Kimchi also spelled kimchee or gimchi is a Korean recipe of fermented cabbage. The fermentation process preserves the cabbage much like German sauerkraut. Fermented foods offer the benifits of pro-biotics. Pro-biotics are beneficial bacteria that aid our bodies in digestion and promote good gut health. My father was stationed in Korea and introduced me to Kimchi when I was young. As a child I hated the taste of it but as an adult I have learned to love the flavor of it and have been making my own for some time now. It is simple to make and hard to screw up. I was nervous when I first attempted it concerned that I could botch it easily. After looking up recipes online I took the dive and haven't looked back. Once I was successful at that I also made some pickles with a similar recipe and am looking forward to a fermented salsa recipe from my garden vegetables this season.
Some would say that Kimchi has to have a fish type flavor in it to be true Kimchi. Though I like fish I do not like the way that it makes my house smell while fermenting (even this has a funky smell but the fish adds another level to it). This is why I have titled this "Veggie Kimchi"
Kimchi was made by necessity of preservation and survival. In Korea they would store underground to keep it cool during summer months. In the winter this coupled with the salt would keep it from freezing. I have heard by some that Kimchi can last for years (not in my house) if stored correctly. It can be eaten as soon as you make it but does develop more complex flavors as it ages.
Step 1: Materials and Prep
You will need water that is nonclorinated. I set some tap water out in a jug with the lid off afew days before to let the clorine evaporate. You can use bottled spring, drinking, or distilled water if you would like. It just cannot have clorine in it or it will kill the beneficial bacteria.
•1 head Bok choy
•1 head Napa
•1 Daikon radish
•Red chili peppers
•Himilayan sea salt
•Sriracha hot sauce
•Plate (needs to fit inside pot)
•Plastic zipper bags
•Baking tray or large plate
Step 2: Wash and Cut Veggies.
Wash all veggies with cold water. Leeks tend to hide dirt near their base as well as the bokchoy so these need some more attention than some of the other veggies. I wash these as I cut because of this.
• Don't cut peices too large for your mouth. I like cutting them large but keep in mind as you cut that the peices still need to fit comfortably in your face while you chew.
•Leeks: Cut the bottoms off near the roots. Cut any wilt from the tips. Cut in half lengthwise lining up with the base of the "V". Cut the white and yellow sections in large peices. Fan the cut sections kind of like a deck of cards as you throw them in the pot. This will separate the layers easily. I tried to get a picture of this but it is near impossible to do with one hand. Looking at the picture imagine the cutting board as your other hand. Dirt likes to hide just below the green. Set aside the outside green peices to be washed individualy as you cut up the stalk. You don't have to use the green parts but I try not to waste and don't like to set aside for additional recipes/work. The green parts take longer to soften so I cut these into thinner strips.
•Bokchoy: I prefer to break each leaf off and wash them. The base usually has some dirt that has collected between stalks. after I have done this I will cut into about 1 inch peices.
•Napa: Wash outside and remove wilt. Cut into quarters legthwise. Cut quarters into about 1 inch sections.
•Carrots: Scrub outside. I slice on an angle to make them longer than just having sliced coins. I have also shredded them with a potato peeler for very thin long peices.
•Daikon radish: Cut end off. Slice into coins. Any that seem too big can be cut in half as well. It may be easier for you to cut in half first but I personally I just cut stacks in half after slicing.
Put everything into your large pot or other container. There are no specific veg measurements that I use when making this. But it does make enough that I usually have enough for a month or more.
Step 3: Brining
This step starts the fermentation process off on the right foot.
With all your veggies in a nonreactive container sprinkle 1Tbs salt (any salt as long as there is no iodine) per 2 cups (nonclorinated) water over your veggies. I don't add salt to many foods so my pallet doesnt require it for flavor. I add because of necessity for safe fermentation. I would recommend if you often use salt consider doubling the salt content. It is easier and best to add extra now than try to later. Using less salt will make it ferment faster as well which means spoilage if there is too little. I sprinkle one Tbs then use the 2 cups water to "wash" it in, then stir with my hand grabbing from the bottom and bringing to the top. Do this until the brine is about half the depth of the veggies. Compress and cover veggies with a plate, put some weight on it to push them into the brine (I use a gallon jug of water). As the salt pulls water from the veggies they will settle more and eventually submerge fully. Leave like this for 6-8 hours to let this happen.
Step 4: Spices
This is where your pallet plays a large roll and will require some experimentation. For my recipe I use about 6 garlic peices, some dried red pepper, a piece of ginger about the size of my thumb and anywhere from 1/4 cup to 1/2 cup Sriracha.
Remove garlic skins. Remove pepper stems. Put all spices into blender or food processor and blend until it has become a paste.
Step 5: Strain
Taste. I don't rinse my Kimchi as long as it doesn't taste too salty for me. Leaving the plate in place hold the veggies in the bottom of the pot and pour brine through a strainer (no pic, used both hands). This strainer is just in place to catch whatever gets by. If yours is too salty after this step then add water (nonclorinated) to the veggies, stir and strain until you get the salt taste you like. You can save the brine if you would like for something else as it already has some culture started in it. I usually just strain into the sink. Put whatever your strainer caught back into the pot.
Step 6: Spice
Mix spice paste into the veggies. use some to "squeegee" the spice paste out of the container blending container.
Warning: If you have sensitive skin this could effect you. I would not consider my skin sensitive but my hand does feel warm after this part and touching eyes will burn. Wash hands thoroughly after.
Step 7: Pack and Wait.
Pack the kimchi into your jars. Push it down so that liquid covers as much of the veggies as possible. leave some space at the top of the jar. Put some plastic zipper bags on top filled with water (oops I ran out of bags). The bags are used to let gasses escape from the kimchi and keep nasties from getting in as well as keep it submerged. Place a baking tray or large plate under the jars. As they off gas the liquid may spill over. Using a clean utensil press the kimchi back down at least once a day to let trapped gasses out. (This is a great time to dish some to try its flavor development)
Let it ferment at room temp for 4ish days before sealing with a lid and refrigerating.