers the vegetables, lest you run the risk of introducing mold into the ferment. Allow the mixture to sit in a crock, mason jar or fermentation device for a few days or several weeks (depending on your ingredients and the degree of fermentation you're after), and move to cold storage or the refrigerator once the fermentation cycle is complete.

Starter Method:
While some people prefer to add a starter to every ferment (I don't), some ferments are particularly well-suited to the use of starter cultures. The greater the surface are of the individual pieces you're planning to ferment, the greater your need for a starter. For example, shredded carrot is unlikely to need a starter for a successful ferment; however, a whole carrot or carrot sticks would do best if a starter is used. A tablespoon or two of fresh whey provides an adequate starter, but if you're after particular strains of bacteria, you may want to purchase a commercially available starter culture (see sources).

Today's assignment is to get started fermenting some vegetables. How about sauerkraut? Kimchi? Maybe preserved lemons?

Day #16 Check List:

Start your crock of fermented vegetables: If you're an established fermentation fanatic, why don't you try a new ferment? Or teach a friend how you make beautifully, naturally fermented pickles, chutneys and other dishes.

* Browse Nourished Kitchen's Recipe for Naturally Fermented Foods
* Pick up a copy of my recipe booklet on fermented foods: Get Cultured.

I'm about to make another batch of Chinese cabbage kimchi next week. I think I will also make some cucumber kimchi, then after that, I will try to make some sauerkraut and if you do have some recipes, I would love to try them.

Love and light,


  1. Divina,
    Great details on how to make fermented veggies. As you said, I, like you, used to buy kimchi from stores. But really love to try at home.

  2. Kimchi has been a staple in my house for several years now (since my stint as an ESL teacher in Korea) and I have been making my own since I realized how simple it is to do. It's delicious and much cheaper than buying it in the Korean market... and as an added bonus, you can adjust the seasonings to suit your palate. Love it.
    I haven't tried making my own sauerkraut yet, though. I buy jars of it since we don't go through it as quickly as we do kimchi.
    Great information as always, Divina. Best wishes.

  3. my hubby is the only one who eats kimchi at home :) i prefer "achara" style / pickled over fermented veggies

  4. mister makes a mean kimchi. I always have too much and not feel too good after... just greedy

  5. Ive been wanting to make kimchi since forever!! i'll have to do it now... I love comin to ur blog Divina...cos i know i'll get something healthy and a kick in the u know where so that I am reminded to eat healthy!!!

  6. I tasted some homemade kimchi from my friend the other week and it tasted absolutely delicious, much better than store bought. One day when I am brave enough I shall try this myself :)


Your comments, suggestions, feedback are all welcome.