I make kimchi every couple of weeks, usually a gallon-jar at a time. It has become one of my life staples, and I start craving it at weird times throughout the week. Great stuff!
Kimchi is a naturally fermented food, much like sauerkraut, but originally from Korea. Recipes vary wildly, and Koreans will often add fish or shrimp as an ingredient. I have tried shrimp-sauce, but my wife says it makes me stink.
I know this recipe is not exactly traditional Kimchi, so don't go getting yourself all bent out of shape if you are one of those people.
Basically I just took the idea of Kimchi, and used what ingredients were readily available at the local market. I do have a bag of red-chili powder that someone bought for me from an Asian Market, but before that I was just using red-pepper flakes that can be found in the spice-section of most U.S. groceries.
Step 1: The Ingredients
For this batch, I used all vegetables (no shrimp-past), and included a sour-green apple which gives it a subtle sweet/spicy flavor. I
was making two-gallons in this batch, which will last me the month.
- 1 green apple (granny-smith I think they call it)
- 7 or 8 carrots
- a few garlic cloves
- about 4 TBspoons of fresh ginger
- 3 bunches of radishes (I use red radishes because that is what is available)
- 2 ~ 3 heads of green cabbage
- 1 head of red cabbage
- 4 or 5 onions, your choice of color. I mix it up depending on what is on sale at the market
- 1/2 cup sea-salt
- 1/4 cup red-pepper powder....or red-pepper flakes...less if you do not want it so spicy...more if you like it super-hot
Step 2: Chop It All Up
Chop everything. I start with the apples, carrots, radishes,etc. and end with the cabbage.
Step 3: Smash It Up
Once I have everything chopped, I give it all a good smashing with my mini-club ( which is just a pine dowel that I have specifically for bashing kimchi) . Some people use the end of a baseball bat, or the bottom of a jar.
Go to work on bashing the mix up. Usually pounding for about a full minute. I find that having the cabbage on top and the radishes/carrots/garlic etc,on the bottom.. keeps things from flying out so much while smashing.
Step 4: Smoosh It Into a Jar
After my workout, I fill up two gallon-size jars. I really press the stuff in there, as it needs to be compressed to get air out so it can ferment properly.
I do not really add any water, as the cabbage will form its own juice in short time
Step 5: Air Traps
I have some lids with rubber-grommets where a tube can be inserted. The tube goes to a jar of water. This allows air to escape, but not get in....this part is not really necessary, but it seems to help the process a little.
I know this part looks like I have a small lab or something, but it really is not necessary and is probably over-kill
. You can do just as well by just putting a cloth over the top with a rubber-band around it to hold it on. Just be sure to get the mix pressed down beneath the liquid that will form over the next day or two.
After making hundreds of batches of Kimchi, I have found that it really takes care of itself if I just press the stuff down.
Sometimes I put a clean (boiled) river-rock in to push the stuff down and that works well. Bubbles might come up..that is healthy fermentation going on!
Step 6: Let Fermentation Begin!
Lastly, I tuck the jars up into a cabinet and let them sit for around 3 days before moving the jars to the fridge. The fermentation process continues in the fridge, but at a much slower rate.
I start eating the kimchi by the second day. I recommend scooping out a
bowl every couple of days throughout the process to taste how it changes over the week (as instructed by Sandor Katz).. You can put the bowl in the fridge to chill for a while before eating.. Be sure to pack things down again after scooping out the sample bowl.
A gallon jar does not last me very long because once I have a good batch, I just crave the stuff and eat it like mad, so I have never let it sit longer than a couple of weeks. I have given a jar to a friend and he had it for several months in his fridge. I tasted it and the flavor was much different to what I was used to....more like saurkraut. The ginger had mellowed quite a lot and it was not as spicy.
It certainly is an acquired taste, but once you start making your own it becomes addicting.