Ferments - Kimchi


Quick & easy Korean Classic

I love Kimchi - a flavourful, sour, salty mix of fermented vegetables and seasonings which has its roots in Korean culture.   Normally I leave it to the experts Ben & Hesh from Bottlebrush Ferments & buy their Hot One!  But since going to their workshop at Omved Gardens (& since they don't stock locally to me yet), I've been experimenting with making my own.   There are more than 200 variations of kimchi; the types of ingredients and the preparation method have a profound impact on the taste.  I've gone with what the Bottlebrush boys taught me & use their natural fermenting technique.  The nutritional value of kimchi varies with ingredients but it is contains vitamins A, C, and B complex, as well as many of my favourite phytonutrients and live cultures of gut nourishing microorganisms. 

The Ingredients

  • Chinese cabbage

  • Mooli, carrot

  • Fresh ginger

  • Spring onion

  • Garlic

  • Fresh red chilli

  • Pink Himalayan rock salt

  • Korean red pepper powder

The Technique

  1. Prep all the veggies by chopping as big or small as you prefer.

  2. The process of making kimchi involves brining (salting) the vegetables to draw out the water, which helps in preservation and allows the seasonings to penetrate the food over time; the final salt concentration ranges from 2-5%. I went with a 2% brine.

  3. Kimchi is typically fermented by ‘wild cultures’ naturally present on the vegetables (Lactobacillus & others which form organic acids primarily lactic and acetic acid lowering the pH & contributing to the fermentation process.

  4. The kimchi fermentation process is very short in comparison to making sauerkraut. Kimchi ferments at room temperature in only 1-2 days or more slowly in the refrigerator to ferment over 4 days.

  5. Ferment by tasting it daily until it reaches preferred tangy taste and desired texture.

  6. For safety, kimchi should be stored refrigerated & best eaten within a week or two, as the quality of kimchi deteriorates with longer fermentation.

  7. For me it goes with pretty much anything. I have been known to have it with eggs for breakfast!


The Science

‘The processes required for fermented foods were present on earth when man appeared on the scene… When we study these foods, we are in fact studying the most intimate relationships between man, microbe and foods.’ Prof. Keith H. Steinkraus, Cornell University, 1993

Today, scientific advances allow for some answers in the direction toward the potential of fermented foods. It is well established that with traditional dietary patterns, fermentation can magnify bioavailability of a meal including B vitamins, magnesium, and zinc. The effect of diet on intestinal microbiota may also extend to vitamin D levels. The Lactobacillus species isolated from traditional fermented foods are also biologically active in other ways including antioxidant protection & phytonutrient availability, making them capable of inducing a beneficial shift in our microbiome & eliciting anti-inflammatory effects.  Eating fermented foods has been noted to reduce blood LPS levels significantly, as well as C-reactive protein, a primary marker of systemic inflammation - both signs of a significant reduction in post-meal intestinal permeability (leaky gut).  Two large cross‐sectional analyses of adults in Korea showed that high consumption (2–4 servings per day) of kimchi and other fermented foods and beverages was associated with reduced prevalence of atopic dermatitis (Park & Bae 2016; Kim et al. 2017).

Unfortunately, a major misconception regarding the role of lactobacilli in the intestinal tract has prevailed  - that a large number of Lactobacillus & other probiotic species from ferments form stable & significant populations in the human intestinal tract.  Although microbes originating from fermented foods are detected in faecal samples (Dal Bello et al. 2003; David et al. 2014; Zhang et al. 2016a), these microorganisms are transients and do not colonise or persist. Only a small number of Lactobacillus species are true inhabitants with most ingested being more allochthonous members i.e they do not persist within our gut ecosystem, detectable only for a limited time during frequent consumption.  This is not a reason to discard their health benefits.  Although most probiotic bacteria in fermented foods probably don’t permanently change the microbe composition of the gut, they do still beneficially affect health.  There are other ways fermented foods can contribute to improved health. First, microorganisms can transform or change the chemical content of foods during the fermentation and thereby alter the nutritional properties. We still have a lot to understand about our microbiome and ultimately the response to probiotic foods changes between individuals and that the health impact will depend on the bacteria that are already present in the gut.