Sichuan Pepper Cabbage Kimchi + Sweet Miso Pumpkin Kimchi

Make your own food fireworks with homemade kimchi. This spicy, pungent, fermented vegetable dish will make any savoury recipe sparkle with added umami and interest. Try adding it to tagines, chilli, omelettes, cornbread, nachos and, of course, that Korean staple, bibimbap. Sure kimchi is a bit smelly, but goodness it’s good. And good for you. Go on, I dare you!

Make your own food fireworks with homemade kimchi. This spicy, pungent, fermented vegetable dish will make any savoury recipe sparkle with added umami and interest. Try adding it to tagines, chilli, omelettes, cornbread, nachos and, of course, that Korean staple, bibimbap. Sure kimchi is a bit smelly, but goodness it's good. And good for you. Go on, I dare you!My love for kimchi is laid bare on Instagram just about every week, mainly on avocado toast with a three-fingered pinch of fresh sprouts. Its gingery-hot vibe is a terrific way to wake up and not have to smell the coffee. Who needs caffeine when you have kimchi?

I don’t have kimchi as Korean do – a punchy but fresh-tasting fermented pickle alongside breakfast, lunch and dinner. I get through a good bit of kimchi for a fermented food latecomer, but I haven’t quite managed the triple. And my uses are not at all traditional: stirred into chillis, curries, tagines (exceptional added to my chickpea and vegetable tagine instead of harissa), but also mixed into spiralised or grated veggies, like carrot, cucumber and squash, and in omelettes.

Speaking of squash, kimchi isn’t just for cabbage: you can kimchi just about any vegetable, including squash. I was recently gifted a wonderful book, Ferment, Pickle, Dry, and the authors not only give recipes for fermenting, pickling and drying a range of vegetables, but also further recipes on how to use what you make. I riffed on their pumpkin kimchi recipe, and although it is still too young to fully appreciate, it is developing nicely.

Make your own food fireworks with homemade kimchi. This spicy, pungent, fermented vegetable dish will make any savoury recipe sparkle with added umami and interest. Try adding it to tagines, chilli, omelettes, cornbread, nachos and, of course, that Korean staple, bibimbap. Sure kimchi is a bit smelly, but goodness it's good. And good for you. Go on, I dare you!I am aided in my kimchi making by using a specially-designed fermentation kit from Mortier Pilon. This kit has everything you need to start making your own kimchi and pickles at home: a durable, cleverly designed fermentation crock that’s a third of the price (and weight!) of most crocks on the market, a rewritable label to identify each batch, and a booklet of user-friendly, thoroughly tested recipes to get you started.

The interior of the Mortier Pilon crock is 100% glass. The white part on the outside of the crock is made of non-reactive, BPA-free plastic, and doesn’t come into contact with the food. There is also a channel in the lid that you fill with water. I don’t really understand how that enhances the fermentation but I’m going with it anyway. I normally make kimchi in a large glass jar, but this is more accommodating and somehow less smelly: maybe it’s the water ring?

kimchiIf you haven’t tried kimchi before, do pick up a jar or small pouch of it a Korean or Chinese grocery first. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend plunging straight into the world of the homemade ferments without seeing if you like this kind of thing. But if you like smelly cheeses, sauerkraut, Asian flavours or are generally up for anything, do give kimchi a chance. A little dab in a savoury dish is a great way to try it. Or grab a baking tray and and some tortilla chips or a rice cake (both are shown) and make some funky – in more ways than one! – nachos.

You can also find me on: Instagram – behind the scenes with my recipe development (triumphs and tragedies!) and mini, Instagram-only recipes; Twitter – tweeting on health, nutrition and global news, as well as sharing other bloggers’ content; Facebook – posting on the latest nutrition and food stories, as well as sharing recipe links; Pinterest – loads of boards on food, travel, food writing, blogging, health and novel ingredients; Huffington Post – writing bespoke recipes and opinion pieces on my own Huff Post blogThe nutritional benefits of fermented foods are now pretty well established, but only if it has not been heat-treated. Certainly much of the sauerkraut you get in mainstream supermarkets is no longer active enough to help with gut function. Kimchi will give you a lot of fibre, calcium and vitamins A, B, and C, but its biggest benefit may be in its happy colony of lactobacillus – one of the most studied groups of the “friendly” bacterias. Some of the researched health benefits of kimchi include anti-cancer, anti-obesity, anti-constipation, colorectal health promotion, probiotic properties, cholesterol reduction, fibrolytic effect, antioxidative and anti-ageing properties, brain health promotion, immune promotion, and skin health promotion. It can also help keep recurrent yeast infections under control.

But despite all of these benefits, I mainly love it for the taste. It may be an acquired taste, but for those who acquire it, kimchi is for life. And it may just enhance your life too.

So, today I am giving you two recipes: for Sichuan Peppercorn Cabbage Kimchi and Sweet Miso Pumpkin (or Squash) Kimchi. I give the base recipe in the cabbage (first) kimchi recipe, so refer to it if making the pumpkin one as the base makes enough for both recipes. You may be worried that this revered food is difficult to make – it is pretty expensive to buy after all – but the prep is easy enough. There are however a few stages/days until you are able to eat what you’ve made. Your patience will however be rewarded.

On your mark, get set – kimchi!

Make your own food fireworks with homemade kimchi. This spicy, pungent, fermented vegetable dish will make any savoury recipe sparkle with added umami and interest. Try adding it to tagines, chilli, omelettes, cornbread, nachos and, of course, that Korean staple, bibimbap. Sure kimchi is a bit smelly, but goodness it's good. And good for you. Go on, I dare you!

Sichuan Pepper Cabbage Kimchi and Sweet Miso Pumpkin Kimchi

  • Servings: one jar/half a crock each
  • Difficulty: easy
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Make your own food fireworks with homemade kimchi. This spicy, pungent, fermented vegetable dish will make any savoury recipe sparkle with added umami and interest. Try adding it to tagines, chilli, omelettes, cornbread, nachos and, of course, that Korean staple, bibimbap. Sure kimchi is a bit smelly, but goodness it’s good. And good for you. Go on, I dare you!

For the cabbage kimchi the Sichuan peppercorns are optional, but I love the distinct tingle of cold spiciness from these little terracotta-red berries. 

1 small head Chinese/napa cabbage, or you could use Savoy cabbage if you can’t find napa

1.5 litres water (I filtered mine)

120g pure sea salt (any additives will affect the fermentation process)

The Paste (enough for 2 heads of cabbage, or one cabbage kimchi and one recipe of pumpkin kimchi, see below)

100-115g chopped leek or spring onions, including the green parts

120g chopped mooli/white radish/daikon

3 chopped garlic cloves

40g peeled and chopped gingeroot

50g gochugaru (Korean pepper flakes – they aren’t too hot)

1 tbsp soy sauce, coconut aminos or fish sauce (fish sauce shown, but I use soy sauce these days – old pic!) or 2 tsp sea salt

1 tbsp honey or sugar 0r 2 tbsp grated apple or pear – something sweet is needed to feed the bacteria.

OPTIONAL

1 tsp Sichuan peppercorns, lightly toasted then crushed to powder – for cabbage kimchi (use 2 tsp if using two cabbages and not making the pumpkin one)

1 tbsp white/yellow miso or Clearspring umami paste with ginger – for sweet miso pumpkin kimchi recipe (double these and the honey if making double of the pumpkin cabbage and no cabbage one)

1 tbsp honey or maple syrup – for sweet miso pumpkinkimchicollage2

Equipment needed:  large mixing bowl(s), sterilised large jar(s) or fermenting crock(s), a weight and plate (I used a boiled stone for my jar, and the the weight that came with my kimchi kit), cutting board and knife, plastic gloves for mixing with kimchi (or use plastic sandwich bags), blender or food processor (hand blender is fine).

Method for cabbage kimchi:

1. Pour the water into a large bowl and add the salt; stir to dissolve. Rinse the cabbage and slice in half vertically; add to the large bowl. Weigh the leaves down with a plate topped with some kind of weight – I use a large round stone that I boiled in water and left to dry in the oven with my jar during sterilisation. Leave covered in a cool room for 6-24 hours.Make your own food fireworks with homemade kimchi. This spicy, pungent, fermented vegetable dish will make any savoury recipe sparkle with added umami and interest. Try adding it to tagines, chilli, omelettes, cornbread, nachos and, of course, that Korean staple, bibimbap. Sure kimchi is a bit smelly, but goodness it's good. And good for you. Go on, I dare you!

2. Drain and rinse the cabbage under running water. Taste the cabbage and stop rinsing when it no longer tastes more than a tiny bit salty. The cabbage should be very soft. Squeeze the cabbage of its moisture in a clean tea towel. Cut into small pieces (about 3-4cm) and add back to the bowl.Make your own food fireworks with homemade kimchi. This spicy, pungent, fermented vegetable dish will make any savoury recipe sparkle with added umami and interest. Try adding it to tagines, chilli, omelettes, cornbread, nachos and, of course, that Korean staple, bibimbap. Sure kimchi is a bit smelly, but goodness it's good. And good for you. Go on, I dare you!

3. Place all of the main kimchi paste ingredients to a blender or food processor (not the optional ingredients unless you are making a double batch of the cabbage kimchi, in which case use 2 tsp of Sichuan pepper) and blend until you achieve a smooth paste. Divide the batch in half and add the ground Sichuan peppercorns to the cabbage and the sweet miso and honey/maple syrup to the pumpkin one.

4. Add HALF of the paste (or all if making a double batch) to the bowl. Don your rubber gloves and mix the paste and cabbage very thoroughly with your gloved hands.  Make your own food fireworks with homemade kimchi. This spicy, pungent, fermented vegetable dish will make any savoury recipe sparkle with added umami and interest. Try adding it to tagines, chilli, omelettes, cornbread, nachos and, of course, that Korean staple, bibimbap. Sure kimchi is a bit smelly, but goodness it's good. And good for you. Go on, I dare you!

4. Pack the kimchi into your sterilised crock or lidded jar, pressing out any air from the bottom. Cover the jar/crock with a tight-fitting lid and leave at room temperature to ferment for two days. After this time put in the fridge for 7-10 days (seal in a plastic bag to prevent any aroma from leaking out). It is ready to eat now and will last in the fridge for up to two months. After this time it will still be safe to eat but the flavour will be very pronounced.

Make your own food fireworks with homemade kimchi. This spicy, pungent, fermented vegetable dish will make any savoury recipe sparkle with added umami and interest. Try adding it to tagines, chilli, omelettes, cornbread, nachos and, of course, that Korean staple, bibimbap. Sure kimchi is a bit smelly, but goodness it's good. And good for you. Go on, I dare you!Sweet Miso Pumpkin Kimchi

Follow the recipe above, but with the following instead of cabbage. You are using the other half of the paste mix. If you wish to make this all pumpkin then double the optional ingredients. Ignore the cabbage leaves in the ingredient image.🙂

400g peeled and small dice winter squash or pumpkin – I used half an onion squash here

80g tbsp sea salt

Method: Mix the salt and pumpkin; cover and leave overnight at room temperature. Rinse well and carry on with the recipe, adding the miso and honey to the spice paste as indicated above. Place the coated pumpkin pieces in a jar or crock and leave covered overnight. Mix again, cover and refrigerate for 10 days. It should be used within five weeks.

How long does kimchi last? Well-made kimchi can last a year or so, but I wouldn’t go that far. The longest I’ve kept homemade kimchi is four months. Do not use if it seems  very “carbonated” or fizzy (a little tingle is fine but not if it sounds like you’ve opened a can of Coke) and the vegetables are mushy. Others say only toss it out if it has mould on it. I would err on the side of caution with homemade and use it within three month. Also, use only clean utensils to pull it from the jar as contamination by a dirty fork can shorten its life and taint the flavour.

**Food To Glow recipes to use with your kimchi**

gochujang-chickpea-bibimbapKorean Rice Bowl with Gochujang Chickpeas (above)

Grilled Shiitake “Kimcheese” (kimchi grilled cheese!)

Korean Savoury Kimchi Pancakes (Kimchi Jeon) with Carrot

Kimchi, Egg and Avocado Lunch Wraps

Kimchi & Bean Quesadillas

Kimchi Nachos (shown)

Korean Sweet Potato Noodle Stir Fry (below)

Kimchi Quinoa Burgers with Jalapeno-Avocado Mayo (below)

kimchi burger by food to glow

Kimchi Quinoa Burgers – vegan yum

Kimchi resourceskimchibooks

Recipes and ideas from others

Vegan Kimchi Buddha Bowl

Baby Courgette Kimchi 

12 Dishes That Taste Better With Kimchi (from Bon Appetit)

Cooking with Kimchi (from New York Times)

13 Vegan Korean Recipes (from Peta)

**Like my recipe? Why not pin it, share it and make it?**Make your own food fireworks with homemade kimchi. This spicy, pungent, fermented vegetable dish will make any savoury recipe sparkle with added umami and interest. Try adding it to tagines, chilli, omelettes, cornbread, nachos and, of course, that Korean staple, bibimbap. Sure kimchi is a bit smelly, but goodness it's good. And good for you. Go on, I dare you!

**Disclosure: I was given both the Ferment Pickle Dry cookbook and the Mortier Pilon fermentation crock to try. I was not paid for this post or recipe.**