From the Editor: Please welcome Eve, CFH Customer Support Representative and Cultured Kitchen Keeper.
Kimchi is a fermentation style that originated in Korea. It is often served with every meal. When many Westerners think of Kimchi, they automatically think of Napa Cabbage Kimchi.
While Napa Cabbage Kimchi is made in the Fall, Kimchi can be made with many different vegetables year-round. Making Kimchi has always been a family activity and was traditionally stored many months in large earthenware vessels in the ground, called Onggi.
Napa cabbages can be brined whole and stuffed with seasoning paste or chopped into square pieces and seasoned. I make square cut Kimchi because it is faster to prepare and ferment as well as easier to snack on and use in recipes. To do so, cut the Napa in half and then in quarters. Core the Napa and chop the quarters into eights. Then chop the cabbage into 2 inch squares.
Lately I’ve been on a huge kimchi kick and I’m fairly certain that it is because I am hooked on fish sauce. Anchovy sauce is traditional, but fish sauce works well too! I found fish sauce in the Asian Foods section of my local grocery store, but it can be found online as well. Fish sauce is really tasty when cooked in coconut curries, burgers, pork, and chicken as well, so put it to good use if you invest.
Another essential ingredient in spicy Kimchi recipes is Korean Chili Pepper Flakes, or Gochugaru. It is important to select high quality Korean Chili Pepper flakes or powder. We are lucky to have many Asian grocery stores in town that carry Gochugaru, but it can also be ordered online. In the future I will develop a Vegan, non-spicy Kimchi, but that’s another post for another day….
Kimchi is very flexible. Every family has their own unique recipe and methods. Don’t like something in the recipe? Leave it out! Have something extra lying around that needs to be used that you feel will compliment the flavors? Throw it in there! As always, experiment and find out what works best for you. If it’s not to your liking raw, use the Kimchi in cooking or recipes.
Here is a general process and recipe:
Makes about 2 quarts
- 1 large or 2 small napa cabbages
- 1/4 cup salt, kosher or sea salt
- 1/4 cup water
- 1/2 cup gochugaru, or Korean Chili Pepper Flakes
- 2 teaspoons sugar, I prefer sugars with molasses
- 4 teaspoons minced garlic
- 2 teaspoons grated or minced garlic
- 2 or 3 tablespoons anchovy or fish sauce
- 2 tablespoons minced or julienne carrot (optional)
- 1/2 cup thinly frenched onion (optional)
Other Optional Ingredients:
- 1/2 cup green onions without white portions, chopped
- 1/2 cup diakon radish (I’ve never had great success with daikon, yet…)
- 2 tablespoons salted shrimp or squid
- Asian pears or pear juice is added in some recipes
Some people make a “sweet rice flour porridge” that they say helps the seasoning paste stick to the Napa better. I have never used it and have not thought that it needed it any help.
How to Make It
1. Chop the Napa cabbage into squares and quickly rinse it with cold water.
2. Salt the Napa and let it sit for 1 hour, stirring the Napa halfway through.
3. Rinse the Napa with cold water to remove any traces of salt. The cabbage should be slightly wilted, but still crisp and slightly salty when you taste a piece. Allow the Napa to drain for about 15-20 minutes.
4. While the cabbage is brining, combine all of the ingredients in the seasoning paste and allow it to rest for at least 15 minutes.
5. Once the Napa is well drained and the seasoning paste has rested, mix the Napa, seasoning paste, and other optional ingredients together in a large mixing bowl until everything is well incorporated.
6. Pack the mixture into vessels of appropriate size.
7. Add 1/4 cup of water to the large mixing bowl and swirl it around to get as much of the seasoning paste out of the bowl as possible and then pour the 1/4 cup of water on top of your Kimchi. Weigh down the Kimchi to keep it below the brine. Place a lid on the jar tightly. My Kimchi took a day to produce enough brine, but it was fine.
8. This Kimchi can be consumed immediately or allow the Kimchi to culture at room temperature for 3-5 days, depending on your tastes. Keep a close eye on the Kimchi or place a plate under the jar as the Kimchi can overflow while fermenting. (Be careful when opening the Kimchi as it can bubble and fizz everywhere, i.e. don’t wear white)
9. Refrigerate the Kimchi and consume within a month or so, though Kimchi can last up to 6 months.